The first piece of Pam Guhrs-Carr’s work I ever saw was an eland. It had been spray-painted onto a wall with a single long squirt, and in the complete confidence of line that eland lived, standing almost life size before me. And though I loved that wall in its context — the Luangwa Valley in Zambia – I longed to slip it into my bag and take it home. From that one casual squirt I knew that I had found a great wildlife artist.
Instead I took home a charcoal sketch of a wildebeest: gaunt, ungainly in the manner of its kind, and alive before me still. It hangs on the wall at home in Norfolk. Since then I have managed to acquire another three works by Pam, all of them hanging in various places of honour.
Pam is the daughter of Norman Carr, who was Zambia’s pioneer conservationist and founder of its wildlife tourist industry. It was Norman’s initiative and vision that set up the best walking safaris in Africa – imagine that, walking across the bush with all those lions and tigers and things – and also the rich pleasures of the night-drive, when the Valley is another place entirely.
Pam’s work has enriched my life and allowed me to keep a small part of the Valley at home, where it’s a constant inspiration. So when I started writing The Sacred Combe, I was filled with the mad ambition to work with Pam.
This book is about those special, secret, hidden places: the rich places of the heart. Everyone’s got one, whether real or in the imagination. And mine happens to be the Luangwa Valley, and so it seemed to me that Pam was essential to the project. To my unutterable joy, she agreed to supply the stunning images that are an essential part of the book.
As Bloomsbury got close to completing the book, I kept saying to them: never mind your white space — I want Pam! More Pam, please. Fill up those white spaces with Pam. And for once I won an argument and the book is full of Pam’s incomparably vivid drawings.
Each one is the result of thousands of repetitions, so that the shape and the nature of the animal portrayed becomes logged in muscle-memory. Often she works blind, drawing the animal with eyes closed until she has the rhythm and the shape of it established at some level below consciousness. And so she
produces these perfect images from the great, glorious and forever wonderful Luangwa Valley.
Here’s a lovely elephant from Pam on the cover of the book: and there are plenty more things of wonder inside. I’ve done my best to live up to illustrations, but I’ve been playing catch-up all along. Here’s a link to her website to see more http://pamguhrs-carr.com/
Apologies for repeating myself, but the book will be published in January, and I’m delighted to be able to offer a 25 per cent discount. Here’s a link http://bloomsbury.com/uk/the-sacred-combe-9781472914026/
Add SACRED25 when you reach the check-out and you’re home and hosed.