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32 Travel Zambia November 2008 David Shepherd No artist is more closely associated with African wildlife than David Shepherd CBE. His looming elephants and imperious cheetahs evoke the very essence of safari. And it is Zambia, his first love, to which Shepherd has turned time and again – inspiring in him a passion for wildlife that has made him one of today's leading conservationists. Mike Unwin visited the painter at his home in the UK. A green woodpecker flies across the expansive lawn as I turn up the gravel drive towards David Shepherd's house. The setting is quintessentially English: all lush greens and pastoral tranquillity. It seems a world away from the searing sunlight and ochre dust of his paintings. And yet, as Shepherd welcomes me into his lovely home, I see immediately that this idyllic corner of rural Sussex preserves a slice of raw Africa. Not only in the art and ornaments, but in the light that burns, undimmed, in Shepherd's eyes as he holds forth on his favourite part of the world. " It isn't a ' dark continent,'" he insists, recalling the tales of the Victorian explorers that he devoured as a child. " It's a blaze of light. I read these notebooks now and they make me sick. Sheer butchery!" And today nothing riles Shepherd more than the easy ignorance of privileged outsiders who claim to ' know' Africa. " It's offensive!" he fumes, recalling a woman who once told him that Zambia's independence would spell the end of its wildlife. " When it was Northern Rhodesia there were only two or three national parks; there are probably three times that number now." Small wonder, then, that Shepherd enjoys such respect and affection in Zambia today. And he was delighted when the ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? Honorable Michael Liwanga Kaingu, Zambian Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? recently described him as a ' Zambian living in the UK.' Yet Shepherd's first taste of Africa was rather less auspicious: upon leaving school he went out to become a game warden in Kenya – and was rejected. Back in England he was David Shepherd at home in his studio ( above), and with daughter Mandy Shepherd and eldest granddaughter Emily Lamb ( opposite), both acclaimed artists in their own right. Zambian at heart

November 2008 Travel Zambia 33 Interview faced with the choice, as he saw it, of becoming either a bus driver or an artist. He chose the latter and the rest is history: rejection from art school (" They said I was untrainable"); a job painting aircraft for the RAF; a trip to Nairobi; and finally his first wildlife commission, a rhino chasing a plane off an airstrip. " That painting," he acknowledges, " changed my life." Success soon brought Shepherd to Zambia. " It really was the happiest thing," he tells me, recalling how the new government invited him in 1964 to paint the Independence celebrations. " I was the only English chap to come with the governor at midnight onto the podium, and watch one flag come down as the other went up." Before long Shepherd had established himself as Zambia's artist of choice, forging in the process a close bond with then president Kenneth Kaunda, whose portrait he also once painted. He recalls the occasion when Kaunda invited Shepherd's wife to call upon him in his London hotel: " KK gave her tea in his room, personally," he tells me. " And as he poured out the tea he said, ' I was the tea boy once; now I'm the head of state.' I've never forgotten that." We take a walk around Shepherd's studio, which is packed with prints, paintings and works- in- progress. Many pictures are powerfully familiar. Others, rendered in his distinctive style, seem so. I put it to him that there is something unashamedly romantic about his work: the animals calculated to leap right out of the picture and tug at our emotions. " Oh yes." He tells me. " I'm very romantic – and I'm also very emotional. I think if you're going to portray Africa, you've got to portray the emotion." And it is this sentiment that leads us to his conservation work. The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation ( DSWF), now 24 years old, owes its existence to Shepherd having witnessed at first hand the horrors of poaching. He makes no excuses for his emotional response: " I cried – literally cried tears of despair and anger – when I saw an elephant that had blown off its foot on a landmine." He also knows how much he owes to the natural world. " If I was just painting English landscapes, I would not be living in this house," he tells me. " I very rapidly realised that I was gaining so much from wildlife that I had to put something back." The foundation has recently passed the one million dollars mark in Zambia and Shepherd is now more passionate than ever about its work here. He reels off some of the projects, from the supply of anti- poaching equipment to the building, just last year, of an elephant orphanage in Kafue ( see Travel Zambia 3). " We are really at a turning point now," he enthuses, describing plans for a new ranger training programme in Mosi- oa- Tunya National Park. And although Shepherd may now leave the promotional work of DSWF to its dedicated team, he has not lost his gift for the simple, emotional message – whether in words or paint. " You can always build another Taj Mahal," he once said to a tour guide bemoaning the impact of tourism on India's iconic building, " But you can never build another tiger." So will the appeal of Zambia ever wane? In February this year Shepherd visited Livingstone with his daughter Melanie – ostensibly on a fund- raising trip for the foundation, but partly, as ever, for the lure of old haunts. " I love Zambia," he tells me, yet again. " It's my favourite country." An honorary Zambian indeed. DSWF has granted over US$ 1,000,000 to various projects since 1990, including: Choco Clubs, an advanced education programme for schools. Conservation in the Lower Zambezi: equipment for anti- poaching teams. Enforcement conference ( 1992): resulted in the Lusaka Agreement and Africa's first- ever international task force for wildlife crime. Investigations & Intelligence Unit' ( IIU): helped intercept tusks and other illegal wildlife products destined for the Far East. Elephant Orphanage Project in Kafue National Park: ? ? ? ? ? ? ? founded in 2007 after r ? ? ? ? ? ? ? escue of baby elephant Phoenix; more elephants have since arrived. Protection Project: wildlife conservation, training and employment in Western Province ( including, it is hoped, Livingstone and Kafue). DSWF works closely with the Zambia Wildlife Authority ( ZAWA) and other partners, including Wildlife Environment Conservation Society. Find out more at www. davidshepherd. org David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation in Zambia MIKE UNWIN DSWF