news media coverage on Hava Hegenbarth
This story published online: October 11, 2003
Wild art on display at library
By MARY PIEPER, Of The Globe Gazette
MASON CITY — While working in Africa as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service over the past 10 years, Mason City native Holly “Hava” Hegenbarth has had several brushes with danger. Hegenbarth has survived uprisings and bombings, and also some potentially deadly situations with the wildlife she draws in her spare time. “I was charged by a couple of elephants in Zambia,” said Hegenbarth, who is home visiting her father, Al Hegenbarth, for a month before heading back to Africa. Fortunately, the elephants were familiar with the guide Hegenbarth was with. He yelled at them and they turned back.
Hegenbarth, a 1973 graduate of Mason City High School, has worked for the U.S. government for 18 years. Her work has taken her to Australia, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Israel. She was sent to Africa in 1994 as a diplomat working in communications. She has traveled to more than 30 African countries. Hegenbarth said was pleased with her new assignment because “I’ve always been interested in Africa, especially African wildlife.” Hegenbarth has always enjoyed drawing and painting. She discovered colored pencils were easy to take on the road with her to draw the wildlife she saw. Among the most delightful encounters she has had with wildlife were seeing a female mountain gorilla rock her baby in her arms and tickle it, and hearing the “laughter” of hippopotamuses ring across the valley where they live.
Hegenbarth’s first assignment in Africa was in Rwanda. Just two months after she arrived, a brutal civil war broke out and she and the other diplomats had to flee for their lives. Hegenbarth’s next assignment was in Tanzania. She was sent to the capital, Dar es Salaam, which in English means “Haven of peace.” For Hegenbarth that’s exactly what it was after her horrifying experiences in Rwanda. She made many friends there and painted a wildlife mural on the U.S. Embassy building. Hegenbarth was away on assignment when the embassy was bombed in 1998. When she heard the news, “my knees just buckled in,” she said, noting she knew some of the people who were killed in the attack. But despite all the danger, Hegenbarth loves the people and wildlife of Africa. “I can’t think of any other continent I’d rather go to,” she said.
Reach Mary Pieper at (641) 421-0578.