Tuesday 24 April 2018

Kate Leeming’s documentary Njinga is a must-see

Dr Kate Leeming is often told she’s ‘mad’.

An accomplished athlete and explorer, Kate has cycled the equivalent of twice around the world at the equator, braving extreme weather conditions and hostile terrains, even skirting around the edges of civil war. In response, she has chosen to redefine what ‘mad’ means; Making A Difference.

Yesterday, Kate visited with students from Buckley House and will do the same with primary students at Plenty Campus on Thursday. In her presentation, she talks about her various expeditions including the 2010 Breaking the Cycle journey across Africa and her upcoming Breaking the Cycle South Pole expedition. Ivanhoe Grammar School will be connecting with Kate on the planned South Pole expedition via video link, following along on her journey to make the first bicycle crossing of the Antarctic continent via the South Pole.​ Trips like these require months of preparation, with Kate commenting that most of the work happens “before you even get on the bike.” Building partnerships, raising funds and in the case of the South Pole trip, inventing an entirely new kind of bike capable of roughing the freezing conditions. Kate demonstrated for the students how her custom-made ‘Fat Bike’ works. Looking part mountain bike, part motorcycle it is 100% leg powered with all-wheel drive capability. She worked closely with the designer to create a bike that could handle the task.

Many students had questions for Dr Leeming at the end of her presentation, most tackling issues of mechanics and preparation. But when a student asked who was her ‘idol’, she insisted she didn’t have one. “I don’t believe in idolising, but I am inspired by all the great explorers.” This included her own great uncle who once cycled from Western Australia to Melbourne to propose to his future wife. (She said yes.) Another student asked if her parents worried about her when she went on such intrepid adventures. “My parents will always worry, but they are also proud. And when I was awarded an honorary doctorate, they were very proud!”

Kate’s African expedition was the basis for her documentary, Njinga which won Best Documentary, Best Cinematography and was runner-up for Best Director at the Action on Film International Film Festival in LA. The documentary charts her 22,000-kilometre journey by bike from Senegal to Somalia and the diverse communities she met along the way. Njinga tackles the link between poverty and education in many parts of Africa, particularly for young girls, and the devastating effects of long-standing civil war. But it also shows what communities are capable of when they work together, as she discovered when she met the inspirational women at the Hargeisa School of the Deaf in Somaliland, Somalia. Njinga is essential viewing for anyone who wants to be inspired to see what is possible through hard work and commitment.

As part of the Global Goals Series, the Global Citizenship Centre has organised a special Ivanhoe Grammar School community screening of Njinga at Palace Cinemas Westgarth on Monday 7 May 2018. Very limited tickets are available. Book here before Friday 27 April.