Africa, An Artist's Journal is my first experience with Kim Donaldson and from the first page I was thoroughly impressed by his talent and obvious love for the land and animals. He takes the reader on safari with him as he reflects on the countries of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Tanzania with some comparisons on how the regions have changed over the last thirty years. The focus is on the national parks he has visited from each area and a few off beaten tracks.
Through his journal excerpts and comfortable narrative I read tales about lions, buffalo, roan, antelope, gemsbuck, cheetah, otter (I know, I was surprised too), springbuck, vultures, meercat, brown hyaena, oryx, giraffe, ostrich, zebra, wild dog, and elephants. Some were tranquil, others not.
He introduced me to the balance of nature, of life both interrupted and not interrupted by man. I cringed over the eminent danger in Chobe National Park when he and his crew inadvertently turned on a wrong road and he ended up at a military base with a gun to his head. I was in awe of his tale of being awoken "by the rasping of a lions breathing just outside".
Donaldson's ability to catch light and shadow are simply amazing. I fell in love with many images but in particular the lone zebra basking in late afternoon sun on page 29. A group of impala sharing the shade of a sparse tree on page 41. A cheetah on a slow prowl looks as if you could reach out and scratch the fur under his chin on page 43. On page 62, two old buffalo bulls, their textured bodies, amazing! He even makes warthogs seem beautiful.
Along the way he talks of many people (usually friends) that he respects and who have had an impact on the flora and fauna of Africa. Very little is said about the tribes until he gets to Kenya when they are mentioned almost in passing.
Africa is majestic and the experiences surreal. Surreal, like being stroked and sniffed by an elephant trunk in the dead of night. Kim Donaldson definitely brings the experience home both with commentary and the images. He wraps the book up by sharing his views on conservation, trophy hunting, poaching and land development giving me a different point-of-view to consider.
Despite this book's cumbersome size for reading I highly recommend it. Reviewed by M. E. Wood.