Jackson, WY, September 29, 2023 — The National Geographic Society was recognized with two Jackson Wild Media Awards yesterday during the Jackson Wild Summit in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. The Society’s film Nkashi: Race for the Okavango won for “Original Music Score” and National Geographic Explorer Ciril Jazbec won “Short Form – Climate Categories” for his Society-funded film Dream to Cure Water. The Jackson Wild Media Awards are some of the most prestigious in the world of nature filmmaking, and were launched to celebrate excellence and innovation in nature, science and conservation storytelling.
Over 450 films entered the competition this year with over 1,100 category entries from 74 different countries around the world. Finalists were selected by more than 200 international judges who together screened over 1,000 hours of media. The Society was a finalist in two other categories: Healy for “Natural Science – Short Form” and Nkashi: Race for the Okavango for “Global Voices.”
“At the National Geographic Society, we believe in the power of stories and storytelling across the globe,” said Kaitlin Yarnall, the Society’s chief storytelling officer. “This is evident in the grants we give and the projects we produce ourselves, and we’re incredibly proud to be recognized for this work by Jackson Wild.”
Nkashi: Race for the Okavango was filmed in Botswana, in the Setswana language, and in close collaboration with a team of Batswana filmmakers. The film score features six tracks by Motswana musician Thato Kavinja (who goes by the stage name Koolkat Motyiko, also known as Mr. Seronga) and two tracks from the Nature Environment & Wildlife Filmmakers (NEWF) Composers Lab, which is part of the Society’s Africa Refocused program. The film was created by the Society’s Impact Story Lab — an award-winning creative unit within the organization — and directed by Sarah Joseph. Joseph serves as a producer, along with Dustin Sylvia and National Geographic Explorer Thalefang Charles. Yarnall, Vanessa Serrao and National Geographic Explorer Steve Boyes serve as executive producers.
“Having grown up in the Delta, I relate with Nkashi: Race for the Okavango on many levels — after all, it’s about my home, Seronga, and our Wayei heritage,” said Kavinja. “In many ways, my music is about returning to one’s roots, and I treasured the opportunity to make music for Nkashi for that very reason. When we tell a Botswana story, it’s even more powerful when it’s set to our home-grown music and instruments that carry the sounds, emotions and melodies of the Delta. I’m grateful to Jackson Wild for recognizing our work in this category, and to my fellow NEWF Composers who joined me in bringing this story to life.”
Nkashi: Race for the Okavango shows the triumphs and challenges of three mokoro (dugout canoe) polers, celebrates Botswana’s cultural heritage, and illuminates the importance of the Okavango Delta — one of the most unique wetlands in the world. The team curated a musical score that engages local musicians and embodies the sounds, rhythms, instruments, and expressions of the Okavango Delta. Kavinja licensed his breakout hit “Ko Seronga” — which is credited with inspiring travel to the Delta — and composed and recorded six additional tracks for the film with his producing partner, Mikael Rosen. Later in the filmmaking process, the team brought a pan-African dimension to the soundtrack by engaging NEWF’s Composers Lab, including musicians from Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Morocco, Nigeria and France for a multi-day, immersive experience in the Delta. The fellows each brought an instrument from their respective country to show the unique music of different African countries. The film and annual Nkashi Classic race are made possible through the Okavango Eternal partnership between National Geographic and De Beers.
Jazbec’s Dream to Cure Water is part of the three-chapter multimedia project addressing global glacial melt. His film is set in Peru’s Andes Mountains, which is home to 70 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers that have receded by approximately 40 percent since the 1970s. Dream to Cure Water spotlights the cultivation and intensive farming brought by this glacial melt water as a result of climate change, and the negative impacts faced by local communities in Peru.
“As an advocate for the communities directly affected by globalization and the increasing impacts of climate change, I am deeply honored to be recognized for my film Dream to Cure Water,” said Jazbec. “I hope people walk away from this film learning something they didn’t know before, like the harmful effects that glacier melt has on the locals living in the Andes Mountains. It’s imperative that we work with local scientists and farmers to implement solutions that combat water contamination, and we need storytelling like this to shed light on the crisis.”
Jazbec’s project came to fruition after he received support from The Climate Pledge in 2022 through the Society’s Global Storytellers Fund. The Climate Pledge is a commitment co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism to reach net-zero carbon by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. Each story in Jazbec’s multimedia project is rooted in resilience, healing and optimism in the face of one of the world’s greatest challenges. With Dream to Cure Water, Jazbec emphasizes solutions that incorporate ancestral knowledge and academic science.
A number of National Geographic Explorers — exceptional individuals in their field who receive funding from the Society — received awards during the ceremony, including conservation storyteller Hans Cosmas Ngoteya, who was this year’s recipient of the Rising Star award, which recognizes outstanding achievement alongside extended impact. The award was presented to Ngoteya by fellow Explorers Malaika Vaz and Bertie Gregory.
“It’s inspirational to be recognized at this level,” said Ngoteya. “It’s an award not just for me but for everyone behind me and it shows how valuable our stories are — stories from Africa and Tanzania. I hope it inspires the next generation of African storytellers so they know there’s a stage for them.”