What we had seen only on Television programmes like Animal Planet and National Geographic all our lives; we were watching all of that in – flesh and blood – during those three days of Safari in the Elephant Plains private game reserve in South Africa.
'Game Viewing', as the Safaris are called in South Africa…
…promise encounters with the "Big 5" – Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino and Wild Buffalo or the "Big 7" (includes Cheetah and Wild Dog). These are called the Big 5 or the Big 7 from those days when 'hunting' used to be a 'royal' hobby and for them, targeting these specific animals was the ultimate test of their skills.
You might wonder, how can hunting the Buffalo be a challenge comparable with shooting a Lion or an Elephant? The reason is – the 'only' way to bring a buffalo down is by shooting at its brain. Any where else and the buffalo is left injured and will leave no stone un-turned to avenge its injury. But then, targeting its brain, because of its not-so-prominent position, is not an easy job at all. Lying behind a small forehead and sheltered by two powerful and big horns on both sides, shooting the Buffalo's brain is like aiming for the proverbial 'bull's eye'.
Thank God that the hunters cannot have a field day any more…
…and treat these majestic beings like trophies. But, the excitement of 'shooting' these Big 5 still drives people crazy. Albeit its the 'shooting' with cameras that I am referring to!
Capturing the Lions and the Leopards and that too – in the middle of a riveting action sequence – is the biggest thrill I have ever felt. The photos, I think, are alright considering this was my first experience shooting wild life and that too in the evening when the light conditions were not favourable for photography.
And, now that we are back with hundreds of clicks of those incredible experiences, I have been wondering how can I creatively use those photos as tools of art, learning, storytelling, conversations for Pari.
Of course she keeps visiting these photos on my laptop from time to time; I plan to create hard copy albums of her own clicks; we narrate stories to each other using them but other than that, I was wondering if they can be used in a very dynamic way that will make her relive those moments and visuals like nothing else.
And then, I had an idea. I created slide shows on Picasa – of each encounter by using the series of photos I had captured of that specific encounter.
For instance – one slide show using 4-5 photos of the encounter that involved three male Lions feasting on a Buffalo. Another – a long-drawn dirty tricking game of a Hyena with the Leopard and her cubs. And, many more.
My idea was to have Pari impart thought bubbles or dialogue to the animals in each photo/scene.
For this, she would need to study their expressions and the setting, recall what she had originally seen and script the whole series as if it were a drama going on, where in each character is playing out its part – in first person.
We did this yesterday and as I had anticipated – it made for one full hour of lively engagement, spontaneous expression, creative thinking, and impromptu enacting for Pari.
Here are those adrenalin-gushing scenes from the grasslands of Sabie Sands (extension of Kruger National Park).
The bonus is those dialogues and thought bubbles – scripted by Pari in a way that you get the actual picture of what transpired that evening. The story that unfolds here is what had actually happened plus an insight into the animal mind as the little girl imagined!
I scribbled in a notebook as she was engrossed in thinking up the words and enacting them out loud.
Mamma Leopard: This is the best Impala I've ever eaten in my life. Wow, it's amazing
Mamma Leopard: O no, I feel worried that my cubs will be okay or not. I think there's a Hyena over there…
Mamma Leopard: O my God, the Hyena is very close to my cubs. What should I do?
Cub 1: O no! There's a Hyena around. Where's my mamma?
Mr. Hyena: Aha, it's a lucky day. I've got a leopard cub to eat…
Cub 1: O my! So there is the Hyena – so close – I need to run. But where is mamma?
Mamma Leopard: O no, I dropped my food. I've got to run down before the Hyena grabs it…
Mr. Hyena: Yay, I've got ready-made food. I don't have to chase the cubs…
Cub 2: I have to keep a close watch on the Hyena till mamma comes. I've to keep very quiet…
Cub 1: God, mamma is chasing the Hyena. What if the Hyena eats mamma. Then, he will eat me too.
Cub 2: Thank God, I've got this rock to sit. Now, the Hyena cannot catch me…
30 minutes pass…..and the sun is setting. The hide and seek between Hyena and Mamma Leopard is still going on…
Cub 2: It's dark now. I am scared. Please God, send mama to me…
Mamma Leopard: Alright there he is. He will make a good meal. Should I try to eat it?
Mamma Leopard: You horrible Hyena, now I'm going to attack you. First you take away my meal and now you want to eat my cubs?
Cub 1: Where are these lights coming from? Why are they throwing lights on me? O they look different to me. Are they Hyena's friends?
Mamma Leopard: The sun is going to set soon and it's going to be very dark. It's better I move from here with my cubs. I'll attack the Hyena next time. I won't spare him.
Mamma Leopard: Ok my cubs – I'm with you now so no need to be scared. The Hyena is gone. Let's go home….
So, friends, I hope you enjoyed this riveting drama teeming with deceit, suspense, fear and revenge!
In that sense, a child trying to get into the mind of an animal to understand what it might have felt or thought can be very purposeful as well as worthy. I think it also makes them appreciate the fact that animals too think, feel and communicate like we do.We will be doing more scripting and dialogue writing from those slide shows.
Earlier, I had used photos to support her writing (autobiography).
What other ways do you recommend using photos as tools for dramatization, art, learning and expression?
PS: If you missed reading my last post summarizing our trip to South Africa – from Cape Town to Kruger – you can read it now. :)