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Catfish has been here forever

January 25, 2008


I endorse without hesitation the wonderful Planet Catfish website, but I have to express my particular enthusiasm for their superb collection of stamps featuring catfish. A good deal of the stamps are African, although there are examples from other continents, and catfish of all sorts and sizes are featured. Below are just a few examples, but you really have to click the link to appreciate the accumulative beauty of the whole collection.

Of course, the reason for the design on these stamps is a whole other kettle of catfish. In Uganda, for one, the catfish has gained a cultural significance of sorts due to the importance of the catfish-farming industry.

But then take, for example, the Brazilian offering, where the catfish (and not the other more showy shoals that live there) is very much an emblem of the Amazon itself. And I was surprised to see relatives of my own beloved leopard corydoras on a Cambodian stamp.


Certain stamps favour an earthy aesthetic, seeming to celebrate the catfish (a mud-dweller, after all) as a symbol of solemnity. Elsewhere, as on the Zairean stamp shown above, there’s a dash of gaiety-through-oddity. The upside-down catfish, native to the Congo, is depicted with real tenderness as the peculiar creation that it is.

My appreciation of catfish is really based on their status as bottom-feeders — sullen, but frugal; ostensibly ugly as sin (this varies according to species) but secretly beautiful. I recall a small catfish put into my father’s pond which hid in the mud unnoticed for years, eventually revealing itself as a bloated monster who’d somehow grown enormous on the sly. It gave me the willies. In these many wonderful stamps, though, the catfish surfaces, and their images dance with an unexpected tenderness in response to the affection with which they’re fashioned.





One Comment leave one →
  1. Heather permalink
    January 25, 2008 7:59 pm

    AHHH! the cory stamp!! i wants it!

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