Photographer Timo Heiny has created a unique world inside an old mill business in the Southern Palatinate town of Westheim: an ethnologic and a photographic collection and a factory for local products nestled in an exotic parkland.
Timo Heiny sits on his old wooden bench in the large garden—his favourite spot. He glances over the renaturalised Queich, a minor Rhine tributary that emanates from the Southern Palatinate mountains. “The idea is that one day salmons will jump up this fish ladder as they migrate to their spawning grounds,” says photographer Heiny, who started to wrest the terrain stretching several hectares behind the historical mill estate from the surrounding woods five years ago. “There was only undergrowth and damaged trees here and wild pigs roamed through the country,” he remembers. Hard to imagine given its appearance today. The estate near Westheim/Palatinate has become a contemplative oasis—even though the ten peacocks that now reside here can make quite some noise.
The park-like ensemble has three gardens whose creation required 1,200 tons of rock and the importation of earthworms from England to break up the soil. The gardens are devoted to the world religions. An angel is located above the entrance to the Christian monastery garden with all its herbs and plants. Moorish steles decorate the Islamic garden and its cypresses and Magnolias. Countless Buddha statues stand in the Asian garden.
They were brought here from a number of trips to Bali, Indonesia and Africa. “The estate is my home and the most beautiful place in the world. This is why we have opened it to the public. There are guided tours every Saturday. Our café invites our guests to relax, in our ‘Mehlmanufaktur’ factory we offer chutneys, conserves and flour, and you can stay overnight in one of the two guestrooms that we have established in our former remises.”
The driving force behind this creative impact is photography. Heiny has made photographic portraits of the native inhabitants of Africa for many years. In October 1989, 17-year-old Heiny visited Africa for the first time and he was immediately captivated. “In my childhood, I always dreamt of Africa, and I think my first word was elephant.” In the past 20 years, he has travelled along Omo River in Ethiopia, across Lake Turkana and Tsavo National Park in Kenya through to the coast of the Indian Ocean. He visited all of the local tribes some of which live very isolated; he lived with the Samburu, Turkana, Rendille, Pokot, Mursi, Daasanach, Karo, Hamar, Orma and many other peoples in the East African Rift. “I know that for them I was always an outsider, but they accepted me.” The Samburu called him ‘L Thumogi’ meaning ‘He who comes from a foreign country and became a friend’.