ARCHIVE KENYA 122 – THE LUSH FARMLANDS OF THE WEST

 

 


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Farms between Kisumu and Kakamega in the lush and fertile, far west of Kenya; April 1979.

This western part of Kenya lies just to the east of Lake Victoria, and benefits from the big storms that form over the lake and then drift eastwards, bringing plentiful rain.  Add all this water to fertile soils and high, year-round temperatures, and this is wonderfully productive farming country.  But on the downside there is malaria here, and this is where it first got its claws into me.

The tall plants in the foreground are bananas – there were many varieties of bananas of all sizes and colours here, including simply delicious ones used for cooking.  It may be more a dish from Uganda, but I simply adored cooked banana – matoke, I think it was called – with groundnut sauce.

Some of the local people can just be seen, up to the left of the two houses with metal roofs in the foreground.

This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO; Lightroom.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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OUTER SUBURBS 71 – EARLY MORNING GUTTER WITH LAMP POST, FROST, MOSS AND BANANA SKIN

 

 


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Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Walking – and looking down – in the early morning.

The first image in the Outer Suburbs series, with context, is here: 1 .  Subsequent images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 53a 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Technique: TG-5 at 25mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Vivid film preset; Color Efex Pro 4; south Bristol; 31 Jan 2019.
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PEOPLE 338 – WRITING A BOOK

 

 


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I used to be an highly enthusiastic birder.  School friends had awoken this interest in me in 1967, and 10 years later I left the UK for Kenya – to lecture on geology and to grab eyeful after eyefull of African birdlife.  And not just African birdlife, but Afrotropical birdlife, the Afrotropical Region being Africa to the south of the Sahara, one of the great biological regions of the world, with many unique or highly distinctive flora and fauna.

And the plan – ah, the plans of mice and men! – was to stay in Kenya for two or three years, do a lot of birdwatching, and then move on elsewhere.  Sure enough, I met up with other birders there, and went birding in many national parks and areas further off the beaten track.  But then, in 1981, a chance remark informed me that there was a project in hand to map the distributions of Kenya’s 1,000+ bird species – and from that moment on there was for simply nothing else worth doing in Life.

In a nutshell, I worked on A Bird Atlas of Kenya for over eight years – it really was a vast amount of hard but very often enthralling work, funded by the World Wildlife Fund and many others, and relying on hundreds of volunteers – and the book was published in 1989.  It was never going to be a best seller, it was not an identification guide (fieldguide), it was a fairly academic explanation of the distributions and seasonalities of Kenya’s (then) 1,065 bird species. My co-author was a zoology professor at Makerere University, in neighbouring Uganda.

And here I am, probably about 1983 or so, writing it.  The photo is an indifferent scan of a small print but it conveys the overall idea, that I was awash in a sea of paper.  For in the 1980s the developed world was developing IT technology apace, but here in the Third World it was a far rarer commodity, and especially so for those outside the world of business.  We had no email and no computers.  All correspondence was carried out by snail mail – and air letters, thousands of them, were the preferred thing because, since they could not contain anything, they were less prone to theft.  We did enquire re the cost of producing the book by word processing but, in those days, in Kenya, it was completely prohibitive.  In the end, an absolutely wonderful typist produced the whole thing, 600+ pages, on an electric golfball typewriter, ready to be photographed by our Dutch publishers.

So, here is the leafy Spring Valley suburb of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, around a mile or so above sea level.  The equatorial sun is beating down, the large window beside me is open to admit fresh, warm air, and the great mass of greenery seen vaguely through  the window are the tops of banana trees.  Also, local roads were some distance away, and there was nothing but the sounds of birds, the rustling, swaying trees and the breeze  – what better place to write a book?  And although I do seem to be awash in a sea of paper, there was a very simple design to it all – all the most useful texts, maps and notes were arranged in a circle  around me, all within instant, easy reach – it was a simple design that worked very well.

And as well as being enthralling, the bird atlas project had its exciting moments too.  Flights in small aircraft to record the birds of very poorly known areas of the country were exciting, yes, they held a real sense of exploration.  But my co-author was working in Uganda at just the time when the dictator Idi Amin was being ousted from Uganda by the present president, Yoweri Museveni.  As the fighting moved up towards Kampala, Uganda’s capital, I strongly urged my co-author to flee – and I can recall his comment that it was only “a bit of bush warfare”, and that there was nothing to worry about.  But, the fighting swept on through Kampala, he spent a long time on his floor of his house, sheltering from small arms fire, and a soldier was killed in his garden.  How writing a book on birds stacks up against all that (and other) violence, I have always been unsure.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet again – recommended.
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STILL LIFE 19 – OVERRIPE BANANAS (MONO + COLOUR)

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Overripe bananas; 10 June 2014.

I looked up and there on top of the fridge were these reclining yellow bodies, unsightly in their heavy black blotching.

Tripod-mounted D800 with 105mm Nikkor; 100 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 1 preset; selective restoration of colour.
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