Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Martin And Osa Johnson Story

Hantu Laut

In the first half of the 20th century an American couple from Kansas named Martin and Osa Johnson captured the public's imagination through their films and books of adventure in exotic, far-away lands...Photographers, explorers, naturalists and authors, Martin and Osa studied the wildlife and peoples of East and Central Africa, the South Pacific Islands and British North Borneo...They explored then unknown lands and brought back knowledge of cultures thousands of miles away through their films, writings and lectures.

From 1917-1936, the Johnsons set up camp in some of the most remote areas of the world and provided an unmatched photographic record of the wildernesses of Kenya, the Congo, British North Borneo and the Solomon and New Hebrides Islands...Their equipment was the most advanced motion pictures apparatus of the day, some of it designed by Martin Johnson himself.

When the young adventurers left their home in Kansas to explore and photograph these lands, little did they realize that they would provide the world with a photographic record of the African game of unimagined magnitude and beauty...The Johnsons gave the filmmakers and researchers of today an important source of ethnological and zoological material which would otherwise have been lost.

Murut Orchestra 1936

Their photographs represent one of the great contributions to the pictorial history of the world...Their films serve to document a wilderness that has long since vanished, tribal cultures and customs that ceased to exist. Source: The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum.

One of the two Johnsons' Sikorsky used in Sabah and Africa

Martin and Osa Johnson came to the than British North Borneo (Sabah) in the 1930s after their harrowing encounter with a tribal chief of the Big Nimbas tribe in the island of Malekula in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) who refused to let them go.They escaped with the intervention of a British gunboat.

The Johnsons spent some time in Sabah making feature films and taking photographs of the people and natural heritage of the place.Most of the photographs that I have seen were just breathtaking. In one of the photographs I was shown the Johnsons were seen together with the Agnes Keith (Land Below The Wind) and her husband Harry.

Herd of giraffe

The Sabah state government in collaboration with some individuals is publishing a pictorial book of the collection of the Johnsons photographs on Sabah.

The books are expected to be out before the end of the year.

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