FOR THE LOVE OF AFRICA
We’d just screened our film Soul of the Elephant, to an audience in Sundance a few years ago, and were taking questions or comments afterwards when Robert Redford raised his hand. “I see this as a love story, between you two, between you and elephants and between us all and Africa.” It stimulated me to write an introduction to our next film, for Sundance, Okavango, ‘This is a love letter, to the greatest river on Earth.’ Our relationship with Africa goes back so far that it pre-dates our understanding of love itself, when we experimented with walking upright across the grasslands on the dolerite plains, harnessed fire from lightning and honed tools to defend ourselves against her magnificent, but terrifying predators. Africa. When we could speak and describe these feelings of empathy, trust, belonging, passion, gratitude and compassion we wrestled with as we looked at one another, we probably didn’t realize we already had one all-encompassing word born from that African dust: ‘love.’ Our love of Africa is ancient and universal because this is our original home.
But to understand love, as we all know, is to accept that it has different nuances. It’s wildness, in this case, its harshness balances its beauty and softness and we embrace it all.
What I wrote in a book titled Eye of the Leopard, I now realize, prompted by Bob’s comment at the Sundance screening, was a love letter as well, this time to a small leopard, to all leopards and once again, to Africa. We’d followed Legadema for years and it was time for her to go on her way, and melt into that fabric of the forest, without us for the first time.
I see your wild eyes
Turn soft with our reflection
A certain knowing
Thank you silently,
Privately perhaps, and go
You have things to do.
This amazing video highlights those nuances, that ache at times, that drive to fight and protect and to accept the ones we love, using Africa’s wildlife as examples, playing off the words of a human love song, across our Great Plains Kenyan properties. But it is also a reminder of our first love, with Africa. So this Valentine’s Day, as you light the fire, as we did as ancient Man, to romantically cast flickering warmth as reminders of why we love the person we are with, it can also ground us in where this all started and to keep that flame for Africa alive.