About Timo Heiny

Deep within the vast stretches of earth, from the golden dunes of Namibia to the most remote places in Kenya, Timo Heiny’s lens seeks out the stories from „a vanished world“ that remain untold. With a passion for capturing the spirit of indigenous peoples, Timo’s ventures where few tread, all in pursuit of a single frame that speaks a thousand words.

A vanished world.

In 1989 Timo Heiny visited Africa for the first time with his analog camera. As a visitor who came from a completely different cultural background, he was fascinated by such an archaic way of life that he had the luck to discover on his journey. At first it was the fascination as a photographer to capture these earthy beauty of these tribes…

Today he knows that...

…he had the privilege, temporarily, to be a part of a life form that will not survive in our fast changing world. And now his work has become a photographic contemporary document. He was inspired by characters as there are Leni Riefenstahl and more, who preserved the memory about the Nuba in Sudan for following generations. Therefore his journeys transferred to a documentation about one of the biggest adventures of our Earth: cultural past as a living present.

In February 2018 he traveled to South Sudan. With his camera, he captured the unbelievable culture, full of traditions from an old world, of the Mundari Tribe. The Mundari are one of the most outstanding groups of pastoralists on the African continent. After 40 years of civil war, this dignified group of people whose centuries-old culture is now greatly threatened by the political pressures and changes that affect traditional life in modern times. The culture has survived, but the shadow of the war is still a part of their life.

In the last 25 years Timo Heiny took photos not only in Africa. Many journeys brought him also to Papua New Guinea, Asia, Indonesia and many other exotic countries.But the deep relatedness to “old Africa” brought him always back to the black continent. The personal homage of the photographer for the black continent is his oeuvre, esthetical photographs from tribes of East Africa.The photographer wants to show the original africa with his black and white photographs who remember by the sepia color to photographs from the colonial time. Timo Heiny wants to capture with his camera moments of pure and original life, moments who will maybe be gone after a time forever…

It is the sensible magic of this continent that was vital from the beginning of history, when humans went out of the darkness of time till today.” Timo Heiny’s photographs are characterized by the sensible view of the photographer, who catches the soul of his model without stealing their dignity. Far from it: He shows people from a wild and earthy beauty, irrepressible, standing and proud in their simplicity.

A note from Timo - L THUMOGI

The Samburu gave me the name L THUMOGI, which means “who came from a foreign land and became a friend”. And Laibon is the name that brings back memories of those wonderful days on long-forgotten paths in the wilderness of East Africa. I followed him on foot through a silent savannah and he took me on a journey to the end of the world. He gave me a glimpse of a Garden of Eden and before I could thank him, he disappeared into the infinity of the African savannah.

I followed him silently into his world and with every step I began to feel more and more the heartbeat of the land, accompanied by the scent of wild sage and jasmine, whose pulsating energy flowed through my body, ultimately freeing me from the chains of a modern industrialized world.
I experienced a time full of magical moments on this ancient continent in which so many worlds are united, where life and death go hand in hand and the endless horizon offers a magnificent spectacle on every new day, with breathtaking sunsets and an intoxicating, pristine nature Beauty I will always carry in my heart.

I walked with the soul of Africa through endless savannahs under the brilliant light of the new moon. I swam through silvery waves in the African sea in the light of the full moon. I listened to the voices of the African wind whispering ancient stories from a long-forgotten past across the plains. I experienced the change of seasons on the plateaus, I saw how the last large herds of elephants moved through the plains in times of drought in search of water.
In this country where time seems to stand still, everything is in motion and full of life.

I felt the heartbeat of a continent speaking to me with love and I began to understand.
This Africa, in which our roots are hidden, has already attracted many people searching for the origin of their longing. Adventurers who follow their own dreams into a landscape that has already triggered a deep recognition in many people.
We are often not aware of how the sum of what we have experienced disappears into the deepest corners of the soul without our consciousness grasping the entirety of the path.
As helpless as a leaf in the wind, we remain searching in the magical place of coming and going, confused by a multitude of languages, customs and religions, the entire dimension of space and time robs us of the courage to follow our inner voice and to close our eyes open to the magic of this world.

But the past experience comes to mind at some point. Experiences from times long past live on, even if the conscious mind is not yet able to grasp them in their entirety. It remains an indescribable mystery and yet everyone feels this great, deep longing for the experienced peace of a past homeland.

At some point the time comes when memory begins to germinate and the roots of longing penetrate deep into the earth of the place in which all the overwhelming beauty of strange nightly dreams is reflected.
You take the first step and immerse yourself in a world that is completely unknown to us and yet so familiar. And so I embarked on a journey that became my way of life. But I have seen it, paradise, with all its magnificent life and it is difficult to let go of it. The face of this perfect world flows through my body like a drug and feeds my longing, the roots of which have penetrated deep into the African earth.

Every journey into the unknown is an adventure and my adventure began in Tsavo.
Without reservation, I passed through a gate into a world whose archaic aura awakens a deeply hidden area of our senses that makes legends become reality. The deeper I delved into this world, which is still largely untouched by tourism, the more I embarked on a journey of discovery to our origins. Into a realm of living gods and ancestors where mysticism and magic determine daily life.
Nyika means dry, barren bushland in Swahili.
Hostile to life. Apart from thorn bushes and acacias, the vegetation is rather sparse.
A vast, wild land, a piece of untamed Africa, dominated only by the endless changing of the seasons. Tsavo is located in this area.

For me, Tsavo has always been an extraordinary place in the heart of Kenya, here I got to know the true soul of this majestic country, in a wilderness without time and without borders. In all my travels I had never forgotten the magic of Tsavo and I still remember with sadness the long hikes with the gamekeepers through a landscape in which time seemed to have stood still millions of years ago.

We followed traces of black rhinos along the Yatta Plateau, the longest petrified lava flow on earth which forms a gigantic valley. In this valley runs the life-giving waterway of the Galana River, whose banks are lined with gallery forests of doumpla and mimosa trees. A treasure trove of life in Africa. Here, lush life and death are so close together. Most of the year the merciless African sun prevails here and dries out the entire country. One of the first African explorers, Joseph Thompmson, describes the Tsavo area as an eerie, hideous place with horrible thorn bushes, almost entirely devoid of gently swaying leaves.

But the rain actually works wonders here every year.
When the rainy season sets in after a long drought, a barren thornbush savannah becomes a lush paradise. The life-giving rain comes and the thirsty earth soaks up the long-awaited moisture. As if you were in a land long before our time, when the planet was still forming and the titanic battle of the elements influenced evolution, the crusted earth breaks up and in a few days an exquisite garden full of exotic flowers and endless shades of green stretches out to the horizon. Paradise has returned to the parched savannah. As if guided by an invisible choreographer, the animals of the steppe dance to a silent symphony of nature to welcome the return of life. The recurring life cycle begins again.
But Tsavo is also the realm of the feared lions, the man-eaters of Tsavo.

The locals claim that anyone who crosses their path is destined for death and so many stories are told about the “ghost in the darkness”. In fact, this place in the heart of Black Africa has already achieved notoriety.
When the British colonial power built a railway from the highlands to the coast in 1898 to connect the capital Nairobi with the trading port of Mombasa, the workers entered Tsavo, the kingdom of the lions, after months of strenuous construction in the impenetrable bushland.

Colonel J.H. Petterson was commissioned as chief engineer to carry out the bridge construction project across the Tsavo River. This difficult undertaking was sealed with the blood of twenty-eight workers over the next nine months. Night after night, two male lions invaded the Indian relief camp and exacted their toll.

Patterson became a colonial hero when, after a long, risky hunt, he killed the last of the two lions with his ninth bullet.
Was it just old, weak lions that specialized in the easy-to-kill prey of humans, or was it perhaps the “Spirit of Tsavo” that came out of the darkness to drive away the invaders who were destroying his empire?
Exactly one hundred years later in 1998 I came to Tsavo. From the deep blue sky, the sun burned relentlessly on a withered, red landscape that stretched uniformly to the horizon.
I camped between a small group of fever acacias that provided some shade. There was once a tourist lodge here, but now the place was deserted, the buildings were long empty and dilapidated and only offered shelter for a few scorpions, snakes or other reptiles.

For many Europeans it is an absurd idea to spend a night alone and without weapons in the African bush. I was used to life in the wilderness from my trips to tropical countries and enjoyed the freedom and the silence, far from any civilization, the melancholic moments In the evening around the campfire under a canopy of sky where you can see more stars than anywhere else.

Anyone who knows the African bush knows that there are animals that you see and others that you feel, a cold breath, a shadow, you feel the gaze of these ominous creatures that lurk in the darkness beyond the limits of the faint glow of the campfire in front of you Keep your tent hidden.
These animals that you rarely see, these omnipresent shadowy creatures, they are the ones who rule the night. Only their smell, the cracking of a branch under their paws or the deep, rattling breathing is what reveals their presence. These animals trigger deep shivers; our hidden, primal fears come to light again and take your breath away.
The night was clear and the sky was dotted with stars all the way to the horizon. I listened to the sounds carried across the grassland by a gentle breeze. I didn’t sleep well that night, the ominous low growl of the lions echoed across the steppe and it got closer and closer.
It was as if a cold breath of wind had suddenly blown over from the bushes and then I felt it, the huge, powerful breath of a mighty lion on the wafer-thin tentwall, the only thing that separated us from each other.
Its deep roaring roar shattered the night and struck the plain again with a deadly, destructive finality.

A second lion answered in the immediate vicinity. I listened to the tracks of the predators as they dug noisily deep into the loose sand through their heavy bodies as they circled menacingly around my sleeping place.
Many thoughts of past dangers and adventures come to mind and suddenly the entire energy of this million-year-old world seemed to flow through me. I discovered a consciousness that had been hidden from me until then. I began to no longer see this mysterious world beyond our “civilized” society as foreign or even threatening, but rather it became a reflection of my own soul.
You become part of this strange world and begin to understand it and the thoughts of tomorrow fade into the magnitude of this moment.
The lions tried to enter the tent and I felt their hot breath as they pressed their snouts deep into the tent wall, leaving the strong smell of their being in the fabric.
The animals of the night fell silent in an instant as the bloodcurdling roar of the lions penetrated the night. It was my longest night in Africa.
As the first rays of the African sun spread over the savannah like a golden robe, the entire country shines in its fascinating beauty. At daybreak the lions disappeared into the endless expanse.
Was it really just lions looking for food or was it the “spirit in the darkness”, the spirit of Africa who wanted to defend his country from invaders.

In Africa I learned to accept things that we in Europe would at best classify as charlatanry or mystical superstition and put them in the drawer of the inexplicable.
In this magnificent, untouched vast plains of the African continent, where countless wild animals are at home and the most diverse tribes have lived in harmonious coexistence with nature since time immemorial, there are still places that are shaped by spiritual forces.
Places that contain the secret of ancient wisdom.

Here in Africa, miracles are part of everyday life and people trust in the healing powers of nature, whose secrets have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.
I was now ready to take part in the adventures of Africa, to discover a new world, new ways of life.
My relationship with Africa has matured with the flow of time like the seeds of fruit to finally strike deep roots of love into the Kenyan soil. It was this inexplicably strong feeling of deep recognition that drove me to penetrate ever deeper into the culture of this ancient continent.
It has now been over a century since Europeans first attempted to explore this mysterious land on safari expeditions.

In the Kiswahili language of the people of East Africa, such a trip is called a “safari”.
It was primarily Europeans, British researchers and adventurers who flocked to Africa throughout the 19th century to uncover the last secrets of the “dark continent”.
The surviving photographs from that time conjured up an exciting, original life in exotic surroundings and the depicted naive originality of the tribal cultures became a popular theme in art and literature at that time.
But this “discovery” of the African continent also had its downsides. The spread of colonialism from the middle of the 19th century, primarily through the Europeans, led to a fundamental structural change in political and economic systems with profound effects on existing social structures.
Missionaries, researchers and traders in particular drove colonization forward.
But not only the Europeans, but also Arab businessmen, starting from Zanzibar, recognized the „economic potential“ and had long before established trading posts within East Africa, mainly for the slave and ivory trade.
After all these decades of profound influence on these ancient systems, it is astonishing that some ethnic groups have still retained their originality to this day.

But it looks like your time has now come to shed the cloak of the old traditions. “Industrialized people” are increasingly penetrating the remote habitats of the last nomads.
The insatiable greed for oil, agricultural resources and other mineral resources will soon cause these ancient cultures to disappear into the vortex of time.
For many years I have been a guest of the Samburu, the Turkana, the Rendile, the Pokot, the Mursi, the Desanesh, Karo, Hamar, the Orma and many other tribes in the East African Rift.

I’m fascinated by the beauty, pride and hospitality of these people. On my “safaries” I was able to experience wonderful moments of happiness, breathtaking landscapes and incredibly exciting foreign lifestyles.
I felt like a being traveling on the wings of life through the infinity of time, back to the place where everything began.
About 3 million years ago, a human-like creature emerged from the savannahs of Africa and set out to discover new worlds.
This first safari of early humans inevitably leads to the realization that we are all ultimately African and that all people in the world have the same origins.
This is now a departure back to the old homeland to rediscover our roots.

I am grateful for the privilege of being able to make such trips and I am grateful for the hospitality of peoples in different parts of the world.
With humility and joy in your heart, you inevitably become a wanderer between worlds and are often faced with the decision in which world you belong or feel like you belong.
Nowhere else have I seen so many smiling faces, people full of pride and dignity, contentment and joy of life, than in the remote regions of this wonderful world.
I experienced a time full of magical moments on this ancient continent in which so many worlds are united, where life and death go hand in hand and the endless horizon offers a magnificent spectacle on every new day, with breathtaking sunsets and an intoxicating, pristine nature Beauty I will always carry in my heart.

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