How does one become more creative?

Answer by Rory Young:

File:PC – 7300 – 0014, Matemere Bernard, Eagle, 1973.jpg

I once asked this question of the most creative person I had ever met.

He wore a ragged old pair of overalls, a battered old floppy hat with the faded logo of some random fertilizer company displayed on it, and "manyatellas", which are basically flip-flops made from old car tyres and sat on an upside down old crate whilst he banged away on a lump of rock with a hammer. This was, I knew, all very deceptive.

Just as misleading was the fact that he was practically illiterate. Most of his childhood had been spent herding cattle in the African bush and he had only done four years of schooling. His only formal employment, many years before this, had been driving tractors on tobacco farms.

Despite all of this, he was successful, wealthy and very famous. His name was Bernard Matemera  and he was a world renowned sculptor. He was amongst the most famous proponents of a type of sculpture known as  Shona art.

Historically art in Africa always had a purpose. It had been decorative or religious. Art was not usually created for its own sake. In the late 1950s that changed dramatically. There was an explosion of creativity in the out in the bush in Zimbabwe that literally that continues to this day.

In 1966 a failed tobacco farmer called Tom Bloemfield decided to give up farming and turn his land into a giant art workshop, utilizing the soapstone that was found there. The place was called Tengenenge and Tom invited artists to form a community on his property. He was laughed off by everybody as a crackpot and his artists as nobodies.

Bernard Matemera was one of these nobodies. Before his death in 2006 he had exhibited all over the world and become the most famous of a group of incredibly talented and unbelievably talented artists.

Yet he stayed a humble and simple man. Although he looked like he had just crawled out of the bush and his workshop was just another patch of ground near other equally ambiguous pieces of ground in the bush at Tengenenge, I knew he had earned the respect of some of the most famous art critics in the world.

He was happy for me to sit with him and chat while he worked and every time I visited Tengenenge I would stop by for a few hours and "chew the cud" with him while he worked.

One day I asked him where he believed creativity came from. Although usually light-hearted and casual in his conversation, he took this question very seriously and stopped what he was doing to sit down before answering me very carefully.

"What I see in my head is what is from deep inside me and from the spirits". He continued, "if it doesn't come to me I must wait or go and look for it. We are all different and we should not try to be the same but we must be Mhunu".  Mhunu is the Shona equivalent of the philosphy of Ubuntu implies "oneness".

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What goes through your mind when you see someone begging?

Answer by Rory Young:

Very vivid memories.

The first of a filthy old beggar sitting on the pavement holding out a bowl and one of my sixteen year old classmates taking a run up and kicking it out of his hand. I have never felt so ashamed to be in company of another human being in my life.

The second memory is of standing in the icy rain in Boulogne in France and asking a truck driver for a coin to make a phone call. I was seventeen years old and my friend and I had not slept for five days.

We had been hitching lifts and begging meals or coins all the way from Marseilles after arriving there from Corsica. Wearing only T-shirts and jeans, cold and wet, our spirits were at their lowest. Now we stood at the English Channel and were stuck. Our only options were either to stow away on a truck heading onto a ferry or try and call my friends family to come and get us. The coin I was asking for was to make that call.

The English trucker gave us a coin and we thanked him profusely. We tried to make the call and failed to get anyone on the line. We would later discover that they were away. We were too exhausted to even try and sneak onto a boat. We were broken.

A short while later we were on a bench in an open waiting area and I just ran out of juice. I passed out or fell asleep on the bench and woke soon after because I couldn't stop my body from shaking violently. The trucker who had given us the coin, and another, were standing there and tried to help me. They asked us who we were and what was going on. I told them.

A few hours later we were sitting in the warm lounge of a ferry. The truckers had smuggled us on board in their trucks.

Once we were on our way they ordered us full English breakfasts and coffee. I was about to try and get into the UK without a passport and as a non citizen or resident, and had no idea what I would do or where I would go if I did get in. Still, I felt better than I had in a long, long time. The two truckers had no reason to help us and could have gotten into big trouble for doing so yet they did. That gave me an incredibly good feeling and brought back my confidence and determination.

So, whenever I see a beggar, I always think back and wonder what would have happened if I had approached a trucker for a coin who had the same attitude as my old classmate.

Anyone can end up desperate and needing to ask for help.

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What is your opinion on zoos?

Answer by Rory Young:

Painted Wolves. African Wild Dogs. Cape Hunting Dogs. Lycaons.

These are the different names that one of my favorite animals is known by.

Lycaon pictus

Following them when they were hunting in Northern Botswana were some of the most thrilling experiences of my life. They can run up to eighty kilometers in a day and will run an animal down over ten kilometers without breaking their pace. The animal is singled out and the pack will run right by other animals so focused are they on their intended quarry.

We would race along, trying to keep up with them. The end though was often hard to watch and hear as they will literally tear an animal to pieces. Still, it is very quick, especially compared to other large predators. I have watched lions slowly eat a buffalo from the rear while it is alive.

They are incredible animals. Although brutal killers, the pack are incredibly close. Animals will stay behind to look  after sick dogs and the pups. All these animals will be fed by others regurgitating meat when they return from the hunt. There is group interaction for every event. Before hunting they will psych each other up with growing excitement.

Walking up to them is always an incredible experience. I like to lie down and throw my hat in front of me. They are incredibly curious and will run up and check you out, sniffing the hat.

 I have only once seen a completely silent group of wild dogs. All unmoving. They were in a fenced area at the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wik…

The pen was clean. The dogs were well fed and healthy, but their behaviour was all wrong. There wasn't any behaviour. They all just lay in the small area and stared at nothing. As thrilling as watching them hunt was, this was so sad.

I feel the same way when I look at the fat, unfit lions or bored primates.

I can never like a zoo. However, I will tolerate and even help them because they are, in today's world, a necessary part of ensuring the continued existence of many species that are or soon will be extinct in the wild.

They are not, however, in any way a normal or wonderful thing. They are to me, a sad necessity. A world where the wild is contained behind bars is a sick world.

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How do adult male elephants interact with other elephants?

Answer by Rory Young:

Life is unfair. Life in the world of elephants is very unfair. Male elephants are much better off in so many ways than the females.

A solitary bull elephant feeding quietly on his own. The scene is calm and peaceful.

Male elephants are large enough and powerful enough to defend themselves against any predator (except for man in very recent times). Therefore they are not obliged to stay with a herd for safety in numbers. Being able to move around on their own is a great advantage. Solitude means that a much, much smaller amount of food needs to be found every day.

A cow herd on the move. They are very aggressive. The female at the front is missing most of her trunk.

Cow herds on the other hand are forced to roam great distances in order to find enough food to feed the whole group every day. This is a more stressful and dangerous existence as the females and calves are vulnerable to attack by lions. Even adult female elephants can be attacked by lions. Linyanti in Botswana has been famous for its prides regularly bringing down adult female elephants. The cow herds therefore are very defensive and busy with less idle time.

Two young adult bull elephants playfully working out who is the more dominant.

So, elephant bulls have a lot more "idle" time on their trunks than the females. However, they don't waste this extra time feeling lonely and standing around doing nothing. They get together with their buddies and do the elephant equivalent of arm-wrestling. They figure out dominance by fighting.

A "casual" approach. His trunk is not only slung over one tusk but he is sucking it! How less serious could a suggested sparring session be?

This fighting can range from mild, playful pushing to raging battles to the death. There is much language and ritual involved with bulls approaching each other and indicating their intention. This can be a casual approach with the trunk hung over one tusk to indicate a "relaxed" disposition or a head-held-high, roaring attack. The laid back approach will usually be a casual session to figure out who is stronger whilst the death match will usually involve two bulls in musth.

 

A bull just going into musth. His penis were beginning to drip, he was secreting from the temporal gland and he had a bad, bad attitude. A girl or a fight was what he was after.

Musth is when a male elephant goes "into season". He will have as much as two hundred times the normal level of testosterone pumping through his system. When a bull goes into musth he turns into a monster. All he wants is a female to mate with and will fight to the death to get it. Other bulls that are more dominant will get out of his way. As elephants never stop growing, the older bulls are usually more dominant. Musth allows younger, less powerful bull a chance to "get their leg over". There is a cost to this though. A bull in musth hardly eats as he only has one thing on his mind. They cannot stay in musth for more than three months or so or they would probably die. They lose a lot of weight during musth and come out of it exhausted. The other big downside is of course that should they bump into another bull then one or both of them will very likely be killed.

I will give you an example of the behaviour of bulls in musth.

I was once driving along the Matusadona shoreline in Zimbabwe. Matusadona is famous for its big-tusked elephants  and one of these huge fellows started moving fast towards me from half a kilometer away. There was no way he could see me from that distance so he was heading towards the sound of the vehicle.

I stopped and waited for him. As he drew closer I realised that he as in musth. All the signs were there, most notably his attitude. He was striding with his head high. When he was a hundred metres away he charged.

I drove away, just keeping the same distance between us to see what he would do. When he realised that he couldn't catch up to me he suddenly, in full charge, collapsed his front legs driving his tusks deep into the ground, all accompanies with loud roaring (not trumpeting).

There is another important advantage to bulls going into musth. It actually gives the girls a break.

When a female goes into season every male for miles around will try to mate with her. The whole herd will often try to chase of large numbers of excited males and the poor girls will become exhausted by it all. Hardly a situation likely to encourage conception.

When a bull in musth turns up however, everything changes. The other bulls back off and the female in season will attach herself to him so as to be left alone by all the others. The rest of the herd understandably encourages this.

Generally males are not welcome amongst a herd and females also do not socialize with females from other herds even. There is of course one great exception to this rule…

Every boy has to visit his mum from time to time!

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How will the funds donated by Quorans be used by The Tashinga Initiative to protect wildlife?

Answer by Rory Young:

Please look carefully at how the men in this picture are dressed and equipped.

Everything is rudimentary, worn and broken. One of the AK47s didn't even have a stock. The scout carrying it would only be able to fire it without raising it to his shoulder and sighting it. When I took the photo a few weeks ago, these men were tired, sore and hungry after covering long distances daily for twenty days.

Now turn your eyes to their faces.

They are smiling genuinely and their heads are held high.

These men are humble people but proud of what they do. They are also resigned to the possibility that they may very well die defending the animals that they have dedicated their lives to protecting.

These men do not receive medals, decent salaries, awards or even public recognition for the work they do, without the necessary training, equipment and other reseources to do it well.

I will not say in which country or park this picture was taken, just that it was in a wildlife area of the Middle Zambezi.

There are wildlife areas and all along the river and in all the countries that border it. They are all in need of assistance. Sometimes it is training. Sometimes it is transport. Sometimes it is communications equipment. Sometimes they just need someone to look after their wives and children and find them clean water or try somehow to improve their futures.

The Tashinga Initiative tries to help fill these needs so that the rangers are able to better do their work.

In just a few days $8k was raised by Quorans eager to help. This was all started by Lisa Groeneweg, a person I had never heard of until a couple of weeks ago. She now looms large in my life, along with all the others who have so generously given in work and money to try and help win this war. I am extremely grateful. Behind the scenes Jay Bell has been working non-stop to get the word out and Oliver Emberton has been lending his time and expertise to assist in fund-raising.

I have had long discussions with Lynne Taylor, the head of the Tashinga Initiative about how the money should be spent so as to have the greatest impact. We have agreed that it will be used to provide expert support, training and operational capacity to assist in wildlife protection and management activities in the Zambezi River Basin Area".

A plan for a project to support and enhance wildlife protection operations has been sitting gathering dust for a long time. With the recent sharp escalation of ivory poaching this project has become urgent. TTI has managed to secure a boat and vehicle and this money will enable specialists to train, guide, support, deploy teams in the field wherever the situation is most serious and the need greatest for a period of one month.

I have agreed to run the project for two to three weeks of that time, alternating with another specialist.

There have been many remarks of disappointed that not more money was raised. Please understand that one month of this activity will have a clear and a large impact. Just today I received news of two more elephants killed in Matusadona. Please see Two More Elephants Poached in Matusadona by Rory Young on Quorans For A Cause This is just one of many wildlife areas. Some areas are losing many elephants every single day.

Photo: Matusadona Anti Poaching Project MAPP

In addition to her donations and tireless efforts, Lisa Groeneweg has also donated a GoPro camera. I will be using this to show people what happens on the ground. Some work will be sensitive and cannot be filmed but I can assure you that the footage released will be variouslyeye-popping, sad, exhilarating and beautiful. Thank you Lisa.

Some people have complained that no celebrities have rallied to support the efforts here and that governments should be funding the work. To hell with them! This will never be won by celebrities or politicians. It will be won by all the "little people". Politicians don't care and will only jump around when they see all the "little people" want this to end. As for the celebrities, I don't care if they are not interested. We will do it without them.

My heroes are the people here who help and the people on the ground.

Thank you.

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