Cover image for The deserts of Africa
The deserts of Africa
Martin, Michael.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Die Wüsten Afrikas. English
Publication Information:
New York : Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2000.
Physical Description:
191 pages : chiefly color illustrations, maps ; 28 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DT12.25 .M3713 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



Africa has long evoked tales of tribal peoples, big game, and exotic landscapes. In the year 2000, globalization aside, the deserts of the Dark Continent still retain their mystery. Through his images of these vast, deceptively desolate stretches, geographer and photographer Michael Martin lays bare the cultural and spiritual core of Africa. His travels across the Sahara, the Kalahari, the Namib, and the volcanic wastelands of the Rift Valley have also acquainted him with the diverse desert residents who eke out an existence in these harsh, parched regions.In The Deserts of Africa, Martin discovers the last functioning salt caravan on the Sahara, the Tarhalamt, which begins its journey after the rainy season. The Madugu leads the way without the aid of any visible landmarks, relying on the position of the sun, the structure of the sand, and the fast-fading traces of former caravans to drive his train of camels. Martin also captures the character of these majestic, water-bearing beasts, without whom man would not survive in the arid areas. In his portraits, the ergs -- huge, crescent-shaped dunes -- appear to have personalities unto themselves. With Martin's intimate yet respectful perspective, The Deserts of Africa exposes the surprisingly fertile soul of some of the most barren landscapes on Earth.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Among photographic studies of Africa and its people, Martin's work is unusual in its focus on the continent's landscape. Documenting the Sahara, Rift Valley, Kalahari and Namib deserts, the photographer invokes a sense of timelessness and tradition that contrasts with the rush of most modern lifestyles. The full-page photos immerse the viewer in a storm brewing over the Namib, the salt caravans of the Tuareg or the sand that is the Libyan Erg Ubari. Martin's photographic skills, acknowledged by his Kodak Best of the Year award, supports his tandem career as a geographer. In each chapter he discusses the history, climate and tribes of each desert accessibly and informatively. The foreword by noted Nigerian (Dagara tribe) spiritualists Malidoma and Sobunfu Som‚ position the book as a testament to the desert's spirit, and sincerity is evident in the depth with which Martin explores his subject. While the landscape photos are riveting, the book would have benefited from more selectivity. The design leaves one wading through blank space and small snapshots, undermining Martin's otherwise strong vision. Also less convincing are the design "ornaments" scattered throughout. Intended to add a sense of cultural awareness, they end up only decorative and random. The captions to these ornaments are buried in the back of the book, and fail to sufficiently address their relevance to the main sequence. Although it cannot rival the books of photographer Angela Fisher on the subject of Africa, this volume's detailed captions, maps and fact sections transform it from a strictly coffee-table book into a useful reference guide. 148 four-color photos. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved