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Impressions of Zambia

The report you are about to discover contains photographic materials from the era when the word ‘digital’ had not yet been invented, from the period between 1983 and 1987 when my young family and I were posted to Zambia. Is it relevant to show pictures that old? I think it is, because the Victoria Falls, Lake Tanganyika and elephants are still what they were then, and looking back on things how they were before is interesting and instructive too. The country had been independent from Britain since 19 years and had all that time been under the autocratic but rather benign leadership of Kenneth Kaunda and his UNIP one-party system. It was also the period when Zambia was assuming an important role in the Frontline alliance against the apartheid rule of South Africa and in support of the then still ongoing independence struggle of Namibia; all this while the domestic situation was complicated by dwindling prices of copper, the country’s major source of income. Finding its way as an independent State coping with day to day management issues and crucial policy choices was a challenge in those circumstances, but the country made a genuine effort, with a courageous population making ends meet and believing in the future. A population composed of dozens of tribes, each with their own language, customs and habits, brought together under Kaunda’s somewhat euphoric slogan ‘One Zambia, One Nation’. It is not only nostalgia which makes me fond of this country decades after having lived there, my feelings also have a basis of profound appreciation for the way Zambians were doing their utmost best to make their country function properly. Unlike in some neighbouring countries such as Zaire (now back to its original name Congo), potholes in the asphalt were repaired instantly after a heavy November downpour and when you reported an electricity cut to the power supply company’s call centre, you invariably received the answer that they were aware of it and were already working on it. And they were. Appreciation also for the intrinsic beauty of the country, its natural treasures of game parks, the spectacular Victoria Falls and Lake Tanganyika, all too often underestimated or ignored; appreciation for its rich diversity of tribal ceremonies and traditions, largely unknown to the outside world. Scanning my pictures of the 1980s and publishing them on this page is a humble contribution to give to this side of Zambia what it deserves, more acknowledgement and better awareness.


* Scanned slides

Before visiting the place of your choice:

Do not expect to see elephants, lions and cheetahs on your exploration drives through the flatlands of Lochinvar National Park, South-West of Lusaka. These larger mammals are no longer there, basically killed off in the past by poachers. But the absence of predators has made it possible for the endangered Kafue Lechwe, an impala species endemic to these Kafue plains, to thrive and form large herds, grazing in the wide open space, here and there dotted with acacia trees and other savannah vegetation. Eagles keeping their sharp eye on the surroundings from their high tree outlook posts, waterfowl picking the shallow water of the flatlands basin and herds of grazing zebras are the further attractions of Lochinvar, but the most unforgettable of all is the play of colours in the sky as the African sun sets and slowly diminishes behind the horizon.

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