Flowers, Films and Murder: The Story of Joan Root

Joan Root, illustration by Kaye Blegvad

Joan Root
1936–2006

Born in Nairobi in 1936, Joan Root was a conservationist and Oscar-nominated filmmaker best known for the series of wildlife films produced with her ex-husband, Alan. After the couple divorced in 1981, Root moved to their farm on Lake Naivasha in Kenya. There, she became an activist for the preservation of the lake and its surroundings. Plastic hot houses, erected to mine the fertility of the soil in pursuit of the lucrative flower trade, threatened the area’s ecosystem, a problem compounded by the flood of migrant workers to the region as well as ancillary markets, like fishing. She made many enemies during her quest to preserve the lake, all of which came to a head in 2006. Four men with AK-47 assault rifles surrounded her home and fired numerous rounds into the building, murdering Root just five days before her 70th birthday.

Remind yourself that the world is yours for the asking. The non-risker does not grow, you just get older.

Illustration by Kaye Blegvad. Blegvad is an illustrator and general maker-of-things, born and raised in London and now based in Brooklyn.

This article originally appeared in the Wild issue. For more inspiring stories about women, check out How I Started My Own Family Film Business and This Conservationist is Fixing the Global Poaching Problem in a Unique Way.

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