The sending of flesh-and-blood giraffes accompanied by their native grooms out of the African continent triggered a veritable culture shock wherever they arrived. The giraffe was once a very fashionable diplomatic gift. Its image immediately became the base of unbridled merchandising. Even today, it remains an icon of the animal world. But who benefits from the giraffe?
The idea for this site was born out of an ominous piece of news that broke out at the end of 2016: the inclusion of giraffes among the endangered species. Since then, all over the World humans have been mobilizing to prevent this announced disaster. “At the end of the day, we only keep what we love, we only love what we understand, and we only understand what we are taught.” (Baba Dioum, Senegalese forestry engineer).
The fabulous story of Zarafa (1824-1845), France’s first living giraffe, was and remains a source of inspiration for artists. In literature; cinema, theatre, music – she keeps coming back to the forefront because of all the ideals that it galvanizes: welcoming the migrants, intercultural enrichment, scientific advances, animal sensitivity, respect for animals, secularism, artistic creativity, tolerance, etc.
Zarafa for Africa
As a writer and professional historian, I want to use Zarafa’s story to go to Africa to meet the authorities and especially the local population in order to make them more aware of the fate of the giraffes. The “Zarafa For Africa” project will start in Tanzania, if possible in December 2021.
In the country, I will present my book On the footsteps of Zarafa (French & English versions). I will show the animated film, “Zarafa”, which was inspired by it. And I will show historical images to tell the true story. Adults and children will be encouraged to react to the images, participate in role-playing, in writing and drawing workshops, etc.
Posters will be distributed to schools and communal houses illustrating and listing the do’s and don’ts for the conservation and preservation of giraffes. These will be developed in cooperation with the local NGO, the Wild Nature Institute, led by scientists Dr. Derek E. LEE and Monica BOND. A documentary will be filmed.
Born in 1966, Olivier Lebleu comes from a large family in the North of France. Settled in La Rochelle since 2002, he is a multimedia writer and performer. He is an English to French translator, author of novels, historical books, biographies, and he also writes for theatre and television (documentaries and fiction). After completing a musical comedy libretto and song lyrics, he created for the stage his one-man-singing-show, “La Voix de ma mère”. He is the author and one of the actors in the play “Le Talisman de la Girafe”, a historical comedy in alexandrines. In 2019-2020, he published his most ambitious novel, a trilogy called: La Tête sous l’eau, the story of a woman in the grip of a manipulative and toxic companion (ed. Amok).