TARA is sad to announce that on Monday June 1st 2020, an long-term friend and TARA supporter, Joan Travis, died in Los Angeles, California. She was 96 years old.

I am not sure  when I first met Joan but it is likely that I met her through Dr Mary Leakey, probably soon after Mary discovered the 3.7 million year old Laetoli footprints near Olduvai, Tanzania in the late 1980s. Joan was a close friend of Louis and Mary’s and a founding trustee of the Leakey Foundation. In the early years when Louis Leakey was trying to raise money for their projects at the Olduvai Gorge etc. in Tanzania, it was Joan who raised much of the funding through her network while arranging the lectures and promotional events that made it all possible. Joan was also a close friend and supporter of the now famous  women whom Louis recruited to work on the ape research projects he felt were  so important e.g. Jane Goodall (chimpanzees), Diane Fossey (gorillas), and Biruti Galdikas (orangutans).

Angela Fisher, Joan Travis, Carol Beckwith and me, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California, July 2018, after Carol and Angela’s lecture.

Through Mary‘s introduction, Joan Travis also helped me and TARA in many ways over the years and was home base whenever I went to Los Angeles. My last visit was in July 2018 when Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith (2 of my oldest friends) were also in town to promote their latest book, African Twilight. Together with Joan, I went to Angela and Carol’s exhibition and lecture at the Bowers Museum and enjoyed a memorable evening. Joan always loved being a part of our team(s) and took huge pleasure in our achievements. She was one of the kindest people I have ever known and I shall miss her. She will be particularly missed by her daughter Cindy and her grandchildren.

Royal Geographical Society, Hong Kong, David Coulson

The Royal Geographical Society – Hong Kong invited David Coulson to speak on “The Rock Art of Africa: 25,000 Years of World History and Climate Change on the World’s Biggest Canvas”.

Royal Geographical Society, Hong Kong, David Coulson

The prestigious event was introduced to RGS members and guests as follows:

“Residing in Africa for more than 40 years, British adventurer and photographer David Coulson has discovered and documented more rock art sites across the continent than anyone else. On the way, he has accumulated many amusing stories, including being charged by elephants and frequently lost in desert sandstorms.

In the Kalahari, Mr Coulson spent long periods with the Bushmen when he photographed some of their ancestral art. In Egypt’s Western Desert, he used modern photographic techniques to map the trove of faint images in a huge underground cavern known as the Cave of Swimmers, because of the front-crawl-like depiction of the figures.

Other African rock art discussed in the talk includes a collection of 8,000-year-old anatomically accurate carvings of nine running giraffes on an ancient riverbed in Algeria, the largest measuring 27 ft from muzzle to hind hoof. In addition, he talks of a series of white circles the size of dinner plates that migrating Stone Age hunter-gatherers painted on a granite hillside in eastern Uganda, roughly 1,500 years ago.

David Coulson is a photographer, writer and African explorer as well as being a specialist in African rock art. In the 1980s and 1990s, he worked out of Kenya as a professional photographer and writer, and his books and articles were published across the world. It was during his many travels for these projects that he became aware of the richness and diversity of Africa’s rock art.

He is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Trust for African Rock Art, founded with the help of Dr Mary Leakey and Sir Laurens van der Post. Since its inception, TARA’s work has been supported by a number of well-known international institutions such as National Geographic, and the Getty, Ford and Andrew Mellon Foundations. During this, he has driven the equivalent of at least three times around the Earth. Mr Coulson also spearheaded the Focus on Your World international photo competition on the Environment in the early 1990s sponsored by Canon. The competition, of which David was also a judge, attracted 32,000 entries from 140 different countries, the biggest photo competition ever held. He is the author of African Rock Art and Namib on Namibia’s coastal desert.”

Location: The Bloomberg Theatre, Hong Kong.
Date: Tuesday, 26 September 2017.

In Search of Kenya- the North

On Friday the 15th January the Italian Cultural Institute was re-opened after renovations. During the opening, people got a glimpse of the upcoming TARA-curated travelling exhibition by UNESCO: “In Search of Kenya”, which will begin its journey through the country from the Alliance Française in Nairobi later this year. The full exhibition aims to show the immense variety of Kenya’s intangible heritage. What is currently on display at the Italian Cultural Institute, however, focuses on Northern Kenya, a theme chosen because of the institute’s interest in the region.

UNESCO Kenya exhibition

While the images selected for the exhibition are too few to cover all of Kenya’s intangible cultural heritage, they certainly show some of its breadth. Cultural practices, economic activities, dances (music and songs one needs to imagine still), clothing, jewellery, colours, all set in Northern Kenya landscapes are represented. The selection also includes rock art images, because rock art conveys strong intangible heritage values.

TARA has had an active role in producing the travelling exhibition. The 50 plus images selected for the exhibition come from our extensive archive and thus show the scale and depth of our expertise in the field of cultural conservation, expertise that we have developed over the past 20 years, and that goes beyond rock art.

‘In Search of Kenya: The North’ –exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute, Westlands, Woodvale Close 1, Grenadier Tower 5th floor. Open 15 Jan to 31 Jan. Entry is free to all.

UNESCO Kenya exhibition