Scots have accepted me as one of theirs

Scots have accepted me as one of theirs

He is normally knee-deep in grass, wading through mud or following animals in the wild.

But Sudan-born wildlife photographer Hamza Yassin is currently on the other side of the camera being watched by millions with partner Jowita Przystal on Strictly Come Dancing.

While the nation warms to his new talent, a tiny community hall in a remote Scottish village has become the hot ticket to watch him on a Saturday night.

The 32-year-old’s friends and neighbors in the Highland village of Kilchoan are getting right behind him.

Hamza has lived in Kilchoan, on the peninsula of Ardnamurchan beside the Sound of Mull in Lochaber, for the past 11 years.

He told BBC Scotland it is where he learned his trade.

Hamza on Let’s Go For A Walk

“I cut my teeth as a wildlife cameraman in Scotland,” he said.

“I had the love of the wildlife from my African background. Growing up I always loved animals and wanted to work with them.

“But where I actually started getting proper work, and learning about the animals and actually getting close to them to be able to take the images that I did, was all in Scotland.”

He added: “It’s got so much habitat for wildlife. For me, Scotland is home, it’s accepted me as one of theirs and I absolutely love it. The west coast is close to my heart.”

Kilchoan

Hamza lives in Kilchoan, the most westerly village in Great Britain

Hamza moved to the UK when he was eight, and later gained a master’s degree in Biological Imaging and Photography, and a bachelor’s degree in Zoology with Conservation. He went on to become a published wildlife photographer and a tour guide, and is also a skilled ornithologist.

In July this year, Hamza received a Master Honors Degree from Bangor University, which one of his idols, Sir David Attenborough, has also received in the past.

He has worked on The One Show as one of their wildlife cameraman, leading him to land his own CBeebies show and Let’s Go For A Walk companion book.

He also appears on Countryfile and ITV’s This Morning, and has filmed and presented Channel 4 shows Scotland: My Life in the Wild and Scotland: Escape to the Wilderness.

His neighbors in Kilchoan claim credit for bringing out his inner dancer by getting him involved in village ceilidhs.

Hamza said: “I love dancing anyway but I didn’t know how to do it. Three times a year we have ceilidhs for occasions and that’s where the people in the village taught me how to dance. I love it.”

He may not be able to incorporate his Scottish country dancing into his Strictly routines, but he wants to include his Scottish culture.

“I would love to include the Gay Gordons or the Dashing White Sergeant but it may be difficult,” he said. “But I am hoping to incorporate my kilt. Maybe in a waltz or something a bit slower. It will be amazing to bring out my Scottish side on national television.”

Jowita and Hamza blew the judges away with their salsa in week four and last week came joint top of the leaderboard.

And now friends and neighbors in Ardnamurchan are daring to dream about welcoming a champion home to the Highlands.

Cafe owner Olivia told the BBC: “We are so proud of him. He is doing so well and doing a great job flying the flag for Scotland.

“The whole community is getting behind him and enjoying it. Every Saturday night we go to our little community hall, set up the projector, everyone comes along with home baking, drinks, and we just have a chat and a laugh and watch how he gets on.”

Hamza's neighbors in Scotland

Hamza’s neighbours, (LR) Olivia, Ava, Gail, Logan and Innes

Hamza’s neighbor Gail said: “We are averaging 50-60 people every Saturday night in the hall – almost half the village population. It’s lovely getting together on the cold winter nights and cheering him on.”

She is happy the country is getting to see the friend they all love.

“He is such a nice guy and that is coming across. You can see how humble he is and that is how he is in real life. And he is drawing attention to what he cares about the most – the wildlife, conservation and the natural history.

“And that’s a big thing here – we are in one of the most remote parts of Scotland with the most amazing wildlife and that’s what brought him here in the first place.”

Gail added: “He is a fantastic neighbor and I really miss him because he is someone I call upon a lot for rescuing me from a big spider or a dead mouse or helping me lift heavy things.”

Hamza admits helping out with moving things inspired his lifts on the dancefloor.

“They call me the walking forklift in the village. I love helping people – especially if it’s heavy. But never usually with humans. I don’t normally go around lifting people.”

Hamza and Jowita say they are taking the competition a week – and a dance – at a time.

And although Kilchoan is missing its famous resident. they don’t want to see him too soon.

Gail said: “We want him to go on to the final and we want him to come back and bring the glitterball trophy with him.”