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  OBITUARY  

July 14 - 20, 2006

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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CARLOS DA CRUZ

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Coastweek - - A pair of Black Rhinos sculpted by Carlos
da Cruz and now in the collection of G. Sanchez, U.S.A.

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WILD LIFE EXPERT AND CONSERVATIONIST
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Coastweek - - I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Carlos da Cruz (Coastweek obituary by Mohamed Ismail June 30th/ July 6th 2006).

I met Carlos for the first time during a two-week safari and seminar programme.

His charm and ebullient nature left a lasting impression on me.

He was a very caring individual; a humanitarian deeply concerned with our rapidly dwindling and mismanaged wildlife and ecosystems.

As a friend of his I am still in shock and continue to grieve the passing of a man who was an individual of rare qualities.

His knowledge and talents were phenomenal.

Carlos achieved a lot, not materially, but as a creative person with a passionate desire to learn and to fulfil all his goals.

He will be greatly missed by all those who were fortunate to have known him.

We first met at the Taita Hills Lodge towards the end of 1978 at a seminar hosted by Lars Eric Lindblad for the Intrepids' Club.

Carlos was one among a team of lecturers chosen to contribute their know-how to this Club.

Included among this select group of world-renowned people was Tenzing Norgay of Mount Everest fame, Dr. Roger Tory Peterson, Robert Bateman, the Canadian wildlife artist, Keith Shackleton the Antarctic explorer and relative of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Keith was a regular lecturer on the Antarctic cruise ship, The M.S. Lindblad Explorer. Keith was also a marine artist.

There were also many distinguished people from the United States who had come to Kenya for this get-together.

We interacted for two intense weeks and were entertained to lectures, discourses on art, ornithology, botany and then travel within Kenya to see and savour the beauty of this unique country.

Carlos's knowledge to say the least was encyclopaedic.

I still recall the lucid lecture he gave on sculpture; He expounded on various styles by such masters as Michelangelo, Bernini and Auguste Rodin.

Coastweek - - Carlos da Cruz discoursing on guitars.
PHOTO - COURTESY: JOAN HAGEN

On writing, he spoke of Ernest Hemingway and his uniquely terse style where words were used sparingly but concisely.

"The Old Man and the Sea" Carlos argued was a superb example of how good writing of this kind critics considered a work of art.

This tale of a Cuban fisherman involved a combination of keen observation, first hand knowledge, and constant rewrites which transformed the novel through hard work into a classic.

There was a whole generation of writers who parodied Hemingway, including Robert Ruark, but Hemingway's style was inimitable.

In Carlos's view, "The Old Man and the Sea" should be ranked with "Moby Dick" and one cannot put any tale of the sea higher than that.

During our stay at the Salt Lick Lodge, we had long discussions with Carlos on the human condition, greed, war and the destruction of our planet, these often lasted way past mid-night.

He was always generous with his time.

He was a very magnanimous individual who participated with enthusiasm in entertaining his listeners and also went out of his way by being excessively hospitable.

He had great charm and always exuded an aura of generosity and geniality.

There was always that un-mistakable look on his face, which seemed to say: "my cup runneth over".

Other lecturers were more business-like and never cared once their responsibilities had been discharged.

On the subject of immortality, Carlos maintained that if you had it in you to write like Shakespeare, or to paint like Rembrandt, you were assured of immortality.

If however, you could sculpt albeit as an unknown artist, thereafter if you cast your creations in bronze, you were guaranteed immortality for at least 2000 years.

This was said in consideration of bronze being an enduring medium and not necessarily because the piece so created by any artist warranted immortality.

Carlos humbly maintained that he was a nobody when it came to art, but did his very best to create and to give form to what his mind could visualise.

Carlos's sense of humour was infectious and he narrated many interesting tales and episodes.

Many of these caused us to laugh uncontrollably, until tears welled out of our eyes and our stomachs ached from fits of laughter we could hardly suppress.

My own contribution to the seminar was purely on the use of light aircraft in wildlife management, particularly game census and the sustainable use of this resource.

What I had to say paled in comparison with what the intellectuals of that day had to offer, and who had more meaningful and profounder issues to discuss and disseminate.

Carlos da Cruz will best be remembered for his genial personality, his warmth of friendship, generosity and kindness.

We had kept in touch through letters until he left England by which time I had no idea where he had settled.

Carlos was a very caring person possessed of an almost missionary zeal to help and uplift the welfare of the exploited, the oppressed and the poor of this country.

He detested corruption and fought those who profited from the plunder of Kenya's natural resources with all his might and know how.

Almost two decades after my first encounter with Carlos at the Taita Hills Lodge, I was visiting Joan Hagen Ross, an executive of the Society of Animal Artists in Connecticut, U.S.A.

On her mantelpiece was a striking bronze sculpture.

One could not miss it.

It was fluid and portrayed a ferocious individual in Arab garb riding a camel which moved at a canter.

I examined it and at the base was an all-too -familiar signature: "C da C".

The Bedouin as Carlos had entitled his work was in my mind destined for immortality not because it was done in bronze, but because it is an exceptionally unique and impressive piece which to any art connoisseur would be considered a work of genius.

For all I know, only one piece was cast despite the intended limited edition of ten, which is often the norm when casting bronze figurines.

Perhaps the most fitting epitaph for Carlos was best uttered by an ancient mystic, who said:

"When we are dead,
seek not our tomb in the earth,
but find it in the hearts of men".

Fare thee well good friend.

- Cahil Marduff, Mombasa.

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