OKAPI – a Memory in Film from the Ituri

If I start to reminisce about that first Okapi study to the east and north of where the Lomami flows into the Congo River, I remember the film.

Soon after the birth of our youngest daughter, Eleanor, Alan Root a maker of African nature films came to see what we were doing. With incredible patience, both for animals and researchers, and with incredible ingenuity both he and his young camera man Bruce Davidson set out to follow and record the okapi study and a study of rain forest antelope (duikers) we were just getting underway.

Some of the singers and some of the dear friends and colleagues of this film are no longer with us, but I think of “Hearts of Brightness” as a tribute to them all and to the way of life they still maintain.


  1. michael
    Posted 2007-09-21 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    wonderfull wonderfull film.

    ps: best wishes to your daughter.
    (my daughter is also 18 years old since
    may and i want to show her this film to
    get a glimps of this life)

  2. Terese
    Posted 2007-09-22 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I do hope that your daughter enjoys it. Eleanor has started a first year of university in the USA and seems to be thriving.

  3. colleen
    Posted 2007-09-27 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    This is incredible – thanks for posting it, so much inspiration, do you think Mr. Root would ever consider putting his footage to music? or is that blasphemy? either way, thanks again – a treasure.

  4. Posted 2007-09-27 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Terese here: One of the most incredibly precious personal memories is Mbuti music. It is central to their culture — and it IS magic. It is communal, hocket,almost entirely vocal… and it just surrounds, encompasses…

  5. Posted 2007-10-03 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Awww…this was incredible and wonderful. I am full of love seeing how your family integrated with that wonderful environment and people.
    My best wishes and Thanks for sharing

  6. Posted 2008-01-25 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m french and I have discovered your film today. It’s very wonderful and extraordinary. I have not enough word to say what I think of it. A real history of the life in the forest as I like it. Thank you. My best wishes

  7. Posted 2008-07-31 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Je viens de voir votre commentaire aujourd’hui. Je vous remercie et j’espère que vous allez suivre aussi l’aventure d’aujourd’hui que j’espère aboutira dans une aire protégée!

  8. Posted 2008-12-28 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    I am a wildlife artist and have been asked to draw a picture of okapi, to find out more about this fantastic creature I watched your film which for me was incredible. Good luck with all the conservation work. Maybe I could help someway through my art venues.

  9. Alice/Alys Webber
    Posted 2009-01-16 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed your film. For a number of yrs I raised basenjis and so knew something of the Itari. Let me say that I saw my first Okapi at the San Diego zoo in the late ’60s, but not one since. I just returned from an internship which included me talking about Okapi. However, I had very little info on them and now am doing research for a biology paper. I wish to know if they walk and trot like camels and gallop like horses or giraffe? I got a bit of film of them walking, but not galloping so can’t compare it.

  10. Posted 2009-04-03 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    what a great life you have given you daughters, how blessed they are to have both worlds to live in, the film was beautiful, and i would like to know if you will be making a film about the life of the bonobo’s? they are a very interesting, and loving group of animals from the little i know about them, in light always, pamela

  11. frank afenkhena
    Posted 2010-07-03 at 9:05 pm | Permalink


  12. Terese Hart
    Posted 2010-07-05 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I agree, this is the real world, but it could be extinguished if the Okapi Reserve is not respected. See this:

  13. Abby
    Posted 2010-10-03 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    I’m 13 and the okapi is my favorite animal. My dream is to do conservation work in the ituri forest, and this video just made my passion for this rainforest burn stronger. Thank you so much. 🙂

  14. Posted 2010-12-09 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi Terese –
    Just thought you’d be amused to know that we showed this film to our field team a while ago while camped out at Epulu HQ. Last week they requested to see it again! Everyone loves the chameleon bit…
    Would love to get a higher res version to play on the full screen… do you know where we can do that?

  15. Jennie DePlacito
    Posted 2012-01-19 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    I have loved watching par tof the Heart of Lightness. Especially after reading the Heart of Darkness in college and learning more about the sadness and destruction that ethnocentrism often brings. Even if it is not thought to be a problem, most people are sadly ethnocentric.
    I lived on a Native American reservation for awhile as a child and it really opened up my eyes to the realities of this world. And the beauties of humanities differences.
    Your family understands this well, I see from the video. I have lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and been to South Africa twice, and would love to learn more about the Congo. Hope to hear from you! Thanks for your time!

  16. Steven McPhee
    Posted 2013-12-28 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Great video! I have been looking for this for some time now…

    Hope you and your family have had a wonderful Christmas this year. Your daughters have grown quite a bit since this was done!

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