Page 1

Socotra An Island

‘Socotra’ is a visual journey to an island. Somewhere faraway under the countless stars of the tropical sky, secluded in dangerous waters, and circled by pirates. The book explores an island that is luscious and murderous, overgrown with otherworldly plants, inhabited by natives and ruled by sheikhs. Islands have never been just “a piece of land surrounded by water” (Oxford Dictionary). Rather, the lexical phrase was always linked with notions of how these places look and feel and the myths tied around them. Men were driven by their imagination to discover and explore and they shared their impressions through travel reports. We have come to see islands through the prism offered by these accounts, genuine or fictionalized, written by adventurers who went out to search, conquer and colonize. Through subtle suggestive narration ‘Socotra’ asks questions about the history of adventure and exploration. ‘Socotra’ is a book not only about the island Socotra – but also about this cultural tradition and the myths and clichés tied to the notion of ‘islands’ in our minds.


“Who does not love islands? To be surrounded by the sea, lapped by the tide and shaded by palm trees. How lovely!�

Published and distributed by Lonely Island Books. ISBN 978-3-00-035338-3 Printed on acid free and archival paper. Concept, photography, writing, and design: Claudius Schulze, 2011 This artist’s book published in 2011 in a limited edition of 500. All books are numbered. - No 1-5 are each one-of-a-kind artist bound books. - No 6-100 are reserved for the backers and supporters (as named on page 127) of this project. The edition includes a signed and numbered print of the photograph on page 42-43. - No 99-150 are sold unbound in sheets, folded and gathered, allowing bookbinders and book artists to create their own one-of-a-kind book. Crafted with precision and care.

Socotra An Island

a tale narrated in word and forty-six photographs by

Claudius Schulze

2011 Lonely Island Books

Prologue the Adventurer Arrives on the Island

A hot wind dishevels my hair. It snarls, rumbles, and builds to a full roar, pulling at my clothes and pushing as if to knock me over. I cling to the handrail, taking a careful step forward. So, here I am. Socotra! Ahead of me lie the stairs down the aircraft, a short stretch of eroding tarmac and further in the distance: one of the strangest places on the globe. Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, north of the Seychelles, due east from the Horn of Africa, far out in troubled waters circled by pirates, Socotra island is both paradise and hell on earth. Being a territory of Yemen, a crumbling state and al-Qaida stronghold, it ranks as one of the poorest, most desolate places on earth. But the mysterious Dragon Blood Tree, the Socotra Cormorant, seven kinds of frankincense – a most extraordinary endemic wildlife and an unwordly landscape all add up to the great bizarreness of Socotra. So here I am – at last. For years, I have been reading whatever I can find: from ancient Egyptian descriptions to reports from 20th century expeditions. I conducted many hours worth of interviews with people who knew the place. So now it is my turn to be here, and what is more: at the height of the stormy season. With the wind violently pulling at my hair, I carefully descend the steps onto island soil. The curiosity inside me is overwhelming – as is my anxiousness. Ahead of me lie the western foothills of the Haggier Mountains, pushing up 1.500 meters into the sky like water-eaten


sugar cones, with clusters of clouds rushing over them. Ahead of me also lie a couple of weeks of intense exploration and adventure. Socotra is a lone island in the Indian Ocean, tectonic in origin and situated at 12°30’36” North and 53°55’12” East. Its nearest mainland is Somalia, 240km away. Socotra is sheltered by steep cliffs with a flat coastal plain in the north and a much smaller one along its southern shore. Behind the islands capital town Hadibo, the cliffs rise to mountains, summiting in the over 1500m high Hagghier. Steep-sided gorges and valleys cut through the central highlands. The only inland waters are small creaks gushing through the valleys. Only few are perennial and there is little arable land. The island was inhabited since the Stone Age but only discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1503. For centuries, the ‘Sheikhdom of Socotra Archipelago’ was part of the ‘Mahra Sultanate of Qishn and Socotra’ before being incorporated into modern Yemen less than 50 years ago. Remote and well secluded, Socotra features a unique plant- and wildlife. I had read about mysterious Dragon Blood Trees that were said to have originated at the very spot where an elephant – in his death throes – had buried the last dragon beneath him. I had been told about a landscape that was otherworldly. And I had heard about natives that dwelt in remote mountain caves and lived in harmony with nature. I had come to discover a paradise – remote and mystical – and I was excited to do so. After all, the name of this island originated from the Sanskrit «Dvipa Sukhadhra», Island of Blessed. A thousand year-old record in a Greek book from the first Century AD called «Periplus Maris Erythraei» reported about Socotra:


“So, here I am. Socotra! I had

come to discover a paradise – remote and mystical – and I was excited to do so.”


‘The beach appeared to be absolutely deserted. At any rate, there was no trace of dwellings.’


Jules Verne (1874)

‘On our arrival upon this coast we found there a savage race.’


François Fénelon (1699)

“And you must know that in this island there are the best enchanters in the world.�

Richard F. Burton (1856)

‘And you must know that in this island there are the best enchanters in the world.’


Marco Polo (c. 1300)

‘Seeing a small shark brought ashore the other day by one of the fishermen, who had found it rolled up in his net, put me in mind of an exciting adventure I had many years



Louis Becke (1904)

‘On our landing quite a crowd of wild-looking men and women, all clad only in loincloth, met us on the beach.’


H. Wilfrid Walker (1909)

Sheikh Abdullah Salem Hassan al-Jamhi of the Sheikhdom of the Socotra Archipelago.


‘He caught the goats as they ran, his agility had become so great by dint of constant exercise, that he scoured the woods, rocks, and hills, with a perfectly incredible speed.


He easily caught the goats, and brought them to us on his back.’

Jules Verne (1881)

“A rumbling, cracking noise is heard

among the mountains. Shadows of clouds sweep across the scene.”


‘A rumbling, cracking noise is heard among the mountains. Shadows of clouds sweep across the scene.’

Friedrich Schiller (1804)

Epilogue Critical Tract on the Depiction of Exploration, Adventure, and Islands

Islands – strange and magical, far away in dangerous waters – have for centuries driven Europeans to explore and to discover. Though by definition only “a piece of land surrounded by water” (Oxford Dictionary), the term describes more than just a landmass; the phrase island is inextricably linked with notions of how these places look, feel, and the myth tied around them: “They emphasize sensuality, escape, solitude, seduction, and self-sufficiency. [...] Islands also can be lonely, inhospitable, forbidden, or mysterious.” (Resh & Resh 2009) Our understanding of islands is implicitly linked to, and cannot be separated from, the way we have been invited to experience islands by those who first reported on them. We have come to see islands through the prism offered by the accounts, genuine or fictionalized, of Westerners who went out to search, conquer and colonize them. The islands these adventurers and colonists describe are luscious or murderous, inhabited by wild animals or savages, ruled by sultans or sheikhs. Islands have come to be associated with notions “of bounty, of primitivism and paradisalism” (Zurick 1995) in Western eyes. While this contural construct may seem primeval to us whoinhabit a modern and increasingly multipolar world, it continues to be affirmed, in one way or another, by contemporary works of fiction. Even today, cast-away sagas and sailor’s yarns, exploration and adventure reports, tales of mystery


and paradise islands abound as we can see in movies like The Beach (2000), books like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) or the commercially successful and critically acclaimed television series Lost (2004-2010). In a contemporary world of everyday boredom and habitual stress, the island’s “allure of (seemingly) complete worlds, introspective ecosystems, secured by natural borders” (Cohen, 1988) has as much appeal as it did in colonial times. Yet the cultural history of islands is old. In the Age of Exploration and Discovery – roughly from the 15th to the 17th century – European ships started to sail the world in search of adventures and treasures such as gold, silver, and spices. In the process, Europeans encountered peoples and mapped lands previously unknown to them. They discovered new territories and islands and conquered and ruled over them. As their ships wrecked in heavy seas or hazardous waters, sailors were cast away and mutineers marooned on remote islands. By the 15th century, Europeans explored the African coast in search of a water route to India. In 1492, Christopher Columbus famously reached the Americas. The Spanish made first conquests and quickly possessed most of the New World. The Portuguese took Brazil. The British, French, and Dutch conquered islands in the Caribbean. In 1503, Captain Fernandes Pereira was the first white man to discover the island of this book, Socotra – following brave and adventurous Portuguese expeditions: first down south along the western shore of Africa in the second half of the 15th century and then – after the glorious rounding of the southern tip of the continent in 1488 – up north again on its eastern coastline. In that same year, the sea route to India was discovered. In 1507, a fleet commanded by Tristão da Cunha, and with the great military genius Afonso de Albuquerque aboard, landed on Socotra on their way to subdue India. On Socotra, they discovered an Arab fort (which they conquered) and a mosque (which they turned into a church) and sailed


off to India, self-affirmed as saviours of the island’s then Christian natives against the Muslim Arabs. The freed, however, feared enslavement and revolted against their new masters. By the end of the first decade of the 16th century the Portuguese abandoned Socotra and the islands passed into the hands of the Sultans of Mahra in 1511. Islands were not only conquered in the harsh reality of foreign seas but also in the warm drawing rooms of the general public at home, where they were accompanied by fictitious tracts. Already the very first reports offered by returning sailors on the faraway places they had visited encouraged a very distinct notion of islands. The early days of European maritime travel saw “the emergence of the tropical and oceanic island as an important new social metaphor and image of nature in its own account.” (Grove: 1995) Island became a synonym for adventure, rooted in the experiences of seafaring men. In 1516, the English statesman and philosopher Sir Thomas More published the book Utopia in which he describes a fictional island society and its religious, social and political customs. His writing surpasses other accounts on islands in as much as Sir Thomas drafts a new – and in his opinion perfect – form of society. In order to develop his model, he uses the potential of islands as secluded entities. Perfect does not mean peaceful, though: More promotes colonialism in his writing and suggests that Islanders, if their island becomes too small, should go out and conquer other islands. A few years prior to this, in 1512, Gerardus Mercator was born in the Flamish town of Rupelmonde. Mercator is famous for devising a cylindrical map projection that became the standard for nautical maps – the Mercator projection. Even though this invention would prove most useful for future seafarers and explorers, at his time it was a different discovery that made him famous and


“ We have come to see islands

through the prism offered by the accounts, genuine or fictionalized, of men who went out to search, conquer and colonize them.�


wealthy: Mercator found a way to produce globes in an economical way – by moulding papier-mâché on a wooden cast on which he glued world maps with curved edges that narrowed towards the poles. It was now possible to literally hold the whole world in your hand – and to place it on your desk, next to your pile of letters and other unfinished business. Mercator also became an early advocate of a large format bound compilation of maps which he called Atlas – again playing with the image of holding the world in your hands as Atlas is the name of the poor fellow in ancient mythology who has to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Mercator encouraged his friend Abraham Ortelius to produce and print Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. It soon became a fashion amongst wealthy noble men to show-off their education and their savoir vivre with expensive globes and atlantes. In fact, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum became the word’s first true coffee table book. A main characteristic of coffee table books is that their alleged functionality must not lessen their true purpose as a status symbol. The globes made by Mercator and the atlases printed by the famous Antwerp presses Gillis and Plantijn were splendid and beautiful – they were, however, of no use to sailors for navigation purposes. Exorbitantly expensive, they were symbols for the education and knowledge of their owners. They were about fantasizing more than they were about navigating, just like More’s Utopia was not so much about island as geographical entities but about spaces of wonder and possibility. The Age of Discovery was followed by the Age of Colonization and the European Empires were formed. Men continued to travel the world and document their impressions. Fantasizing about islands was en vogue. In this era, novels like Gulliver’s Travels (1726), The Mysterious Island (1874), and Treasure Island (1883) were written. Yet, none of these books was more famous than Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719. Considered to be


List of Quotes 18: “The Mysterious Island” by Jules Verne (1874) 20: “Les Aventures de Télémaque” by François Fé-

nelon (1699) 22: “A Memory Of The Southern Seas” by Louis Becke (1904) 24: “Denmark” by M. Pearson Thomson (1921) 26: “Wanderings Among South Sea Savages” by H. Wilfrid Walker (1909) 28: “One Thousand and One Nights” by Anonymous (c. 800) / Antoine Galland (1704-17017) 30:

“Main-Travelled Roads” by Hamlin Garland (1891) 34: “Jungle Tales Of Tarzan” by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1906) 36: “Celebrated Travels and Travellers

- Part 2. The Great Navigators of the 18th Century” by Jules Verne (1881) 38: “The Highlands of Ethiopia” by William Cornwallis Harris (1846) 40: “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” from “One Thousand and One Nights” by Antoine Galland (1706) 42: “An Isle in the Water” by Katharine Tynan (1896) 44: “Defeat” by John Galsworthy (1916) 46: “Of Cannibals” by Michel de Montaigne (1580) 50: “Three More John Silence Stories” by Algernon Blackwood (1908) 52: “The Cave Boy of the Age

of Stone” by Margaret A. McIntyre (1907) 54: “The Mysterious Island” by Jules Verne (1874) 56: “The Mysterious Island” by Jules Verne (1874) 58: “Flames” by Robert Hichens (1897) 60: “Captivity and Restoration” by Mary Rowlandson (1682) 62: “Schamah. Travel Tales in the Promised Land ” by karl May (1907) 66: “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe (1719) 68: “The Golden Spears And Other Fairy Tales” by

Edmund Leamy (1911) 70: “The Life of a Ship” by R.M. Ballantyne (1882) 72: “The White Chief” by Captain Mayne Reid (1855)74: “In the Forbidden Land” by Arnold Henry Savage Landor (1899) 76: “Cattle and Their Diseases” by Robert Jennings (1864) 78: “A Modern Buccaneer” by Rolf Bol-

drewood (1894) 82: “First footsteps in East Africa” by Richard F. Burton (1856) 84: “Mackarel-Fishing” by Robert

Arnold (1878) 86: “The Brown Fairy Book” by Andrew Lang (1904) 88: “The Travels of Marco Polo” by Marco Polo (c. 1300) 90: “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) 92: “The Coral Island” by R.M. Ballantyne (1857) 94: “Of Cannibals” by Michel de Montaigne (1580) 98: “Of Cannibals” by Michel de Montaigne (1580) 100: “Observations on the Mussulmauns of In-

dia” by Meer Hassan Ali (1912) 102: “Hebrew Life and Times” by Harold B. Hunting (1921) 104: “Wilhelm Tell” by Friedrich Schiller (1804) 106: “Celebrated Travels and Travellers - Part III. The Great Explorers of the 19th Century” by Jules Verne (1881) 108: “Mud and Khaki - Sketches from Flanders” by Vernon Bartlett (1917)


Bibliography Anderson, Benedict (1983): Imagined communities. Verso, London. Andrews, Malcolm (1989): The

Search for the Picturesque. Stanford University Press, Stanford. Baum, Tom (1997): The fascination of islands: A tourism perspective. In: Lockhart, Douglas & Drakakis-Smith, David: Island tourism: trends and prospects. Pinter Publishers, London. Birkett, Dea (2000): Castaways: Why they’re all living in a fool’s paradise. In: Daily Mail, 20 January 2000, London. Boggs, Richard (2009): The Lost World of Socotra - Yemen’s Island of Bliss. Stacey International, London Botting, Douglas (2006): Island of the Dragon’s Blood. Steve Savage Publishers, London. Cohen, Philip (1998): Who Needs an Island? In: New Formations 33. Lawrence & Wishart, London. Connell, John (2003): Island dreaming: the contemplation of Polynesian paradise. In: Journal of Historical Geography, Volume 29, Issue 4. Elsevier, Amsterdam. Cheung, Catherine & Devantier Lyndon (2006): Socotra - A Natural History of the Islands and their

People. Odeyssey Books and Guides, Hong Kong. Van Damme, Kay & Banfield, Lisa (2011): Past and present human impacts on the biodiversity of Socotra Island (Yemen). In: Biodiversity Conservation in the Arabian Peninsula, Zoology in the Middle East. Kasparek Verlag, Heidelberg. Grove, Richard (1995): Green imperialism. Colonial expansion, tropical Edens and the origins of environmentalism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. al-Hajri, Hilal Said (2006): Orientalism Reappraised: British Travel-writing on Oman. Peter Lang Publishing, Pieterlen. Joyce, James (1912, March). Lecture on Daniel Defoe and William Blake. Università Popolare, Trieste. Korte, Barbara (2000): English Travel Writing: From Pilgrimages to Postcolonial Explorations. Palgrave, New York. Lickfeld, Claus-Peter (2006): Sokotra: Welt der Wunder. In: Geo Saison, Nr. 09/2006. Gruner + Jahr, Hamburg. Lutz, Cathrine & Collins, Jane (1993): Reading National Geography. University Of Chicago Press, Chicago. Manwaring, Kevan (2008): Lost Islands: Inventing Avalon, Destroying Eden. Heart of Albion Press, Loughborough. Marcus, George & Fischer, Michael (1986): Anthropology as cultural critique. University of Chicago Press,

Chicago. Moser, Charles (1918): The Isle of Frankincense. In: The National Geographic Magazine, Vol. XXXII, No 3., March 1918, National Geographic Society, Washington DC. Resh, Vincent, & Resh, Jon (2009). Islands in Popular Culture. In: R. G. Gillespie, Encyclopedia of Islands (pp. 761-765). University of California Press, Berkeley. Rothenberg, Tamar (2007): Presenting America’s World: Strategies of Innocence in National Geographic Magazine, 1888–1945. Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot. Schulenburg, Alexander (2003): ‘Island of the blessed’: Eden, Arcadia and the picturesque in the textualizing of St Helena.

In: Journal of Historical Geography, Volume 29, Issue 4, Elsevier, Amsterdam. Spurr, David (1999): The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Adminsitration. Duke University Press, Durham. Steet, Linda (2000): Veils and Daggers: A Century of National Geographic’s Representation of the Arab World. Temple University Press, Philadelphia. Torgovnick, Marianna (1990): Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern lives. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Watt, Ian (1954): Robinson Crusoe as a Myth. In: Essays in Criticism, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Zurick, David (1995): Preserving paradise. In: The Geographical Review. American Geographical Society, New York.


acknowledgment The production of this artist’s book was made possible through the proceeds of a fund raising action. Those early backers are especially thanked for their generous support as are all those who contributed with their ideas, thoughts, and advice.

01 Barbara & Claus Schulze 06 Mieke Verrelst 07 Arnaud van Cutsem 08 Ellen Meuwissen 09 Hollandse Hoogte 10 Jessica Braun 11 Carolin Schulze 12 Steven Cappuyns 13 Daniel

Biscan 14 Peter Bitzer / laif 15 Griet Brosens 16 Ulf Gervelmeyer 17 Michael Wiedorn 18 Bohdana Rambousková 19 Anneliese Wiedorn 20 Katja Setzkorn 21 Anjes Tjarks 22 Hendrik Sommerfeld 23 Petr Mlcoch 24 Camille Verrelst 25 Emile Verrelst 26 Quinten Verrelst 27 Jeff Lang 28 Jonas Fischer 29 Axel Stump 30 Markus Raeder 31 Andreas Weisz 32 Barbara Messow & Manuel Sarrazin 33 Matthias Sommerfeld 34 Marcus Niedt/Jura-

Mond Verlag 35 Marino Franco 36 Jonas Paul 37 Vincent Brunet 38 Kemal Gazioglu 39 Oyex HandelsGmbH 40 Anadolu Endüstri Co.KG 41 Anna Kotowska-Kuntner 42 Jürgen Kuntner 43 Charlie Verrelst 44 Marjan Claes 45 Lander Jorens 46 Kati Verstrepen 47 Marc Opfermann 48 Pieter-Jan Kegels 49 Jeroen Beirnaert 50 Regina Plaar / laif 51 Lars Bober 52 Renate Opfermann 53 Werner Wiedorn 54 Thomas Raeder 55 Ivana Hejalova 56 Eva Ruzickova 57 Oskar Piegsa 58 Mareike Engels 59 Carolyn Drake & Andres Gon-

zales 60 Madalena Xanthopoulos 61 Freek Kuin 62 Herman Verrelst 63 Saadet Ciftci 64 Willi Placke 65 Florian Divi 66 Dirk Chabot 67 Uli Wiedorn 68 Claus-Peter Brahmer 69 Kirk Henderson 70 Jack Roe 71 Corentin De Ricaud 72 Lukas Schmidt 73 Rezy Van der Linden 74 Andrea Mao 75 Paul Lowe 76 Koen Rochtus 77 Ingrid Ross 78 Abduljameel / 79 Anne-Catherine Deignan 80 Simone Breda 81 Emily Reardon 82 Caro Alexandra Geist 83 Salvador Carranza 84 Uwe Zajonz 85 Bruno Massa 86 Yvonne & Andreas Mutsch 87 Simon Hofer 88 Alice Smeets 89 Karen Fu 90 Lea Narr 91 Harald Stutte 92 Myke Dodge 93 Jo Struyven 94 Julian Champion 95 Anders P. Grotle 96 Martin Bauer 97 Harry Hardie 98 Kummer & Herrman 99 Dirk Bollen 100 Toon van Camp

"Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going. Travel is glamorous only in retrospect." - Paul Theroux

As a photographer, Claudius Schulze travelled and worked in over forty countries, concentrating on extended photographic projects. Though a documentary photographer, he tries to depict the imagined as well as than the factual, always striving to find the world that lies below the surfaces of the obvious. His book Socotra is a visual journey to the idea of islands, strange and magical. It earned him the invitation to become an Associate with the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain and a nomination for the World Press Photo’s Master Class. Claudius’ work has appeared in numerous international publications including Geo, Stern, Der Spiegel, GQ, and Men’s Health. His photographs have been exhibited in London, New York, Istanbul, and Brussels, among other places. Prior to photography, Claudius Schulze was originally trained in Conflict Resolution. He studied Political Science and Islamic Studies at Hamburg University and received a Master’s degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Sabanci University, Istanbul, as well as a Master’s degree in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism at LCC, University of the Arts London. He currently lives in Brussels.

Socotra (Sneak Preview)  

A short clip of my forthcoming book "Socotra - An Island" 128 pages, 46 large colour photographs including 6 fold out panoramas, two essays....