Colors of Africa Hardcover – 31 Mar 2003
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When James Kilgo is invited on an African safari, he leaps at the opportunity--even though the only shooting he'd be doing is with a camera. Colors of Africa depicts the group's photographer "intoxicated by sensation," Kilgo not only documents the hunt, but also relays every sight, sound, and scent of the long trek through Zambia's Luangwa River valley.
The expedition is made all the more significant because Kilgo has cancer, and his lifelong dream is to travel to the great continent with "the sound of life." A retired University of Georgia English professor and former hunter, Kilgo's expectations of the trip are heavily influenced by the literary tradition of big-game adventurers Ernest Hemingway, Isak Dinesen, David Livingstone, and Theodore Roosevelt. Kilgo's sometimes-religious account echoes Livingstone's: "The mere animal pleasure of travelling in a wild unexplored country is very great."
Kilgo, an avid bird-watcher, offers exhaustive descriptions of the many avian species that he and the hunting party encounter. He sets aside his status as observer, however, when given the chance to shoot kudu, a type of woodland antelope that Hemingway also pursued and depicted in Green Hills of Africa. Kilgo soon realises that while the experience of hunting in Africa is much the same as it was in Hemingway's day, Africa has changed greatly. Outside of the bush country where the party hunts, there is "poverty, AIDS, and genocide." But for Kilgo, Africa is a place where the sky changes moment to moment, and the leaves and the flowers fade and fall. "Only the colours of the earth remain constant--black and white, sienna, ochre, and umber." --CJ Carrillo, Amazon.com
This spring, two of America's most sophisticated travel writers . . . [have written] up their own recent journeys through Africa. . . . In contrast to Paul Theroux, who is constantly checking the measure of other people's reaction to him, James Kilgo writes with such unfettered curiosity that it erases his presence and puts the reader in his shoes. Who wouldn't want to be high-stepping through the bush, peering at magnificent birds and bulls, falling asleep at night to the cries of hyenas? OK, perhaps not everyone. But thanks to this book, we can be right there with him, while safely at home.--John Freeman "Cleveland Plain Dealer "See all Product description
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
So I wanted to read more Kilgo, and now I have. This book, COLORS OF AFRICA, may be even better the IVORYBILLS. It certainly has an added poignancy, knowing that Kilgo died very soon after he finished writing the book, and he obviously knew this would be his last book. COLORS OF AFRICA is another book about hunting, but this time it's about how he fulfilled a life-long dream of going to Africa, as an observer and photographer on a three-week safari in Zambia with a big game-hunter acquaintance. Kilgo had thought his own hunting days were behind him, but when the hunter offers him a chance to shoot a Kudu, he decides differently.
Kilgo keeps a record of his time in beautiful history-laden Luangwa River valley and all the various animal trophies his host bags, as well as his own bird watching and that stalking and shooting of the Kudu (a large antelope). But he also weaves in a lot of reading and research about Africa, citing passages from the books and journals of Dr. Livingstone, references to Burton and Speke, as well as a more modern African scholar, Stuart Marks. But Hemingway keeps coming up here too, with frequent quotes from Green Hills of Africa, a book that Kilgo first read and fell in love with during his high school years. He also mentions the film, Mountains of the Moon, which dramatized the explorations and competitions of Burton and Speke. It is a film I too remember vividly, making me wish all over again that I could have known Kilgo and talked with him about books - his and others too.
Perhaps what makes Kilgo's books so readable and fascinating is the constant struggle in his own mind and heart about hunting and killing, but his enormous respect for nature and animals comes through loud and clear. This was a complicated guy, who came from a long family tradition of hunting and fishing and spending time in the outdoors, in the Carolina and Georgia swamps and woods mostly. But he also loved literature and thought deeply about the many questions that literature raises. About life, death, and what is our purpose here on earth. Perhaps one of the most poignant parts of the book, that stays with me, is a moment he has about two weeks into his African adventure. One night he is lying awake in a roofless blind in the jungle waiting for a lion to approach the bait - a rotting buffalo quarter - they've hung in a tree. And a huge flock of vultures begins to circle above the blind and land in front of it to feast on the bait. Watching these enormous carrion birds suddenly caused him to remember with a start that he had cancer. But it was the first time he had thought of it since he got to Africa. That's how absorbed he was in this once-in-a-lifetime chance adventure.
This is a book filled with history, literature, natural wonders and personal memories. And the kind of wisdom that perhaps only comes when one knows he is nearing the end of things. Kilgo made the most of it, of all of it. Jim Kilgo died in December 2002. COLORS OF AFRICA was published the following spring. It's a beautiful book, Jim. Thank you. Highly recommended.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
The safari genre is full of works by visitors to Africa with little true knowledge of it. Knowing it was his first and only trip, I half expected this to be yet another. My own first safari was less than a year after Kilgo’s and his descriptions mirror my own experiences in so many ways.
While the hunting is the reason, the experience - the total experience of people, landscape, animals, from elephant to insects and the contrast of bush and urban settings - is the true Africa that either captures one’s soul or goes un-noticed by those too focused to pay attention to the seemingly mundane. From the tiniest detail to the most obvious, if you’ve ever been to southern Africa “Colors of Africa” will bring it all home as though you are back there yourself. As expected, Kilgo does an excellent job of expressing the contrasts of heart as well. His writing is like the stories of an old friend told while sitting by the fire.
Africa is truly a land of contrast and James Kilgo painted it with delicate brush strokes into a bold picture.