FAREWELL SON OF AFRICA (Ian Nychens)


There once was an Africa that few have known, a place wild, unspoiled and untamed. Great herds of animals roamed free in her wilderness. It was this Africa that Ian Nyschens came upon, but she was already dying. Her spirit was slowly being driven from the land by minds tainted with ownership and greed. She became the great love of his life, and she claimed him as one of her own.

Ian Nyschens has been described as an anachronism, a man born out of time. He is known as a skilled hunter of big game, but in truth he was much more than that. He faced many dangers in the wilds, often risking his life, but in common with many of us, his greatest struggle lay within himself.


Ian was stricken with rheumatic fever as a small boy. When it finally left him he had to learn to walk again. Its legacy was poor eyesight, a defective heart and psoriasis covering much of his skin. A sickly and weak child, his doctors advised he always avoid the sun. He was sent to a convent school in his early years where the nuns were particularly harsh. Here he learned to distrust authority, especially in the name of God.

   

Immersed in a dysfunctional family, bullied by his peers and misunderstood by his elders, Ian grew towards manhood alienated from the culture into which he was born. He had an uncanny ability to observe the camouflaged nature of man; his penchant for power and domination. He found little to respect here, and by the time Ian reached adulthood there was no place in society for the rebel he had become.


He left the land of his birth and traveled north to Rhodesia, where he applied to join the Game Department. However, a medical examination deemed him unfit. Defiant and undaunted, Ian entered the wilderness that beckoned to him, armed with only a second hand rifle and a few meager possessions. In the cicada silence he studied the pages of a book, the legacy of a great hunter who had walked the way before him. From this book and his own wild knowing, Ian taught himself how to hunt. Nurtured by nature and wearing only a loincloth, his sun starved skin and weakened body grew strong. Ian was born for this land; its wild character matched his own. In his books he speaks generously of these years, but there was another side to this man.


Ian married and had two children, a daughter and a son. For twenty seven years he lived torn between two worlds. In one he became carpenter, mine surface supervisor, and city building inspector. He played polo and polo cross, rehabilitated horses, established a thoroughbred racing stud, and became knowledgeable in politics and history. But Africa had touched his soul, and the wildness in Ian simmered, making him unpredictable, restless, and intense.

In the world of his belonging Ian progressed from ivory poacher to game warden, respected game guide and teller of tales.


Though reckless in his early years, and at times destructive, Ian was a good pupil and Africa taught him well. He grew to care deeply about life, but remained troubled by the ways of his fellow man. While the stories he shared entertained, his intention in the telling was to reveal learning from a time passed.

Before he left this life Ian was sad. During his final days I asked him why.  Looking into his lap he spoke of his son who died; of great bull elephants; of his fear in the bush and the uncanny presence there of the Divine. Finally he raised his head and looked into my eyes; tears were swimming in his own. Gathering his strength, he uttered with passion, “Nobody understands Africa”. His eyes locked onto mine for long moments; then he lowered his head into silence.

The wild Africa Ian loved is no more; she too has passed into memory. She took care of his soul while he walked this earth. He was truly her son.