With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award
10 Questions For: Michael Markovina
A fisheries biologist, modern day explorer, the creator of TEDxSeaPoint and, most of all, a man who’s passionate about conserving the health and wealth of our oceans
1. How would you describe what you do for a living?
My work often takes on different roles. Currently, I am working as a consultant for the Indian Ocean Commission’s Smartfish Programme on monitoring, control and surveillance of illegal fisheries in East Africa. I spend most of the year in Tanzania working with a multi-agency government task team to investigate and eradicate the use of explosives to catch fish. I am also a director of Moving Sushi, a non-profit company that conducts internationally relevant marine expeditions to open access to large scientifically robust datasets concerning fisheries, food security issues etc. This combination of work is my passion, and I will continue serving the ocean with all my efforts until I absolutly can’t anymore. When I am not working, I work hard spending all my time in the ocean.
2. What is your most vivid childhood memory?
I have a collection of great memories. I was always the dirty kid, mud on my face, grazed knees, twigs in my hair. I remember the day, however, that I received my first diving wetsuit. I remember at the age of 4 climbing into my yellow 1980s-style Zero wetsuit. Thinking back now, I must have looked like a small banana running around the fynbos in front of the house, hunting for a winter rain puddle to jump into. I went diving holding on my dad’s back that day hunting for octopus; well, I caught my first one, cleaned it, and ate it, a lesson in life I had no idea I was learning. All I can say is that the most vivid and memorable memories in my life are often those that are shared.
3. If you could invite any three people, dead or alive, for dinner, who would they be and why?
Inviting dead people to dinner is not really my thing, bit of a morbid one-sided conversation, I imagine. However if I could chose to share my food with anyone, it would be with a collection of vegetarians and vegans, so I could enjoy all the meat.
No really, I would love to share a story with British explorer and author of Arabian Sands Wilfred Thesiger because during the empty quarter expedition he said, “for to have done the journey on a camel when I could have done it in a car would have turned the venture into a stunt.” I agree and this has paved a way for my interpretation of what modern day exploration should be about. Brilliant underwater photographer David Doubilet, because I love his photographs, and I want to be as influential in showcasing underwater imagery as he has been. Lastly, Ernest Hemingway, what a story, The Old Man and the Sea. The power of writing and storytelling is why I want him round the table. (It’s not meeting those of fame or fortune that matters, it’s the charater interaction and the sense of place that draws me to understand different people differently - that is interesting).
4. If you ever found yourself auditioning for a music reality TV show, what song would you sing and why?
There would never be a day when I would find myself singing, except if my wife told me to. If somehow that happened, I would consider the romantic rhythm of The Cinematic Orchestra and the song ‘To Build a Home’. It’s a goodie, but not likely to inspire a pop culture revolution any time soon. There are only two places where my singing is considered professional, in my mind and in the shower, wait, only in my mind… I still sound ridiculous in the shower.
5. How would you complete this sentence? The South African cabinet should include a Minister of____________________________.
It is not about having a new minister, it’s about having the best of our current ministers. It’s about having genuine intent to serve South Africans. I wouldn’t no say no to having a Minister of accountability and humility - that would be wonderful.
6. What would you say is the biggest misconception about you?
That I live an easy life of adventure and exploration. During the two Moving Sushi expeditions, I literally bankrupted myself both times. Trying to earn some money to pay bills, stress, family dramas, the documentaries not getting the funds required for post production, failing many times -and that’s just the start of it. My life is no more or less incredible or tragic than the world around me. It’s not about seeking attention or sympathy; it’s about dealing with it and remembering the fundamentals of why you chose what to do in the first place.
7. What is your (honest) opinion of Cape Town?
Cape Town is a complicated space, but no more or less than some of the 60 and counting countries I have been fortunate enough to travel in. We have our problems, and they are serious ones that we need to engage constructively with, but I am really positive about the youth of Cape Town. That’s our real strong point because they are not afraid of making themselves heard and striving to be better in all areas of life. I love my country and I love my Cape Town, it’s a creative canvas of talent, diversity, Southeasters gale force winds, wine and natural beauty, and let’s not forget about the magical ocean that makes Cape Town, for me, truly unique and special.
8. What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
I believe you have 3 sets of 10 to make a difference. Not to change the world completely, but to make a mark that will affect change in some way. Between 30 and 40 you are passionate, inspired and energetic. From 40 to 50 years of age you become an expert who is driving change, and finally, from 50 to 60 years you are able to inspire others and share you skills. I am now living my contributing years and my biggest fear is to miss this opportunity. I guess all that I must keep reminding myself is that the best you can do, for the greater good, whatever definition of greater good you stand by, during this time is all that is required.
9. What's the one thing you'd like to achieve before you die?
I would love to see a significant shift in humanity towards ensuring that the oceans wealth and health forms the centre stage of global development. Most importantly, I want to love my wife and family until the last second before I clock out. I want to not forget to smile, have fun and be a little silly along the way.
10. Which well-known South African personality would you, without a doubt, be able to beat in a street fight and why?
I have to admit I prefer pillow fighting to street fighting, especially when battling the Swedish ladies beach volleyball team… ok this has never happened, but it would be a better battle all round. If you had asked me what well-known South African scientist I would be able to beat, I might have been able to find an answer; however, because I don’t really know much about South African personalities, I guess that it would defintily NOT be the judges from SA Masterchef as they have superb knife skills.
Find out more about Michael’s Moving Sushi Marine Resource Expedition from Cape Town to Tokyo (in a four-wheeler). The project looked to document the positive use of marine resources and discover global solutions to fisheries management and conservation.
CapeTownMagazine.com’s 10 Questions project gets to know some of the Mother City’s most creative and inspiring people. From television personalities and musicians to politicians and entrepreneurs, we find out more about well-known and up-and-coming Capetonians. You can follow #CapeTownMag10Q on Twitter and Facebook to track recent interviews or read more here about our other awesome 10 Questions candidates.
A FEW OF OUR OTHER 10Q CANDIDATES:
10 Questions For MadWorld Entrepreneur Adelaide Potgieter
10 Questions For Newlands Station Manager for the Volunteer Wildfire Services Jon-Jon Emary
Looking to tick something truly Capetonian off your bucket list? You’ve gotta try free diving with our friends at Ocean Experiences.
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