From my film archive: Africa - Part 1
I have vivid childhood memories of looking through National Geographic magazines and seeing images of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
I didn’t know anything about these mysterious lands, I didn’t even know how to pronounce most of the names correctly, but I did know that one day I had to go there.
Finally, after dreaming of these places for most of my life, I planned my first big trip as a photographer. The schedule: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
After two days of flying from Canada to get to the bottom of the continent of Africa, I landed in East London, South Africa. I immediately hit the road in a rental car and drove up the coast to a town called Haga Haga.
I discover a playing field and see many tiny figures in the far distance. Suddenly, I realize these figures are children running towards me. Freaked and not sure what to do or what is about to happen, I jump in the car. A crowd of beautiful school children swarm the car.
They are thrilled to see me, it’s almost like they had never seen a white person before?
All I can do is make photographs from the car of their wonderful faces, pushing, shoving, pinching, and fighting for position in front of me and my camera. It almost looks dangerous, but they are laughing, screaming, and smiling.
Their crazy enthusiasm does not die down.
Eventually, I attempt to drive off, carefully, as many of the children are running alongside the car. I am shocked and overwhelmed by the response and excitement of these incredible children. I instantly fall in love with Africa.
From Haga Haga, I follow the bottom coast of the continent, known as the Garden Route. Passing rugged shores that transition into sandy beach playgrounds.
On the outskirts of Alexandria, I wander into a shantytown. The people were as surprised as I was but friendly and welcoming. I’m guessing they don’t get many curious Canadian visitors.
The road now takes me away from the coast, toward the mountains that become rolling hills and the lush green farmlands of Heidelberg and Riversdale.
Next stop, Stellenbosch, the Cape Winelands with endless vineyards and stands of old Oak trees.Down to the coast one last time to the Strand, where fishermen line the shores at sunset, with the majestic Table Mountain in the distance.
The next day, I apparently take the scenic route through mountain passes to Cape Town. I drive through deep, dense fog, I see nothing but the hood of my car. Scenery lost, but I did eventually get to the lovely city of Cape Town.
A month later I arrive home from my travels, process the film, and finally get to see what I have produced on this trip. I have four countries worth of material to go through.
I relive the thrill of that very first day in Haga Haga when I finally see the images of those beautiful smiling faces crowding around my car.
My childhood African dream came through. The first big trip, the trip that changed my life…