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10 Inspiring Africa Movies to Watch

April 8th, 2020, by Claudia Santino

We’re a waterhole is half full kind of crowd here at African Travel, Inc. which means we’re always looking for the silver lining during rough times.  Just because we’re not traveling doesn’t mean we can’t learn and connect to the places we love and one way for us to do this is through movies.  We’ve put together a list of what we’re watching now.  Some are old favorites, some are documentaries, some will spur you into action.  Some will make you cry, and some will make you laugh.  Many will make you want to go to Africa as soon as possible.  Until then, get the popcorn ready.

Born Free
When most people think of visiting Africa, they think of wildlife.  For a certain generation, Born Free was the film that sparked a desire to see Africa and a movement towards animal rights.  This classic, released in 1966 and based on the nonfiction book, it tells the story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub in Kenya and of George and Joy Adamson, the couple who forged an emotional bond with her.  You can’t help but for fall for Elsa, whose story ignited a movement around the way we perceive relationships between humans and animals and whose tale pushed the door open wide towards animal conservation.

Out of Africa
Another classic that fired people up to explore Kenya, Out of Africa is the story of Danish author Karen Blixen and her passionate love affair with a big game hunter.  Set during colonial time in colonial British East Africa, it doesn’t always show Blixen at her best, but the cinematography will satisfy the desire to escape into the wilds of a place most people only dream about.  

Queen of Katwe
If you like a defying all odds kind of story, you’ll love Queen of Katwe. It’s the inspirational real-life story of Phiona Mutesi, a girl growing up in the slums of Uganda who helps her mother sell food in the market and care for her baby brother.  When she meets Robert Katende, a coach who teaches children to play chess, Phiona goes on to become one of the country’s best female chess champions.  The hardship she and her family face offer hefty dose of reality, but her success will win you over.

Searching for Sugarman
The power of oral storytelling is revealed in the following the singer Rodriguez generated amongst fans who passed his music along by word of mouth.  Searching for Sugarman is the surprise hit documentary about South Africa’s greatest ‘70s rock icon who never was.  An American folk singer whose bootleg recording made it to a nation struggling through a dark period, Rodriguez’s song “I Wonder” became an anti-apartheid anthem.  The documentary follows two South Africans who came of age listening to him and their journey to find the singer whose sound captured a nation and who became a mythical legend because, despite his popularity, no one had ever seen him perform.  Chase the myth with them, by end you just might become a fan, too.

Virunga
This Academy Award Oscar nominated film is the true story of the rangers risking their lives to save Africa's most precious national park and its endangered gorillas from war and damaging oil exploration activity within the UNESCO World Heritage site.  Virunga spotlights the brave people who have dedicated their lives to build a better future for themselves and the animals they protect in Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth.  If you’ve ever seen a mountain gorilla, or have a desire to see one, this film is a must.  It will restore your faith in humanity, it will break your heart, but it may also spur you to action.

BBC Planet Earth:  Africa
We’ll be honest, we’d be happy to watch a continuous loop of BBC’s Planet Earth Africa on Netflix.  So, sit back and relax as the amazing cinematography and narration carries you away on a journey through five regions of this stunning and diverse continent.  From extraordinary wildlife to unexplored rainforests and mountain ranges, the wow factor doesn’t get much better than this armchair adventure!

The First Grader
Another film based on a true story, The First Grader is about a Kenyan farmer and former Mau Mau tribesman Kimani Maruge who enrolled in elementary school at the age of 84 when the country introduced universal education in 2003.  Despite opposition to admitting him into a classroom of six-year-olds, his determination finds him an ally in one teacher.  It’s the story about the power of education, perseverance and the will to learn no matter one’s age.  We hope this hero’s journey inspires you.

The Ivory Game
Another Netflix original series, The Ivory Game is about the team of front-line rangers and undercover operatives who embark on dangerous missions to expose and disrupt the dark world of ivory trafficking.  From fighting poachers in Africa to exposing illegal ivory shops in China, the team risks their lives to save our elephants from those in pursuit of “white gold.”  If you support wildlife conservation, it will inspire you into action.

Our Planet
It would be wrong of us to tell you to focus on just one episode of Our Planet, but we are partial to the ones that shine a light on Africa and features the wild dogs of the Serengeti.  The wonderous beauty of our planet is revealed in breathtaking cinematography and guided by Sir David Attenborough who explains how we can take charge of our future from the climate change that impacts all living creatures.  

Black Panther
We couldn’t help ourselves with this one!  Whether you’re seeing it for the first time or enjoying it the second, third for fourth time around, Black Panther is just what we need right now.  This Marvel classic tells the story of T’Challa, who returns to his family’s kingdom home of fictional Wakanda, an African nation under threat from a rival warlord.  In our hero’s battle against evil and his fight to reclaim his throne, this action movie challenges us to think about class structure, racism and our humanity and it also highlights African culture and traditions.  By the end of the film you’ll swear Wakanda is a real place and that’s a good thing.  Wakanda Forever!

 

Get Lost in the Pages of Africa

April 8th, 2020, by Claudia Santino

Since the dawn of time, stories have offered the perfect escape. If you’ve been meaning to catch up on your reading, here are ten books set in Africa that will transport you into the lives of some incredible fictional and real people and animals. Some are suitable for children and young adults, all will teach something about the great continent we’d love you to know more about.

We may not be able to take you on a real African safari right now, so we’re bringing a bit of the wild kingdom into your hands with this magical recommendation. Safari: A Photicular Book is a stunning work of art created with something called Motion Viewer design that brings the images on the page to life. This eye-catching book is a great educational tool for children or a great escape for anyone who loves animals. It might even inspire you on to make the dream of Africa a reality and how cool would that be?

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, a New York Times Bestseller, is Alexandra Fuller’s candid memoir about growing up in Rhodesia in the 1970s. Her unflinching look back on her family’s life as they tried to stubbornly make their way against African independence is unsentimental and captivating. The continent is a central character, another is her mother, a headstrong woman who nurtured the young Fuller and her sister by teaching them self-reliance and resilience, instead of doting on them.  Fuller’s writing crackles and she doesn’t skimp on details or her love and passion for Africa. She’ll make you feel like you’re walking on rich red dirt road right alongside her, which is perfect in these days of self-isolation.

If you’re looking for an adventure, you’ll get one in West With the Night, Beryl Markham’s memoir about growing up in East Africa. Born in England, she and her father moved to Kenya when she was a young girl. Raised around wild things, she had a love and respect for Africa’s lands and creatures and her best friend was a Nandi tribes boy who taught her to hunt. Her father raised horses and she became an expert horsewoman and racehorse trainer. Mostly, she was a woman who was unafraid to try new things, leading her to become a great adventurer and aviatrix and bush pilot, which ultimately led her to becoming the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America. We’d follow her star any day!

One of the greatest memoirs of all time, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela might just be the one book we need to get through these hard times. He endured 10,000 days of imprisonment and when he was released at the age of 71, the freedom fighter showed the world that his spirit hadn’t been broken, going on to become the president of South Africa. Mandela wasn’t just the greatest leader the country ever had but he was an international hero and one of the greatest moral and political leaders of all time. His lifelong dedication to fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and his life continues to serve as a guiding light for oppressed people around the world and anyone going through struggles and setbacks.

If you’ve got time on your hands (and who doesn’t these days?) then step back in time to an Egypt that once was with The Alexandria Quartet. This masterpiece by Lawrence Durrell made up of four small novels is a lush and seductive tale of friends and lovers in Alexandria before WWI. Its central theme is love conveyed across the different viewpoints and experiences of the characters that make up these stories and whose common ground is the city.

It seems like most stories that take place in Africa are epic and Cutting for Stone proves it.  The story of twin brothers, Marion and Shiva Stone born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon unfolds across five decades in India, Ethiopia, and America. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, their coming of age story is one of love and betrayal, compassion and redemption.

If you’re an animal lover, you’ll fall in love with this book.  If you’re not, prepare to become one if you read it.  The Elephant Whisperer is the heartwarming story of conservationist Lawrence Anthony who relents to accepting a herd of rogue elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in South Africa, deep in the heart of Zulu country.  The alternative to him not accepting them is that they would be killed because of their dangerous behavior.  No sooner does he take them on when these delinquents start planning their escape and Anthony has to work fast to build a bond with them in order to rehabilitate and save them.  In the process, the naughty herd teaches him about life, too.

The Power of One is a suspenseful novel that takes you on the epic journey of Peekay, a boy born during the birth of apartheid in 1939 South Africa. This coming-of-age story deals with his abandonment, experiences with racism and what it takes to survive in an unforgiving environment.  Ultimately, it is about the power of hope and resilience we can all have as individuals.  

To date, there are 21 novels in Alexander McCall’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. If you’re new to this highly acclaimed series, then you’ve got some catching up to do on Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s best (and only) female detective. Known for her wisdom and street smarts, this good-hearted detective is an example of girl power in action.  These short novels offer a perfect escape right now and are great reading (or audio) material for young and older adults looking for lighthearted but uplifting stories.

“The Kabara groups taught me much regarding gorilla behavior. From them I learned to accept the animals on their own terms and never to push them beyond the varying levels of tolerance they were willing to give. Any observer is an intruder in the domain of a wild animal and must remember that the rights of that animal supersede human interests.” – Dian Fossey was a young woman and an occupational therapist when she traveled to Africa in 1963.  Visiting Uganda, she came into contact with Virunga’s mountain gorillas and it changed her life.  Gorillas in the Mist is her riveting account of the research she conducted in the remote rain forests in Rwanda studying the great apes. Her great understanding, bond and unlimited love for these misunderstand creatures destroyed the myths that had been built around them and changed the way we view gorillas. Her research studying their group behavior provided her with a life of adventure and friendship, but it also entailed hardship and heartbreak.  It’s Fossey’s passion, dedication and determination that we have to thank for the protections the endangered gorillas in the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda have today.  A must-read for anyone who’s ever had a desire to see these incredible creatures who we share 98% of our DNA.

 

International Women’s Day | #EachForEqual

March 5th, 2020, by Claudia Santino
When Lucille Sive learned that the campaign theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #EachForEqual, she said “I love it!” 
 
As the CEO for African Travel, Inc., Lucille Sive knows a thing or two about equality.  Born and raised in South Africa, Lucille grew up during apartheid.  “Without equality you cannot have a thriving community or business,” she says. When it comes to women and business, she firmly believes that taking risks can be one of the best things we can do for our careers and that sometimes you can make a decision in your life that changes the course of it in ways you never dreamed.
 
That’s what happened to Lucille when she accepted a marketing position at Lion World Travel. She had no travel or marketing background.  What she did have was a desire to learn and that desire sparked a fiery passion for all things Africa.  “Along my TTC journey I’ve done almost everything from the bottom upwards,” she said.  “For females, you sometimes just have to jump in and make sure that you know every job that there is to know.”  That philosophy paid off when a few years after joining the company, the owner asked her to run it.   Seven years ago, she was named CEO of African Travel, and now oversees all the Africa offerings for TTC’s brands.

People measure success in different ways.  For Lucille, success is all about how happy you are in what you do, and she is extremely happy in her life and her career.   She credits being passionate about all things Africa for what helps make her life a success.  Being a female business leader in any industry can be a challenge or an opportunity.  Like an experienced wildlife tracker, Lucille looks for opportunity in everything she and her team do.  So much so that her team often tells her that she always making lemonade out of lemons.

International Women’s Day is personal to Lucille because March 8th is also her birthday.  She quotes the African proverb that says, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.’”  

Lucille takes a lot of inspiration from women in Africa, who she finds incredibly resourceful and resilient.  With its focus on sustainability, African Travel, Inc. partners with women entrepreneurs in the destinations they visit to purchase unique and locally crafted gifts, like intricately beautifully beaded elephants and rhinos as guest amenities.  “Most of these women are single mothers and widows who must feed their families and the money they earn doesn’t just take care of them; it gets cycled back into their communities,” she said.  “I’m continually inspired by women from local communities working on the conservation front, or who run lodges with an emphasis on protecting elephants, rhinos and other creatures.”  

Lucille will tell you that equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue.  “I tell people that TTC is one of the nicest places to work at and I love what I do.  I have opportunities here that I would never have had anywhere else because the Tollman family believed in me,” she says.   “Individually, we can all have our own thoughts and we can all make a difference and we can all make sure that we celebrate women’s individual accomplishments, but together we can change the world.”

 

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