Telling the Bees
of the passing of
Early this Thanksgiving morning, beloved Kodua Galieti, passed away on her ranch in Elkton, Oregon. She was surrounded by her loving husband, Jeff, her mother, and all her sisters.
Kodua Galieti, an international photo-journalist and a long-time member of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association and the California State Beekeepers Association, gave generously and graciously of her talents in support of honey bees. Kodua Galienti’s exquisite honey bee photography adorns the walls of the L.A. County Fair Bee Booth and is featured throughout our LACBA website.
Her Bee-Inspired calendars and honey bee photography could be found in bookstores, libraries, and at bee conventions and trade shows across the country. She had an enormous talent for capturing the life and life stages of bees. Kodua Galieti could light up a room with her spirit and fill your heart with joy.
For more than a decade Kodua masterfully captured the complexities and wonders of the human experience as a photojournalist. Kodua was drawn to themes of personal story, culture, and traditions, family, faith, animals, and bees.
She has not only raised chimps but her passion for bees had led her to become a beekeeper and Kodua devoted her talent and resources toward the preservation of these incredibly important pollinators.
Each September, Kodua's photography adorns the walls of the LA County Fair Bee Booth, bringing the beauty and complexities of honey bees to thousands of fair goers.
Kodua was featured on the cover of American Bee Journal and WASP magazine, and was the selected photographer for Bee Culture’s “An Almond Odyssey.”
In an article for Calmful Living, Kodua Galieti shared her passion for honey bees:
“As I would check in on the bees—go in there, look at the frames—I was just amazed at what inside the hive looked like. So it was natural for me to bring my camera. I started doing a lot of macro photography, and it opened up into a whole new world. I think there’s such a beauty and whimsical elegance to the bees when you see them up close like that. I didn’t know they had fur until I photographed them. I didn’t know they had hair on their eyeballs until I started looking that close, and boy, it’s a different world! I fell in love with it.”
“Most beekeepers don’t look at bees through a macro lens. They’re just doing their jobs, tending the bees. So to be able to bring this little creature into such magnification for them has been amazing.
“I’ve watched diehard beekeepers stand in front of these images in awe, and realized they are seeing sometimes for the first time what it really looks like that close with that magnification.”
“I’ve gone to bee conferences all over the United States and Hawaii. I have a beautiful exhibit I’ve set up that tells the story from the hive to harvest of the bees.”
“I’m trying to make it so that bees are more approachable, even to children. Instead of people wanting to freak out and swat it away, I can go, ‘Wait! Look at it! Learn about it! It’s not so scary. It’s a beautiful little insect there.’”
I don’t have any fear of them, which is what happens when you know how to read them. One thing I love about bees is you can’t train them. You have to come into their world and respect their world and the way they do things. So when you go into the apiary, you do it their way; you respect their way of doing things. It’s their society that you’re coming into, and you respect that. By doing so, then they let you into this world.”
(Thank you very much to Kodua Galieti’s sister, Renee Bennett, for permission to share the following tribute, “My Sister’s Hands.”)
”My Sister’s Hands”
By Renee Bennett
I write this in celebration of my sister, Kodua Michelle Bennett Galieti who passed away early this morning here at her farm in Elkton, Oregon.
I write this only in celebration and tribute, not as a plea for sympathy.
Last week, sitting next to her while she napped, I just stared at her hands. And then I took a photograph.
We come from a long line of makers, craftspeople, and artists. Hands hold stories and my sister’s had many chapters reflecting a life that seemed most days more fantasy than non-fiction.
As a teen and into her early twenties she would use them to guide her horse into an almost parallel lean to the ground rounding barrels at top speed in many a rodeo. She used them to hold shovels to muck out stables at a local thoroughbred race horse farm as her after school job. My sisters and I never shied away from shovels, rakes, hoes, or posthole diggers.
Her hands waved in parades and rodeo processions the year she was crowned Miss Rodeo Louisiana.
She and her husband have four horses here at the farm. The newest, a wild mustang (recently, mostly tamed) a lifelong dream of hers to own one, fulfilled, a gift from her husband a few months ago. She and her husband Jeff, rode their horses up many mountains in the most beautiful of places, sleeping under the stars.
In her late twenties she became a massage therapist in Los Angeles and created her own signature line of oils and lotions because she didn’t like what was in the marketplace. While I was pregnant with one of my sons, I complained that I wished I could get a massage, so she invented and patented a pregnancy massage table. She became certified in labor and delivery and an instructor certifying massage therapists in pregnancy massage. Her therapist hands also helped Alzheimer's patients, the elderly suffering from phlebitis, and those in chronic pain from accidents. She went to Ghana, Africa and Papua, New Guinea as part of medical mission trips. She massaged the necks, shoulders and feet of people who ached from walking miles for water with buckets and urns on their heads. Her hands healed people.
She completely and utterly delighted any person lucky enough to know her during her years as a foster parent to dozens (yes dozens) of baby chimpanzees and orangutans because we got to hold them and play with them. She placed large eyebolts to hold a giant rope across the length of her Echo Park bedroom so any primate in her care could climb. Her niece and nephews loved being able to hang out with baby primates. Such fun. The last chimp she cared for was also her namesake, Baby Kodua. Many of them were retired and they now live in Florida at the Center for Great Apes. I have such vivid memories of my sister in full grin with a baby chimpanzee in her arms.
Both of her thumbs were green.
She didn’t just garden. She GARDENED. To match her personality, her garden vegetables were gigantic. She would send us photos of her wheelbarrow filled to the brim with her harvest of the day. Those hands of hers were happiest digging in the dirt. She would flip through the pages of Baker Creek Seed Catalogue buying up every packet of Heirloom seeds that caught her fancy. So many seeds. She planted them with the childlike anticipation of Christmas. And because she seemed to have the same tomato vines producing year round, she canned her own salsas and spaghetti sauces.
She perfected the most delicious of “fall off the bone” smoked ribs. She made her special rub and proceeded to guard them on “her” grill for hours. She made many delicious meals. Always heavy handed on the cayenne pepper. She loved spicy. When visiting family in Louisiana and out at a restaurant eating boiled crawfish she always asked the waiter to bring her more cayenne. Her palate would make a Cajun cry.
Several years ago she decided she wanted to be a bee keeper. She spent her life making statements of wanting to try something new and then she would just do it. I admired that about her. No second guessing, no overthinking, she would do things she wanted to do, go places she wanted to go. So, she joined the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association and then started one hive after another of bees. She got an extractor, a real stainless large extractor and bottled gallons of honey. And, she then gave it away to every person in her day to day life. Hundreds of bottles of delicious raw honey, gifting it and gifting it. She trained me to help her when I visited. Once she convinced me to help her move a feral hive high in a treetop into a bee box to be relocated. Though she convinced me it would be easy, it was not. Prior to us relocating it she tried to convince her husband that he could move it. His stings ended with him at the Emergency Room. But through some insane branch breaking millions of bees flying around and several hours later, we did it. It wasn’t pretty but we did it. Her husband Jeff’s, bee stings were the battle wounds of the day.
All along the way she was a photographer. At first it was just documenting her time on international mission trips. Cuba. Mexico. Norway. Africa. New Guinea. Switzerland. Then she documented her life with the chimps. She always photographed her loved ones and some of our favorite photographs are of my sons, my nephew and my niece. Those photos are the ones in which she captured their truest selves. She photographed her husband and their trips up the mountain on their draft horses. He took her once as a surprise to a remote area to witness a herd of wild mustangs. One of the best shots she took that trip is framed and hangs above their bed. She documented and then she would make photo albums for us to mark the occasions. Nice albums, forever albums.
And then, a few years ago she went macro. Her bees became her most favorite subject. She delighted in capturing brilliant orange pollen sacs and even mites on her bees’ butts. She documented the California Almond Odyssey in which millions of bees are shipped in to orchards for pollination it was shared in Bee Culture magazine. She was hired by Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture to photograph their bees for research purposes. She produced for several years a bee calendar sold at bookstores and online. Her bee photographs can still be seen at the L.A. County Fair each year.
And then, almost five years ago her hands started closing in on themselves and after many tests and appointments their closure came to be the early symptom of ovarian cancer. Her hands wouldn’t be able take photos for almost a year. She went through chemo, she had physical therapy to work them. Her hands were the signal and gave us more years than we might have had otherwise. I am grateful for them, for their clues to a diagnosis. I am grateful they were attached our adventure seeking, hardworking, generous hearted, gifted, beautiful sister with a laugh that filled a room, with an attitude and fortitude that kept her with us longer than any other person with the same issues. A woman who was still smitten with her husband. Who showed her love for us with adventures and her license plate frame of “the fun has arrived”.
I am grateful for the example of living she has left for us as we mourn and celebrate her all in the same breath.
Live. Do. Try. Love.