The Trouble With Africa

tmpDA9F-large‘For many years Vic Guhrs has painted brilliant paintings of Africa – and now in words he puts these portraits into context and the result is a wonderful portrait of one man’s Africa. We are fortunate that the man behind this book is an insider – a resident, a traveler and most of all an artist.’  –  Paul Theroux

Guhrs’ articles have appeared in various magazines, and his experiences of camp life among wild animals are recorded in his book “The Trouble with Africa”, an insightful and humorous memoir.Not content to merely recount the highs and lows of safari life in observations and anecdotes, Guhrs delves deeper, and tries to come to terms with the mysteries of Africa.

The trouble with Africa, he says, is that once it is in your blood, like malaria, it is almost impossible to get rid of. And the trouble with Africa is also the trouble with those of us who settle here: as long as we insist on judging it from a Western perspective, we will be the outsiders – we will be forever baffled by it.The complexities of African attitudes that seem to confound us are perhaps not so complex after all; it is their very simplicity that we fail to understand. On the road to our civilized enlightenment have we lost the ability to see life in its fundamental essence?‘

‘The pain of a sudden scorpion sting. The kiss of life for a drowning lion… The monkeys which run like hell on seeing a painting of a leopard, and the baboons which take a couple of days to decide that it’s harmless. The idiot who tries to outstare a spitting cobra. These tales of safari life are bizarre yet believable, a triumph of observation rendered as accurately and imaginatively as Vic Guhrs’ wildlife paintings (his sketches and finished works appear throughout the book, adding to the delight). The German-born author’s text revels in the wonders of the wild. But there is also a familiar note of doubt so common among those from a “can do” European background struggling in the morass of “so what” Africa. Where the word for animal and that for meat is the same – nyama. Where planning for the future is pointless. Where it’s easier to chop down mchenja and tamarind trees to get at the fruit in the top branches. What about next year? “We are hungry now, and anyway, there are many other trees…”’  –  James Mitchell in the Johannesburg Star

Wild Life

Vic Guhrs teamed up with photographer Francois d’Elbee to revisit the place of his earlier life and note the changes that have turned the Luangwa Valley from a little-known wildlife paradise into a major tourist destination.The book, WILD LIFE, takes a close look at the forces that have shaped ‘the Valley’, its people and animals. From poachers to safari people to game scouts and politicians, it shows the reality of a game reserve – the side that tourists don’t often see.

Francois d’Elbee’s photography forms a spectacular backdrop to the story.From the early days of Zambia’s great conservationist, Norman Carr, as the district’s Elephant Control Officer, Guhrs takes us on a journey through time. From the first ramshackle safari camps, through the poaching epidemic of the 80’s when the Valley lost three quarters of its elephants and all of its 5000 black rhinos to organized poaching gangs, to the present day, when lodges are run by businessmen who love wildlife, and no longer by wildlife lovers with little business sense.

It also offers an insight into the age-old feud between the local villagers and the wild animals who threaten to destroy their crops, their livelihoods, and sometimes their lives, and asks questions about the sustainability of such places. Do game reserves merely exist for the benefit of wealthy Westerners, or will it be possible to educate and persuade the locals that they are of value to them too, and by extension to the whole of mankind?

Animals and Art
Click here for excerpt from the Wildlife book above