The Lion and the Black Panther

The Lion with the Bear in Thailand©MTHerzog

No, this is not the title of a new book or a new movie. It is, however, a tribute to a man who took me to Africa when I was three years old. Daddy would have been 82 today, and had he been up and about, healthy and able to eat a meal, we would have been feasting on all-you-can-eat sushi. He is with me in spirit though, and as I watched Marvel’s Black Panther this evening set against a futuristic Africa, I could not help but think back to my childhood.

The memories of our four years tare vague, Sundays in Kenya were safari days for us, that much I do remember. In the beginning we always travelled with other families in the compound, but later on, once Daddy got his bearings of the territory, we ventured out on our own. I sat in front with him, supposedly to navigate, while Mommy sat in the back with all the pots and pans, the mobile kitchen. There was no McDonald’s or Pizza Hut in the middle of the wildlife parks, so Mommy made sure we had everything. Even back then I could not read a map, so I chatted away and kept Daddy from falling asleep at the wheel. But when it came to photographing the animals, I was the assistant, holding the lens cap or the canister of film. Initially it was just simple photographs, but later on he graduated to films, and there was a lot more to hold and pass on.

There was always something memorable to take home with each safari. Either we got lucky with a pride of lions that we spotted, or sometimes a herd of giraffes crossing in front of us. On one occasion Daddy was so busy filming and kept muttering to himself that there must be something wrong with his camera because, although he didn’t adjust anything, the elephant kept getting bigger and bigger. It wasn’t until all the other cars in the caravan began revving up their engines and everyone was shouting madly that Daddy looked up from behind the lens. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the camera. The elephant was charging at full speed towards the humans in their silly little metal shells. He threw the camera unceremoniously into the car and drove off as fast as he could, while Mommy held on to the lids of the pots and said her prayers.

Daddy, my lion king, showed me Africa, pointed out the lions, and appreciated the grace and elegance of gazelles. In the movie, Black Panther, there is a line from the old king that goes “A man that has not prepared his children for his own death has failed as a father…” This struck me deep to the core and I instantly thought of Daddy. He prepared me well. I was ready.

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