“Ships of the Dessert”: A Lecture on Camels by Sebastian Lindstrom

"Ships of the Dessert":  A Lecture on Camels by Sebastian LindstromThe Royal Geographical Society – Hongkong presents “Ships of the Desert”, a lecture by Sebastian Lindstrom, on November 11, 2010, Thursday at the Olympic House, So Kon Po, Causeway Bay.

Mr Lindstrom is engaged in a world-wide study of the camel, being made into a series of documentaries, starting with Central Asia including Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.  This lecture reveals the camel’s place in traditional and modern society in Central Asia, with an insight into the unique way the camel is treated in this fascinating part of the world. The lecture focusses on the camel, its relationship with culture, ancient rites, modern use, dependency, in addition to the vital role of its milk and cheese, showing that the camel is every bit as part of culture in Central Asia as it is in say the Sahara.

Camels have helped humans survive in some of the harshest environments on the planet, acting as the vehicle that has facilitated the sharing of knowledge and culture across vast distances. Yet they now face rapid population decline due to ignorance of their versatility and a lack of research into their value to modern medicine.  Communities that have herded for hundreds of years are falling into a convenience society, finding cows easier to care for and losing sight of the versatility and value of the camel.  To study this in Central Asia, Mr Lindstrom and his team have traversed Mongolia, including the Gobi Desert, Kazakhstan, including Almaty and the Aral Sea, Kyrgyzstan, including Bishkek and Naryn, and Uzbekistan including Tashkent, Khiva and Nukus.

Most people are familiar with the image of the one-humped camel set against a Saharan sunset but it is found in over 100 countries, and sporting one, two or one-and-a-half humps, it represents a far more diverse beast.  Used for transportation, food and medicine, legend, art and literature, in Central Asia and Mongolia, the camel retains its symbolic importance and remains a valuable commodity, holding secrets yet to be fully uncovered. The viability of camel milk production is the perfect metaphor for the dichotomy between grassroots producer, often with easy-to-facilitate connections to those in need of product, and commercial trade activities.  Mr Lindstrom has also documented people’s passion for camel cheese, exploring the wider issues connected to the camel milk industry, the burgeoning of cheese cultures, the decline of ancient tradition and camel populations, marginalisation of the people who herd them and the huge medicinal potential of the camel’s milk.

Sebastian Lindstrom hails from Sweden where he served in the Swedish Military’s Special Forces.  He also studied overseas at James Cook University, Singapore, Dalian Jiotong University, China, Korea University, Seoul, Korea and at The University of Hong Kong’s International Business and Global Management programme.  Mr Lindstrom is now a social entrepreneur, film-producer, explorer focusing on grassroots online and offline mobilisation, who has organised documentary shoots in 25 African and Asian countries as well as Papua New Guinea.  For the past three years he has worked at The What Took You So Long Foundation, of which he was a founder. The NGO makes and screens documentaries in and about places less travelled in order to promote discussion in order to promote cross-cultural understanding and learning through media.

Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$100 for Members and HK$150 for guests and others.

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