Save the rhinoceros!

Published on 06.04.2009 - Christina Franco North Pole Solo

You probably wouldn't expect to hear us talking about rhinoceroses in a series of reports chronicling polar journeys to the Arctic... And nor would we. Yet we still have to talk about them...

"And yet we still have to talk about them..." That's what Christina Franco says, the same young woman who experienced a terminal breakdown with her stove on day 2 of her initial trek when she was preparing to head for the North Pole.

So, what are rhinoceroses doing in all this? You certainly won't understand by looking at the photo. But you will when we tell you that one fine day, Christina was taken by some friends on a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), disguised as rhinoceroses. The aim was to raise international awareness of the tragic plight of this mammal that is in serious danger of becoming extinct in some parts of Africa (just as many other mammals are endangered all round the world, for that matter). And since then, Christina has been fighting to gain recognition for this noble cause.

Hence the idea of taking rhinoceros head to the North Pole. A woman, trekking solo to the North Pole with a rhino head on her sledge: now there's something to stir the media into a frenzy! Christina found the head after a production of Eugène Ionesco's play 'Rhinoceros' was halted prior to the end of its run (see explanation below) and the actors' costumes were auctioned off. Since the rhino head was given to her, Christina has already displayed it in the London and New York marathons, as well as in the Sahara and in South Africa.

So there was nothing left for Christina Franco to do but to try and take it with her to the North Pole. But as she was in the process of packing her bags again and flying off at the end of the week to Barneo base, there was still no clear indication of whether Victor Boyarski's Russian logistics team was going to allow her to take the rhino head with her!

Rhinoceros by Eugène Ionesco : an ambitious play in three acts and four scenes, Rhinoceros was first performed in 1959 in Düsseldorf. The following year in Paris, the play enabled Jean-Louis Barrault to establish his name on the stage as Berenger. The play is about the totalitarianism, indoctrination and fanaticism that can often take hold like an epidemic. To illustrate this phenomenon, Ionesco depicts minor officials in a small town who metamorphose, one after the other, into rhinoceroses. Protected by their thick hide and armed with their horns, they systematically destroy anyone doesn't look like them. Only an alcoholic fringe-dweller, Berenger, depicts an isolated figure of conscience who refuses to give in to the contamination. In the eyes of the playwright, he represents the "universal conscience" in his isolation and pain.

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