With original hand-printed lithographs, signed by Aletah Masuku, Alsetah Manthosi and Dorah Ngomane. Workshop facilitated by Tamar Mason and Paul Emmanuel in 1995. Hand-bound by Peter Carstens with fabric slipcase.
The following text is from the Smithsonian on the book's inclusion on the exhibition: 'Artists' Books and Africa”, 2015/2016:
The short story “The Ultimate Safari,” by Nadine Gordimer, was originally published in 1991 in Jump and Other Short Stories (London: Bloomsbury). The new edition of The Ultimate Safari is distinguished by its illustrations: twelve lithographs drawn on ball-grained aluminum plates, hand-colored, and hand-printed on 250 gsm Arches by Mark Attwood, Leshoka Legate, and Peter Sekole at The Artists' Press, Johannesburg. The text is typeset in Univers and hand-printed from polymer blocks. The book is hand-sewn and hand-bound in linen cloth by Peter Carstens of Johannesburg and enclosed in a matching slipcase with edges of multicolored marbled paper. Gordimer signed every copy of the book, and each artist signed her own prints.
Mark Attwood at The Artists' Press initiated and produced the book in collaboration with Tamar Mason, co-director of the press and the women who illustrated the book. Mason was instrumental in this book project, having previously done research among the refugees in the Kruger National Park area. Through interviews Mason learned of the perilous journey— the subject of Gordimer's “ultimate safari”—and shared the information with Attwood. Coincidentally, Attwood had recently read Gordimer's “The Ultimate Safari” and the idea for the book emerged.
Mason selected Masuku, Manthosi, and Ngomane to illustrate the book. Although not artists, they had actually made the dangerous journey through Kruger National Park, the subject of The Ultimate Safari. When Mason read the story to them, they were surprised and quite moved at the accuracy of the story Gordimer told; it was as if she had taken the journey herself. The Story, written in the first person, tells of a ten-year-old girl's wrenching story of her family's flight from Mozambique to South Africa, escaping violence in their home country. Set in Mozambique, Kruger National Park (on the border of Mozambique and South Africa), and a refugee camp in South Africa, the story addresses the plight of displaced people who have left their homes in neighboring countries to find better lives in South Africa.
In The Nature of Heritage: the New South Africa, Lynn Meskell explains this reality: “The desire to find work in South Africa remains desperate, and today increasing numbers of illegal immigrants from Mozambique and Zimbabwe have fled their homes and braved the park in an effort to escape war and poverty. . . The novelist Nadine Gordimer has written emotively about the ordeal of one desperate family making the perilous journey. . .” Gordimer had first-hand knowledge of the plight of refugees in the Kruger Park area from an earlier assignment there with the BBC.
Meskell, in The Nature of Heritage, discusses the plight of Mozambican and Zimbabwean refugees who cross Kruger National Park to enter South Africa. “One can scarcely imagine the desperation that causes people to navigate such landscapes. Few refugees return to their homelands to recount their ordeals and many relatives wait years, even decades, for any word concerning these border crossings. It is a grim situation that South Africa, and more specifically Kruger, consistently acknowledges yet does little to ameliorate.”
Throughout Gordimer's story, the young narrator's naďve perspective and honest voice emphasize her uncertainty and disorientation during her ordeal and heighten the reader's connection with her.
That the drawings are similarly youthful, done in vibrant colors by untrained artists, adds an emotional visual element, perfectly complementing the affecting story.
About the Artists
Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991. She was involved in South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle for decades and used her writing as a window through which the people of South Africa could see themselves. As a result of her efforts against apartheid, many of Gordimer's works were banned in South Africa, but she refused to leave the country and lived and worked there until her death.
The three women who made the illustrations are not trained artists and do not work as artists. Masuku, Manthosi, and Ngomane now work as seasonal laborers on farms near their homes in Welverdiend, outside Kruger National Park's Orpen Gate. The book includes a short biography of each woman, detailing her own journey from Mozambique through Kruger National Park into South Africa. None of the three has returned to her home country, and each experienced some tragedy or trauma along the way. A man in Manthosi's group was lost in the Park, and she carried his three-year-old daughter for the remainder of the journey. Ngomane and her family were arrested near Phalaborwa Gate and jailed in Mozambique (they eventually came into South Africa via Swaziland). Masuku recalls how her uncle's daughter fell prey to a lion in the Park.
The life stories of the three women refugee-artists amplify the irony of title, “the ultimate safari.” Gordimer's story together with the artwork of Manthosi, Ngomane, and Masuku are powerful expressions of this desperate immigration story.
There is a poignant postscript to the production of this book: colorful wrist watches decorating the end pages. Why? Alsetah Manthosi loves wrist watches. When she was in Johannesburg to work on the book, she took the opportunity to buy some wrist watches. She then made the print of watches, which Attwood and others could not resist using even though it was extraneous to the story. “The watches are aspirational objects of desire and a marker of time, making it the perfect beginning and end to the book.”