Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Sheltering Desert - A Story Of Survival

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the then South West Africa (now Namibia) was under South African administration, the former German colony having been declared a League Of Nations mandate territory after the First World War.

South Africa, being a British ally, started arresting and detaining many local Germans in internment camps.

Two German geologists working in the country at the time decided that:

"We wanted no hand or part in the mass suicide of civilized peoples"


"... we were determined to maintain our personal neutrality and to defend our independence to the best of our ability ... If war comes, we'll spend it in the desert".

'The Sheltering Desert' is the amazing story of how the author, Henno Martin, his friend Hermann Korn and their dog, Otto, survived for two and a half years in the harsh desert landscape of Namibia's Kuiseb canyon.

I've just finished re-reading this story.

It appeals to me because often when I'm in the desert, my fantasy-mind works overtime and I evaluate places, imagining how I could survive in that environment if I were to find myself a fugitive or, if civil society were to break down, à la 2012, ... but there's a vast difference between fantasy and the real deal, as the book's author notes:

"We had always known that life was a hard and bitter struggle and that those who survived did so only at the expense of others. But until we went into the wilderness to live, that knowledge was abstract, theoretical, a reasoned conclusion; and sentiments of a sheltered childhood told us that is was really all quite different and much nicer.

Now the truth was hammered into us pitilessly. We had to kill in order to live - and our supply of ammunition was limited, so that more than once we dared not waste the bullet to give a wounded animal the coup de grace"

Although life was harsh, the two men had much time for reflection and philosophical musings regarding evolution and Man's present state of being:

"We had slid so readily into the life of primitive hunters that we came to the conclusion that underneath the veneer modern man still had a 'Stone-age Soul', which was difficult to reconcile with the civilized life he was leading. Could this contradiction be resolved? In view of man's steadily increasing powers of destruction it was a vital question."

Living as hunter-gatherers, the author talks about the (then) lifestyle of the San people:

"Bushmen had no possessions that a child could break, and all educational rules arose out of danger or necessity, ... as a result children never felt themselves at odds with their environment, which naturally included the world of the adults. In consequence they developed no vices or destructive urges. You never heard a child being scolded and you never saw a child spanked ...

... we found nothing surprising in the fact that this simple but logical form of living had survived for hundreds of thousands of years down to our own day. But what had forced development to go beyond this hard but blissful life?"

When I'm in the desert I often wonder about the strange sense of 'power' or 'freedom' I feel. Martin asks and answers basically the same question:

"The magic of the desert is hard to define. Why does the sight of a landscape of empty sand, rocks, slab and rubble stir the spirits more than a view of lush green fields and woods? Why does the lifeless play of light, colour and distance have such an invigorating, fascinating and elating effect?

Perhaps because no limitations are imposed by other forms of life; perhaps because the mind of the beholder is presented with a fata morgana of unlimited freedom."

After more than two years in the desert, the two men speculate about the future of humankind and come to this conclusion regarding our survival:

"... only the preservation of all our attributes, including our weaknesses, can carry us safely through into the uncertain future.

But how can this be done? Certainly not by force which does not preserve but destroys. There is only one thing which preserves all things, including the weak, and that is love.

The truth which we had felt vaguely all along had become a reasoned certainty: man could command the future only by love."

The book was originally published in German as 'Wenn es Krieg gibt, gehen wir in die Wüste' and the English translation may be ordered and purchased online ... or, better still, maybe it's available through your local library.

The images I've posted are of the general area where they lived out their adventure - I snapped them a few months ago on a road trip ...


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Etosha National Park - A Timeless Experience

The Etosha National Park is Namibia's premier tourist destination and one of the world's finest game parks.

When it first gained official status in 1907 it was the largest game reserve in the world but over the years, due to politically-motivated changes, it has been reduced to less than 25% of it's original area.

Etosha is 100km from my home in northern Namibia and in the last month I had the opportunity to visit it twice; the first time on a day-trip and on the second visit a three-day camping trip.

There are three main rest camps in the park but I prefer Namutoni on the far eastern side because it has a lot of waterholes in close proximity.

Namutoni is an old colonial German police fort, it has been converted to accommodate a restaurant, coffee shop, and various shops selling local crafts.

'Luxury' accommodation is available but, the prices are tourist-orientated and too expensive for the average Namibian - even the camping spots are priced way above the norm. Above is a pic of our humble camp.

The Etosha Pan dominates the park. The salt pan desert is roughly 130 km long and as wide as 50 km in places. The salt pan is usually dry, but sometimes fills with water briefly in the summer.

Above is a view of the pan from a spot named 'Etosha', where vehicle access onto the pan is possible for about one kilometer.

Two of the many waterholes close to Namutoni, Gross Okevi and Koinachas.

It's the end of a reasonable rain-season here; grazing and browsing is plentiful and there are many water puddles in the bush so the game has no need to visit the waterholes, as can be see from the two pics above.

There's something magical, especially at the end of the dry winter months, in sitting quietly at a water hole watching the comings and goings of the animals - a scene that has been repeated since time immemorial ...

Animal tracks leading out onto the pans - the rainy season this year was not good enough to cause a thin (15cm) layer of water on the pan - which, when it does, attracts pelicans and flamingos.

Twee Palms waterhole - one of the few waterholes where there was an abundance of game at the time. I'll try get back to the pans later this year when it's drier and photograph a totally different landscape.

I've still got hundreds of images to work through and in the coming weeks I'll do a few posts on some of the things I saw.

Have I mentioned before that I love my digital camera?

Related Posts:
Etosha - Elephants


Sunday, April 25, 2010

True African Art

Jared Njuguna

From the homepage of True African Art: 'True African is an African art paintings online gallery store. Our concentration is on contemporary African paintings by African artists.'

Michael Wafula
Prayers Under God's Eye

'In our online African art paintings gallery, on many of our pages, you can watch exclusive video interviews of our African painter artists made on the scene in Kenya, East Africa.

These videos not only show you that we know our artists personally, but they also let you get up close to the people and culture that make the Black African art paintings you love.

The website also has extensive, unique, first hand biographical information on most of its African artists.'

Island Sunrise

The owner of True Africa Art, Gathinja Yamokoski, was born in Kenya and, being an artist herself, also features a page showcasing her own work on the site.

Gathinja Yamokoski

Pay True African Art a visit if you're interested in African Art - you'll probably find something you like ...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Illustrations of Gustave Doré

Le Chat Botté - Puss In Boots

Le Singe et le Dauphin - The Monkey and the Dolphin

Sleeping Beauty

Little Red Riding Hood

Gustave Doré

Gustave Doré (January 6, 1832 – January 23, 1883) was a French artist, engraver, illustrator and sculptor. Doré worked primarily with wood engraving and steel engraving.

Doré was born in Strasbourg and his first illustrated story was published at the age of fifteen. At age five he was a prodigy artist already creating drawings. When he turned 12 he began to carve his art in stone.

Doré began work as a literary illustrator in Paris. Doré commissions include works by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton and Dante.

In 1853 Doré was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission was followed by additional work for British publishers, including a new illustrated English Bible.

In 1863, Doré illustrated a French edition of Cervantes's Don Quixote, and his illustrations of the knight and his squire Sancho Panza have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors' ideas of the physical "look" of the two characters.

Many more examples of his work here.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dueling Banjos - Deliverance

Dueling Banjos from the film 'Deliverance'

From Wiki: Widely acclaimed as a landmark picture, the film is noted for the memorable music scene near the beginning that sets the tone for what lies ahead: a trip into unknown and potentially dangerous territory.

In the scene, set at a rural gas station, character Drew Ballinger plays the instrumental "Dueling Banjos" on his guitar with a hillbilly youth named Lonnie (implied as being an inbred albino in the novel) who is portrayed by Billy Redden in the film, though a body double actually played the banjo.

The song won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance. The film was selected by the New York Times as one of "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made", while the viewers of Channel 4 in the United Kingdom voted it #45 in a list of "The 100 Greatest Films".

I vaguely remember watching this movie many years ago - it was probably heavily censored in South Africa at the time - but, the Dueling Banjos scene is unforgettable.

Edit: I'm using this as a "test" post because my previous post 'If Dead Cars Could Speak' did not appear as an update on Blog Roll lists ...


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

If Dead Cars Could Speak

As with derelict buildings, there's something about old abandoned cars that attracts me to them, especially when they're in unusual settings.

Perhaps it's their unknown history that intrigues me, how proud their new owners must have been at a time when animal-powered transport was probably more common than motorized.

What stories could they tell? Which roads did they travel and what sights did they see? What adventures did they take part in?

... and the obvious question, how many humans were conceived in these wrecks during moments of stolen passion?

If only they could be coaxed to speak ...


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hello - and Thank You!

Hey Friends - I'm back in the desert and on broadband again for a few weeks.

Thank you so much for your support and comments - I realize that my responses were not always adequate but, believe me, I appreciate your continued visits.

While in the North I didn't do as much work on the house as I would have liked to because I was sided-tracked by two visits to the Etosha Pans, a trip to the Hoba Meteorite and also a Crocodile Ranch - I've got hundreds of photographs to work through and edit and I hope I can produce some interesting posts in the next few weeks.

I'm also looking forward to visiting your blogs again in the next few days and to catching up on your posts I've missed ...


Friday, April 9, 2010

Windpompe - What's in a Name?

Windmills? - What's In A Name?

Everyone I know has always called these creatures 'Windmills' in English but, that seems to be a misnomer because a 'mill' is something that grinds or pulverizes.

The Afrikaans word 'windpomp' seems more accurate - 'wind pump' - because that's what they do, they pump water from the ground.

Does anyone know the correct English name for these machines? Windpump?

Anyway, I love photographing them and most of these images were captured from a moving car in Namibia and South Africa - hence the sometimes fuzzy foregrounds.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Halfmens In Bloom - Pachypodium namaquanum

Halfmens In Bloom

I've previously posted a descriptive entry, with pictures, on the Halfmens (Pachypodium namaquanum) here.

I photographed this specimen in bloom in South Africa's Richtersveld National Park when I was there last. It was the first time I'd seen one in bloom.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Australian Alice - Alitji in Dreamland

Alitji in Dreamland

Alitji and her sister were playing in a creek-bed when a white kangaroo hopped past and disappeared into a hole in the ground.

Alitji gazed up into a tree and saw a large witchety grub.

Inside the wurlie the Spirit of the North Wind was nursing a baby, while another woman was cooking itunypa roots. A wild cat lay by the fire, grinning.

I found these images of an Australian Alice In Wonderland on a Russian Blog - I tried to Google it but could find no further info on the author and illustrator.