First Issue from New Editor in Chief Chris Johns Goes Beyond Recent Headlines; Month-long Celebration of Africa Features Special Exhibitions, Lectures and Wildcam
WASHINGTON (Aug. 8, 2005)–From the G8 Summit to the Live 8 concert, and from famine in Niger to atrocities in the Sudan, Africa is in the news. But, what we see and think we know about Africa are only surface impressions of a continent with complexity that is seldom recognized and even more poorly understood.
National Geographic, a publication that has covered the land and people of Africa for more than a century, now brings a new perspective to the world’s view of this continent with the publication of a landmark special issue, “Africa.” Two years in the making and the first complete issue of the magazine to be published under the direction of new Editor in Chief Chris Johns, “Africa” examines people, places and events that rarely receive attention in American media. “Africa,” one of only a handful of single-topic issues published in the magazine’s 117-year history — is just one part of an organization-wide effort conducted by the National Geographic Society that celebrates Africa in words, photographs, film, lectures, exhibits and on the Web.
Before taking the helm of National Geographic earlier this year, Johns was a career photographer for 30 years — 17 of them spent primarily on assignment in Africa. Despite his background, Johns has made the highly unusual decision NOT to use a photograph on the cover — which has only happened on one other occasion since the magazine began using cover photographs in 1943.
“In Africa, human aspirations collide with the natural environment like nowhere else on the planet,” said Johns. “My goal for this special issue is to highlight astonishing stories of renewal, ingenuity and potential heard through unfiltered African voices. These stories counterbalance the bleak headlines of civil war, disease, poverty and extinction. It is our belief that Africa will find a balance between the needs of its people and the needs of its wild places: It is our hope that the way in which Africa solves its problems can serve as a model for the rest of the world.”
To achieve both the issue’s scope and nuance, an award-winning team of writers and photographers traversed the length and breadth of Africa, reporting on community development, environmental challenges, the role of the oil industry, the diverse cultures and wildlife, and the introduction and role of antiretroviral drugs to combat AIDS. They brought back hundreds of thousands of photographs and hundreds of stories of deep hardship and astounding optimism:
– Writer David Quammen and photographer George Steinmetz take readers along for a breathtaking look at renowned conservationist J. Michael Fay’s unprecedented “Megaflyover” of the continent.
– Writer Binyavanga Wainaina, with photographer David Alan Harvey, brings readers face to face with the residents of the new Nairobi, Kenya’s burgeoning capital.
– Nick Kotch and photographers Pascal Maitre and Ed Kashi examine impoverished Chad’s plan to bring a fair share of the nation’s oil wealth to its poorest citizens.
– Writer-photographer Gideon Mendel finds hope among Sub-Saharan Africa’s AIDS patients, where new medicines are beginning to make a difference.
– The Mbuti Pygmies of Congo’s Ituri forest have survived a brutal civil war, but as Paul Salopek finds, peace may pose a bigger threat. Photographs are by Randy Olson.
– Zambian writer Alexandra Fuller goes home again, taking readers from villages to cities to explore the complex relationship between Africans and wildlife.
– David Quammen reports on Africa’s conservation challenge: how to secure the future existence of its great mammals.
Among the programs that are a featured part of National Geographic’s September celebration of Africa is the “Wildcam,” a remote video camera that produces a live feed 24 hours a day from Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve, where elephants, lions, zebras and giraffes congregate at Pete’s Pond — an important watering hole. Web users can visit www.ngm.com/wildcamafrica to watch live streaming video. National Geographic will also feature a stunning display of large-format images of Africa from the special issue, which will be shown in New York City along with a wide-screen feed from the Wildcam at Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, Sept. 6-10. And, on Sept. 14, Editor in Chief Johns will join Kenya’s Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai at New York City’s 92nd Street Y (www.92y.org) to discuss Africa — and the links between its environment, democracy and peace.