Joubert’s ‘Illuminations’ brings Africa to Park City
Beverly Joubert’s photography exhibition "Illuminations of Africa’s Wildlife: Its Beauty, Its Struggle to Survive" is not just a collection of stunning black and white color images of lions, cheetahs, elephants and rhinoceros — it is a call to action.
"What we are dealing with right now is a battle over these animals because we are losing them at an alarming rate," said Joubert’s husband, Dereck, during a conference call with The Park Record from their home in Botswana, South Africa. "We lose five lions a day, a rhino every seven hours and elephants at a rate of five an hour. There is a massive decline, and we, at the risk of our lives, do whatever we can about that.
"We thought we need to do a fine-art exhibition about these animals, largely because when these animals disappear, we will lose a lot and we need to illuminate exactly what we will lose when that happens," he said.
The exhibit, which will open at the Kimball Art Center with a member reception on Wednesday, Jan. 20, focuses on the beauty of the animals.
"It is exciting to bring Africa to North America and to enlighten people of what we have," Beverly said. "I think, too often, that people don’t realize we have an incredible variety of animals and unfolding stories. This is a way for us to discuss the important and difficult issues."
For 32 years, the Jouberts have lived in Botswana, one of the safest places available for these animals.
"This is the true wilderness and there is a freedom without boundaries," Beverly said. "Approximately 56 percent of the country is a protected area."
The combination of the couple’s films for National Geographic — for which they are explorers-in-residence — and photographs were instrumental in making that so, she said.
"We have helped and worked with the government to stop all hunting in Botswana in 2014 and in 2004, they had stopped lion hunting and then later they stopped all leopard hunting," Beverly said. "We feel that our work has had an impact and has given us a platform to speak out for these animals that don’t have a voice."
The idea for the couple to use art as a call to preservation developed early in their career.
"We went out to understand these animals for ourselves, and, of course, we were fascinated and intoxicated by them in many ways," Dereck said. "We decided to use our creative skills to expose these animals and excitement to the world."
The Jouberts felt the responsibility more acutely during the 1980s and 1990s, with the rise of poaching.
"When we started seeing the decimation, we knew we needed to speak out about it," he said. "We went from a phase where we were amazed or astounded by these animals to how could we use the images as a call for action.
"To sit back, overwhelmed by all of theses beautiful images that are moving across this landscape is one thing, but the minute you have to try to tell the story about these animals and their plights, you have to frame it differently," Dereck said. "For example, when we moved 100 rhinos from the highest poaching areas in South Africa into safety in Botswana, Beverly took a photo of one of the rhinos in this essence."
The photograph captures a rhino that is sitting down due to being tranquilized.
"It has a red scarf around its eyes that was put on it by the [relocation] crews and it’s just beautiful," Dereck said. "So, looking for these types of iconic images, even though its nature has been compromised, is still beautiful."
Beverly said in addition to being nice to look at, the photo has to touch the viewers’ hearts.
"You have to find a moment that speaks to you, and it has to have intrigue," she said. "Often we feel that an image like that opens up a conversation and tells a story. I feel it’s important for us to be moved emotionally as well."
Throughout the past 32 years, the Jouberts have made more than 20 films and shot thousands upon thousands of photos, experiencing something new with each outing.
"In every single shoot, something unfolds that hasn’t ever been known in science before," Beverly said. "For instance, the image called ‘In Sync’ shows a remarkable leopard named Legadema who we followed for 3 ½ years and her cub."
During that shoot, the Jouberts were witness to a particular moment that was documented in a 2012 "60 Minutes" segment.
"Legadema was about 13 months old and caught her first adult mother baboon," Beverly said. "When she dragged the mother up the tree, a tiny baboon baby who was clinging to her mom, fell out of the tree, and Legadema saw it fall and went to see what it was."
The baby baboon hadn’t developed a fear for leopards and, instead of running, reached out to the Legadema’s fur.
"Since the baby didn’t run from her, the leopard began nurturing the baby as she would her own cub," Beverly said. "She took it up in the tree and the two slept together for hours."
Unfortunately, the baby needed nourishment, and eventually died of starvation.
"Still, this incidents goes to show that we don’t know everything about these animals," Beverly said. "And that’s one of the reasons we need to protect them."
To further their mission, the Jouberts set up the Big Cats Initiative and Great Plains Foundation.
"The Great Plains Foundation is what we established to, for one, move the rhinos," Dereck said. "We raised money for that and have already moved 26 to Botswana. We have raised enough money to move another 25 of them."
It’s a massive operation.
"We have to dart the animals and move them by military aircraft halfway across Africa and release them," he said. "The Great Plains Foundation has also funded massive anti-poaching initiatives in southern Kenya."
The Big Cats Initiative was established seven years ago with National Geographic.
"We are raising money and funding a lot of other projects and now have 80 projects across 27 countries in Africa that are all related to lions, cheetahs and leopards," Dereck said.
"In a 50-year period, 95 percent of the animal population has declined," Beverly said "Lions are down from 450,000 to 20,000 and cheetahs are down to 80,000."
Kimball Art Center Executive Director Robin Marrouche was introduced to the Jouberts by Pat Mitchell, chair of the Sundance Institute Board of Trustees.
"Pat had know the Jouberts for years and I remember seeing the ’60 Minutes’ piece on them," Marrouche said. "So, when Pat invited me to meet them and see a screening of their film, ‘The Last Lion,’ I was so thrilled because I had remembered seeing them on TV."
The film was a wakeup call for Marrouche.
"There’s a quote in the film that says there are more statues of lions in the world than there are of actual lions," she said. "As a mom, I started to think, ‘Wait. My daughter will possibly grow up in a lionless world and she will only read about them?’
That hit me and I knew I needed to do something about this."
Because of its new location at 1401 Kearns Blvd., 2016 marks the first time in years that the Kimball Art Center won’t be rented out as an official Sundance Film Festival venue.
"We are renting out for some private events throughout Sundance, but will continue to keep the exhibits up and offer classes," Marrouche said.
Beverly Joubert is excited to show her works during the festival.
"To showcase these images at the Kimball Art Center when 50,000 people come to Park City over two weeks, is an incredible opportunity for us," she said. "We will hopefully draw people in."
The Kimball Art Center, 1401 Kearns Blvd., will present Beverly Joubert’s "Illuminations of Africa’s Wildlife: Its Beauty, Its Struggle to Survive" from Jan. 21 to April 24. The exhibit will open with a members-only reception on Jan. 20 and will open to the public on Jan. 21. Admission is free. In addition, the Kimball Art Center will host a screening of Dereck and Beverly Joubert’s film, "Soul of the Elephant," at St. Regis Deer Valley on Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. The screening is open to Kimball Art Center and Deer Crest Club members. For more information, visit http://www.kimballartcenter.org.
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