ROYAL AFRICAN FELLOWS > DAVID COULSON
David Coulson is a photographer, writer, and African explorer as well as being a specialist in African rock art. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of TARA (the Trust for African Rock Art). His home is in Nairobi, where he lives with his wife Deborah. They have two daughters, Daisy and Alice.
In the earlier part of his career ('80s & early '90s) David worked out of Kenya as a professional photographer and writer, and his books and articles were published across the world. It was during his many travels for these projects that he became aware of the richness and diversity of Africa's rock art to which he became increasingly exposed. One of the countries where he worked over a long period was Namibia. His book, Namib, on Namibia's coastal desert was published in London in 1991. As a consultant to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) David also spear-headed the Focus on Your World international photo competition on the Environment in the early1990s sponsored by Canon. The competition, of which David was also a judge, attracted 32,000 entries from 140 different countries, the biggest photo competition ever held.
In the mid-1990s, David founded TARA with the help of Dr Mary Leakey and Sir Laurens van der Post. Since its inception TARA's work has been supported by a number of well known international institutions such as National Geographic, and the Getty, Ford and Andrew Mellon Foundations. Realizing that the biggest threat to this remarkable heritage was ignorance, David used his photography and international network to create a greater global awareness of the importance and endangered state of this art. His book, with the late Alec Campbell, African Rock Art, was the first major book on this heritage, on a Pan African scale. TARA has now worked in over 20 different African countries and its work has been internationally recognized. In 2004, David received a letter from Nelson Mandela endorsing TARA's work and, in 2005, the importance of this work was officially recognized in a filmed statement by former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
Thanks to the generosity of the Arcadia Fund, the British Museum recently acquired a digital copy of David's (TARA's) digital archive with metadata which, by the end of 2014, will form part of the Museum' worldwide online collections. (See link www.britishmuseum.org/africanrockart)