The Ultimate Safari

by Nadine Gordimer

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The significance of the title "The Ultimate Safari" in Nadine Gordimer's story


The title "The Ultimate Safari" is significant because it contrasts the harrowing journey of African refugees with the leisurely, adventurous connotations typically associated with safaris. Gordimer uses this irony to highlight the refugees' struggle for survival and the stark reality of their displacement, thereby critiquing a Western perspective that romanticizes African experiences.

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Why is Nadine Gordimer's story called "The Ultimate Safari"?

Being a Native South African, Gordimer is mindful of the disparity within the concept of "safari."  The idea of the "hunt" or "safari" in Africa has the connotation of wealthy individuals who hunt animals for sport.  Their behavior is for leisure, for entertainment, and a reflection of human beings desire to be in control.  Africa had always been seen as as "the ultimate safari" for those who were purveyors of wealth, privilege, and excitement.  This image is set in stark contrast to the genocide that has happened on the African continent in the last century.  In this depiction, the notion of hunting  and killing in cold blood is not evident in people against animals, but in people against people.  With civil wars, tribal antagonisms, ulterior motives from those in the position of power, the people in many parts of Africa have become "game" in this twisted version of the safari.  In terms of its application in Gordimer's novel, the tribe of bandits who have occupied the girl's village and, essentially, "hunted" people such as the girl's mother and father are involved in a safari- like situation where the hunted are the village townspeople who must wander the plain in search of shelter, food, and hope.  It is not accidental that the path the girl and her family must take to leave their Mozambique village and cross borders takes them though Kruger Park, a setting for safari game and hunt.  The image is quite stark:  Wealthy tourists hunting for animals, punctuated by refugees walking through, stealthily, trying to dodge both the bullets from elitist foreigners as well as from indigenous people engaged in brutal slaughter. As tourists dine on their hunted animals, refugees starve for lack of food.   Such an image makes for "the ultimate safari," a statement on what Africa has come to represent and what it has become.

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Why is the story titled "The Ultimate Safari"?

The author writes an epigraph before the story begins from a London travel advertisement that is trying to lure rich tourists to Africa for the "ultimate safari". Gordimer, the author, uses this epigraph and entitles her story from it to show the vast differences between the wealthy white tourists and the poor black refugees of southern Africa. In the epigraph, the word "ultimate" is used to mean the best. In the title, the word "ultimate" means last. For the many people who were forced out of the narrator's village, the dangerous and difficult trek to the refugee camps is indeed their "last" safari. While traveling through the game reserve that rich white tourists pay thousands of dollars to visit, the narrator's group can smell the food of the rich tourists, while the refugees themselves are hungry, having less to eat than the buzzards. Many of them die before getting out of the park.

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