Raj-era hunter`s sketches offer glimpses of Africa

Kolkata: An exhibition of sketches by 19th century British military engineer and hunter Sir William Cornwallis Harris will offer a glimpse into the wilderness of Africa. Harris is said to be the first person to chronicle safari expeditions.

He lived in India for more than a decade working as a construction engineer during the `Raj` (British rule) and had a passion for shooting as a sport. After living in western India, he embarked on a five-month hunting trek to central south Africa, beyond the Limpopo River into what is now called Zimbabwe.

And on these trips, he brought with him his drawing tools. From the African elephant to the zebra to unusual animals like the quagga and various species of rhinos and antelopes, his sketches documented everything, that subsequently resulted in books including the hugely popular `The Wild Sports of Southern Africa`.

`The exhibition of lithographs`, running at the Victoria Memorial Hall here till June 1, displays as many as 20 prints of his works, including his original captions from the book.

According to the Hall`s curator, Jayanta Sengupta, Harris was "much more than just a trigger-happy hunter".

His scientific interest in specimens is what differentiated him from his contemporaries.

"It might be argued he was the person to go on safari and leave a record," he said.

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