USONI was born from a journey to the Elmolo land… the Lake Turkana.
It’s in the last years of the 20th century that I came across a book by a French author, ex singer of “my youth” whose music I used to enjoy listening to. The title was “Le Voyageur Magnifique” in English: “The Magnificient Traveller”. The story: a man decides to travel around the world to visit the sites of what he calls “The Beginnings”, there were four of them… one of them was the Lake Turkana!
Why the Lake Turkana? The reason comes from a skeleton. The skeleton discovered by a team of scientists on the side of the lake, the name, Lucy, comes from the period in time. The Beatles are dominating the music of the planet. Their then universal song “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” gives the perfect name to the first woman to stand on her legs and raises her eyes towards the sky. For the author, this represents a beginning, The Beginning… the beginning of Humanity and the Lake Turkana is the Cradle of Humanity!
The Lake Turkana fascinated me and when I had the opportunity to come to Kenya, more than the incredible wildlife or the extraordinary landscapes that you can find there, my focus was on the Sea of Jade.
When I did some research about the lake, the Elmolo tribe popped in right away. For certain specialists, it was the smallest tribe, with, according to some sources, a population of fifty or less, diminishing day after day… on the way to extinction. Then, here it was… I had some humans becoming extinct in the same place which had seen the beginning of humanity. It was enough to make me go there and to capture what is left of this Elmolo culture before it disappears all together. A team joined me and we set off for one of the most incredible journey I ever did.
Going to Lake Turkana was like reversing time. The road was extremely difficult, and sometimes there was no road at all. We went through the most amazing landscapes, meeting the most amazing people and somehow the most beautiful people… people from another age. The Pokots, the Samburus, the Turkanas all these tribes have their own culture, their own dignity, their pride although in the eyes of our society they have nothing!
The best representation of what I mean was the Elmolo. The Elmolo have nothing but in a way they have everything. Difficult to understand that when you look at their tiny little huts, bamboo-made, a very poor protection from the ever present, scorching sun, inflexible master of the area, one of the hottest places on Earth.
We recorded the Elmolo for the first time and I named the film “The Last Song’ then it became the seed which germinated almost twenty years after and bloomed into Usoni.
It is from the Elmolo that I got the legend of the first woman, the one who created the lake, the one that the Ancients call in their sacred song, the Mother of the Elmolo, as if to say the Mother of Men…
Yes the Last Song set the first stone of Usoni. The Last Song made me meet and work with one of the characters I created from reality. Lion Lepalo, fighting to save his Lake, became in my story the main character’s grandfather.
Ophelia, in Usoni, will have to follow the road set up by her grandfather, the road which starts in the suburbs of Paris to end in the splendor of the Sea of Jade.