We are delighted to welcome to Hong Kong Michael Freeman to lecture on “The Sudan: A Portrait of its Wonders”. This lecture, with its associated book, Sudan: the Land and the People, was received with much acclaim at RGS London, with nearly 900 Fellows and guests attending.
The Sudan, the largest but perhaps least known country in Africa, is a kaleidoscope of different cultures from the Nubian builders of the wonders of present-day Egypt, the Arab north, to the celebrated tribes and wildlife of the largely inaccessible Sudd swamps in the south. It is also a country of beautiful landscapes, from several mountain ranges set in stunning desert scenery, to the Blue and White Niles meeting in its capital, Khartoum, to its coastline running along the Red Sea.
Mr. Freeman and his team were the first outsiders in more than 20 years to be allowed unrestricted access to the country. This lecture is a testament to the use they made of this unique experience. Mr. Freeman, the author of 109 books of and on photography, has also written for almost every famous publication worldwide. As Paul Theroux wrote of his work on the Sudan: "his magnificent book gives the country a face - irresistible, photogenic, bewitching and profoundly human".
Mr. Freeman completed over two years of photographing the Sudan in 2005, undertaken with two friends, Timothy Carney, a former United States Ambassador to the Sudan and Vicki Butler, a writer and journalist. Ambassador Carney had publicly disagreed with the Madeleine Allbright’s policy towards the country and the three friends decided to produce a book that would present the first in-depth view of the totality of Africa’s largest nation. The team overcame enormous difficulties, both political and logistical, of travelling unhindered around such a vast country with poor or non-existent infrastructure. While a ceasefire was in place during this period, several civil wars were still in fact continuing. Thanks to the high regard in which Ambassador Carney, Ms Butler and Mr. Freeman were held by governments on both sides of the various wars, Mr. Freeman was allowed unique and total access to the country.
The Sudan has borders with no fewer than nine countries, also an 850 km coastline on the Red Sea. Until independence in 1956, Khartoum, the scene of General Gordon’s famous stand, was a popular overland stop across Africa at a time when it was possible to travel from Jerusalem to Cape Town without leaving British soil. The British authorities ran the Sudan as essentially various separate territories, principally based on religion. The Sudan's modern history, however, has been plagued by civil wars leading to the virtual closure of the country to outsiders, until Mr. Freeman’s recent expeditions.
Michael Freeman was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he read geography, and then worked in advertising in London for six years. In 1971 he decided to travel up the Amazon. The resulting pictures soon established him as one of the world’s great photographers and were used by Time-Life Books for the first book, The Amazon, in the extensive series The World's Wild Places.
Principal photographer for the Smithsonian Magazine for many years, Mr. Freeman's work has been widely published internationally in all major magazines, including GEO , the Sunday Times Magazine, Smithsonian, Life, International Wildlife, Stern, Paris-Match, the Telegraph Magazine, the Observer, the Independent, Design Magazine, GQ Magazine, National Geographic, Omni, Condé Nast Traveler, Illustrated London News, Merian, Newsweek and Asahi Shimbum among innumerable others. He has also published 109 books on subjects as varied as Angkor, Frank Lloyd Wright, contemporary Chinese and Japanese design and the sacred sites of Asia, and has written many of these as well as producing the photography.
Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$100 for Members and HK$150 for guests and others