Tuesday, February 3, 2009

African Safari

I have mixed feelings about African safaris. The idea of leaving urban areas behind and experiencing nature has and will always appeal to me. I spend far too much time connected to the Internet through my laptop, Xbox, and Blackberry and the allure of an idealized rustic experience, like a safari, is very compelling.

However, along with the rustic experiences come many of the negative connotations associated with European Colonialism in Africa, specifically gluttony, racial superiority, and entitlement. Even a safari's documentation conveys the West’s inherent feeling of entitlement. Why is it considered cultured and anthropological to show “Native’s breasts” on TV or in National Geographic but degenerate to show a white or black American's boobs? In some twisted way, writing about the problems with Safaris makes them even more romantic. Here are some photos gleaned from my hours perusing the Life Archive that embody the iconic African Safari including the staples: Landrover Defender, binoculars, high-socks-short-shorts, side-by-side shotguns, scoped hunting rifles, Safari Helmets, cigars, and of course, nude natives.

This guy is hunting more than just the local animals.

You know these trackers did all of the work. Check out his Desert Boots.

The Landrover Defender is an essential part of the African Safari.

Gold inlay and short shorts.
The Prize.


Unknown said...

I understand and share some of your mixed feelings, and there is certainly a look of entitlement about the white men in the pictures you posted. However, my reading (which is admittedly limited) seems to suggest that of the many who undertook safaris, the ones exhibiting a sense of racial superiority and entitlement are overshadowed by those practicing respect and restraint, particularly on the part of the "great white hunters." Safari guides were some of the first to push for hunting regulation and safaris bring money into local economies. Hemingway's writings suggest (to me at least) an understanding of local cultures that would have been unusual in his time.

But, having never been to Africa, I have to take such observations with a grain of salt. My guess is that it's bad, but not nearly so bad as people think.

In any case, those are some great pictures.

Foster Huntington said...

great points. Safari's have done great things of Africa in terms of raising awareness and helping with conservations. Ecotourism offers countries like Ethiopia a valuable source of income to families that would otherwise be forced to poach animals. I agree about Hemingway as well.

In writing this post i wanted to address some of the stereotypes associated with safaris and the great white hunters.