My first job was actually as a social worker. And then later, I got my PhD in anthropology. And I've always been interested in humans as well as primates. We are all kind of have the same emotions, the same goals and lives really. But to me, when I first got to Madagascar I realized that the lemurs lives are very closely related to what the humans are doing; partially because they've got both looking for natural resources. And if we can make some way that both humans and lemurs can live together peaceably and happily, that would be my goal for Madagascar.
There's over 100 species of lemurs. Each is a little bit different in their social structure except for one thing: they are all female dominant. The females are the leaders. They are the ones that call the shots. When you watch a group, you can see the females are the first one to say "We're going to move." Then she moves off and everybody just follows.
Airplane Dream #13' told the story, more or less, of a dream Rosa had had about the end of the world. There were no human beings left but her, and she had found herself flying in a pink seaplane to an island inhabited by sentient lemurs. There seemed to be a lot more to it - there was a kind of graphic "sound track" constructed around images relating to Peter Tchaikovsky and his works, and of course abundant food imagery - but this was, as far as Joe could tell, the gist. The story was told entirely through collage, with pictures clipped from magazines and books. There were pictures from anatomy texts, an exploded musculature of the human leg, a pictorial explanation of peristalsis. She had found an old history of India, and many of the lemurs of her dream-apocalypse had the heads and calm, horizontal gazes of Hindu princes and goddesses. A seafood cookbook, rich with color photographs of boiled crustacea and poached whole fish with jellied stares, had been throughly mined. Sometimes she inscribed text across the pictures, none of which made a good deal of sense to him; a few pages consisted almost entirely of her brambly writing, illuminated, as it were, with collage. There were some penciled-in cartoonish marginalia like the creatures found loitering at the edges of pages in medieval books.
Lemurs are extraordinarily leapers. I mean they are just really going from tree to tree and then if there is not a tree, they just come down to the ground very gracefully. But it is the music that makes them seem to be dancing. They are basically getting from one place to another and that's just natural for them. They are just natural acrobatic dancers, just the way they move. It's beautiful!
Lemurs are good parents but they do it in different ways. I originally studied father care. I was very interested in that and we saw that a lot of these animals that lived in pairs and the father wasn't doing anything at all for the first month. But then suddenly, when the baby got to be a certain weight then the dads chipped in and started carrying the babies which was very nice. And then if there was twins or triplets then they helped.
Perhaps no order of mammals presents us with so extraordinary a series of gradations as this [step by step, from humans to apes to monkeys to lemurs] - leading us insensibly from the crown and summit of the animal creation down to creatures, from which there is but a step, as it seems, to the lowest, smallest, and least intelligent of the placental Mammalia. It is as if nature herself had forseen the arrogance of man, and with Roman severity had provided that his intellect, by its very triumphs, should call into prominence the slaves, admonishing the conqueror that he is but dust.
I cannot now recall exactly what creatures I saw on that visit to the Antwerp Nocturama, but there were probably bats and jerboas from Egypt and the Gobi Desert, native European hedgehogs and owls, Australian opossums, pine martens, dormice, and lemurs, leaping from branch to branch, darting back and forth over the grayish-yellow sandy ground, or disappearing into a bamboo thicket. The only animal which has remained lingering in my memory is the raccoon. I watched it for a long time as it sat beside a little stream with a serious expression on its face, washing the same piece of apple over and over again, as if it hoped that all this washing, which went far beyond any reasonable thoroughness, would help it to escape the unreal world in which it had arrived, so to speak, through no fault of its own. Otherwise, all I remember of the denizens of the Nocturama is that several of them had strikingly large eyes, and the fixed, inquiring gaze found in certain painters and philosophers who seek to penetrate the darkness which surrounds us purely by means of looking and thinking.