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  OBITUARY  

June 30 - July 06, 2006

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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CARLOS DA CRUZ - HUNTER
AND ANIMAL SCULPTOR

AUGUST 28TH, 1931 - MAY 17TH, 2006
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Coastweek - - Carlos da Cruz was no ordinary human being, and when he died his death robbed us of an exceptional being.

His exit, albeit expected, left a permanent void in our lives.

He was a physically powerful man, who exuded warmth, friendship charisma and an aura of invincibility.

Yet, after four months and eleven days in a comatose condition, he lost the will to go on fighting for his life.

He died in the province of Murcia, Lorca, Spain at 9.30 a.m. on May 17th.

Carlos da Cruz was born and educated in Mombasa.

In 1950 while still in his teens, he first worked at the British Army's Post Office at MacKinnon Road.

From there he was transferred to the Treasury Square Post Office in Mombasa where he served the colonial administration for 16 years.

Those were great years for those of our generation who loved the outdoors, hunting and bushwhacking.

Each weekend meant a trip to Kilibasi, Kuranze or the Rukinga and Kasigau Hills.

Big game hunting was taken up with great enthusiasm and zeal.

 

Coastweek - - A young Carlos da Cruz plays with a 'domesticated' leopard.

Many of those who belonged to our circle of friends were attracted to Carlos for his conversational gifts, a wonderful raconteur and avid reader who could expound on anything with authority.

In these environs, and especially the Taru Desert, Carlos became fascinated with the hunter and gatherer tribe of Waliangulu (Watha) who worked as trackers.

In those days, there was Sadiki and Dana, much later came Guyo Dadi and in his final years as a professional hunter, Diwani, Neko and Abajila were his only companions in the bush.

Carlos became a full professional hunter in 1967 gaining sponsorship to the East African Professional Hunters' Association through Captain Denis Zaphiro and professional hunter, Ian MacDonald.

He joined the firm of Wananchi Game, which was run by Herman Steyn in Nairobi.

Despite his envious position in a much-sought-after profession, he never forgot his former friends.

Carlos was instrumental in removing hunting restrictions on the late Myles Burton, Tibor Gaal, Gulam Mirdat and honorary warden Bayan Mohamed.

There were many more, who profited from his expertise and bush lore, which was readily offered to those who wished to learn from him.

Carlos was absolutely non-materialistic, and a person of the highest integrity.

Tony Dyer as well as Reggie Destro, the doyen of the East African Professional Hunters' Association, held Carlos in very high esteem.

Carlos's entire attitude to wealth and fame could always be summed up in the words of the Persian Sufi, Saadi, who said:

"Whoever is a stranger to wealth, fame and power, He is a friend to all."

By 1971 Carlos had formed his own big game safari company, African Bushtrails, Ltd., and was utilising the services of other professional hunters to guide and hunt for his safari company.

Carlos took celebrities and the wealthy from Saudi Arabia, Germany, Austria, France and the United States.

His company was one of the first to produce a full-length feature film on the natural history of the African elephant for the Japanese TV Company, Nippon.

Carlos had hunted all over East Africa, including the Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

When Kenya imposed a ban on Hunting in 1977 without any advance warning many hunting companies were affected and Carlos was among those who perhaps suffered the most in terms of his investments.

For a short period he worked as a photographic safari guide for Lindblad, but his heart was not in this type of work.

A little later, he and I built Samburu Safari Lodge, but being adventurous souls, the sedentary life of a lodge owner and manager was too confining and we eventually sold our shares and moved on.

Today, the lodge he and I started is one of the most successful - the Samburu Serena Lodge !

By 1980, it became apparent that our entire way of life was forever gone.

Many ex-hunters and ex-wardens who had pioneered in the creation of Kenya as the safari capital of the world chose to leave for other countries.

 

Coastweek - - Carlos da
Cruz bronze sculpture of a
bull elephant.

 

Coastweek - - Carlos da
Cruz bronze sculpture of a
buffalo bull.

Some went to Southern Africa, namely Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa yet others chose to settle in the U.S. or moved to England or Australia.

It was difficult to get started in any field that was not wildlife-related in a foreign country, and the knowledge that one was no longer young posed numerous uncertainties and challenges.

It was also at this time when Carlos developed a neurological condition of the cervical which through a surgical error at a Nairobi hospital, was to plague him for the rest of his life.

Carlos was multi-talented and even before he left Kenya for England, he occupied himself working as a sculptor and also at writing adventurous tales relevant to his hunting experiences.

While in England he started using the Morris Singer Foundry in Basingstoke.

Dissatisfied with chasing, welding and polishing the finished product by foundry-workers, who knew nothing about animal anatomy, Carlos went to work in Milton Keynes at Mike Davis's foundry.

In less than two years he had mastered the entire process involving bronze casting and all its intricate procedures.

He then studied the techniques of Eduard Lanteri, the Italian master who had formulated the techniques of converting miniatures into monumental pieces.

Although a master of realism, Carlos's work did not sell well.

Despite his membership in England's Society of Wildlife Artists and the moral support from friends like Keith Shackleton, it was his former hunting clients who purchased most of his pieces.

Carlos was never happy in England.

For an outdoorsman he felt like a fish out of water.

He needed the wide-open spaces and the call of Africa continued to lure him back to Kenya.

On his visits to Kenya he would spend a lot of his time at Voi with his Walingulu friends.

The many professional hunters who had utilised the Waliangulu's tracking expertise had abandoned the Waliangulu.

Carlos set out to teach them to grow citrus fruits and bee keeping by building apiaries at Kajire, near Voi.

He sought the help of the local administration and a minister to make the Walinagulu self-sufficient and to give them a life of respect and dignity.

Never one to dally in superficialities, Carlos started an in-depth study on the origins of the Waliangulu and to write about their Cushitic origins.

He spent almost two decades writing and collating information on the Waliangulu in the hope of ultimately publishing a book that would be the definitive work on the Waliangulu.

From the time he left Kenya in 1980 to the time of his death, Carlos made three visits to Kenya.

His biggest concerns were his friends the Waliangulu, for all those who had made pledges to help and to give this almost extinct tribe a new lease of life none had kept his promise.

I last met Carlos in 1994 in Madrid.

We shared three wonderful days by visiting many of Ernest Hemingway's old haunts, ate Tapas, drank sangria, and wondered through the Prado Museum.

We discussed the pros and cons of bullfights and the corrida, the Spanish Civil War, and many aspects of Hemingway's writings.

I was then on my way to Antarctica.

In 1998, he and his family retired to Lorca in Spain.

Long before he left England, he was involved in a number of creative projects, which included sculpture, writing an epic autobiographical adventure story, applied hydroponics, bonsai and making hand crafted classical acoustic guitars.

When he settled in Lorca he continued with these pursuits.

He also continued to long for Africa and to hope that one day his end will come in the land where he was born.

He and I communicated by telephone and email, but we were never destined to meet again.

Carlos is survived by his wife, Angela, his son, Fernando, daughter, Melena, and two grand children.

He also leaves behind an older brother, Candid, younger brother Rui and his sister, Ruth.

He has left three unpublished manuscripts, numerous moulds for bronze casting and several acoustic guitars that would be the envy of Jose Ramirez or any Guitar maestro from the Spanish School involved in making such stringed instruments !

The family intends to scatter his ashes in the Taru Desert in the near future.

In remembering this exceptional friend and comrade I cannot help recalling the words of John Donne who said :

"No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe;
every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;

if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
As well as if a promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or thine owne were;

any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee."

- Mohamed Ismail, United States of America.

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