Book//mark - The Ultimate Safari | Nadine Gordimer, 1989


illustration by Dorah Ngomane


 ''That night our mother went to the shop and she didn’t come back. Ever. What happened?
I don’t know. My father also had gone away one day and never come back; but he was
fighting in the war. We were in the war, too, but we were children, we were like our
grandmother and grandfather, we didn’t have guns. The people my father was fighting –
 the bandits, they are called by our government – ran all over the place and we ran away
 from them like chickens chased by dogs. We didn’t know where to go. Our mother went to
 the shop because someone said you could get some oil for cooking. We were happy because
 we hadn’t tasted oil for a long time; perhaps she got the oil and someone knocked her down
in the dark and took that oil from her. Perhaps she met the bandits. If you meet them, they
 will kill you. Twice they came to our village and we ran and hid in the bush and when
they’d gone we came back and found they had taken everything; but the third time they
came back there was nothing to take, no oil, no food, so they burned the thatch and the
roofs of our houses fell in. My mother found some pieces of tin and we put those up
over part of the house. We were waiting there for her that night she never came back.''

Nadine Gordimer, The Ultimate Safari, 1989


illustration by Dorah Ngomane


"We were frightened to go out, even to do our business, because the bandits did come.
Not into our house – without a roof it must have looked as if there was no one in it,
everything gone – but all through the village. We heard people screaming and running.
We were afraid even to run, without our mother to tell us where, I am the middle one,
the girl, and my little brother clung against my stomach with his arms round my neck
and his legs round my waist like a baby monkey to its mother. All night my first-born
brother kept in his hand a broken piece of wood from one of our burnt house-poles.
It was to save himself if the bandits found him."

“Every morning, when people are getting up in the tent, the babies are crying, people
are pushing each other at the taps outside and some children are already pulling the crusts
of porridge off the pots we ate from last night, my first-born brother and I clean our shoes.
 Our grandmother makes us sit on our mats with our legs straight out so she can look carefully
 at our shoes to make sure we have done it properly. No other children in the tent have real
school shoes. When we three look at them it’s as if we are in a real house again, with no
war, no away.” 


Nadine Gordimer, The Ultimate Safari, 1989


illustration by Aletah Masuku 
illustrations by Aletah Masuku, Alsetah Manthosi & Dorah Ngomane

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