Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Visions of Africa

I was looking for safaris in Africa, when I came across this book: Visions of Africa. After a brief research, I discovered she is the auntie of one of my favourite TV presenters, the charming anthropologist and researcher Saba Douglas-Hamilton.
She represents everything I am not and, despite being an urban girl, long to be: she is fearless, loves animal in a visceral way and her life is completely immersed in nature. I, on the other hand, love everything that it is cute: calves, cubs, puppies and kitten. But if you just mention snakes or ghecos I freak out and I can be easily scared by a pigeon. Only recently I have developed fondness for cats. Mind you, not all of them - certain cats still scare the s**** out of me, especially when they are tiger-striped and big, but our neighbour's cat Gizmo is different. He is huge, yes, but he is also soft, very black and with stunning green/yellow eyes. He is extremely clever and cheeky.
I admire Saba's committed passion for African wildlife and culture as well as her informative and well-spoken style. Saba was raised in Kenya in an elephant camp by her zoologist father and beautiful mother (Oria), was educated in the UK and went back to Kenya to work as a BBC documentary reporter and conservationist.
Oria Douglas-Hamilton
Saba lives there with her (ehm... hot) husband, Frank Pope (a marine archaeologist) and adopted monkeys.
Frank Pope
Her life is already very fascinating as it is, but when I started reading extracts from Visions of Africa, her origins kept surprising me. Her anti-conformism runs in her blood. Her father has got Scottish origins but her grandfather was an Italian emigrant who married a wealthy French woman and settled in Africa with their three children: Dorian, Mirella Ricciardini, photographer and author of Visions of Africa, and Oria.
Mirella Ricciardini
Oria's family house has now been converted into a B&B and she and her husband run an elephant watch camp in Samburu, Kenya, whose documentary (The Secret Life of Elephants) is currently broadcasted on BBC. My interest in biographies sometimes reaches the limit of obsession. When I wander through the streets of London I can't help to peep into the windows just to get a glance of people's everyday life. [London's houses without shutters or fences lend themselves very well to this voyeuristic habit of mine.] I suppose I am interested in biographies as the Douglas-Hamilton clan is interested in the animal world. They have been following and observing elephant's behaviour for decades. I don't limit myself to nose around though. I always compare and confront bios (or the perception I get of them) with my and my family's destiny to try and find the social and cultural root differences separating my ordinary life from these extraordinary biographies, whose glamorous existence is often coupled up with big losses and grief. And, instead of getting depressed or envious, I make them my muse and try to bring some of their greatness into my tiny microcosm. As I always like to stay in special places while travelling (we stayed with a Moroccan family in a village outside Fes almost four years ago), I wouldn't rule out the possibility of visiting the Hamiltons one day...
Saba on her wedding day

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