The Ultimate Safari: Portraying the Brutality of Apartheid

The Ultimate Safari: Portraying the Brutality of Apartheid

Q. By portraying the brutality of apartheid, how does “The Ultimate Safari,” written by Nadine Gordimer, depict the harsh realities endured during this era of racial segregation and discrimination?

Q. In what ways does “The Ultimate Safari” critique the system of apartheid?

Ans. Nadine Gordimer’s “The Ultimate Safari” is a powerful critique of the apartheid system, though it does so indirectly, using allegory and symbol rather than explicit commentary.

Set in the apartheid era, the story occurs in South Africa’s borderlands during civil unrest and upheaval.

Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa that lasted from 1948 to 1994. An authoritarian political culture enforced white supremacy in South Africa.

At that time, the minority white population dominated politically, socially, and economically. South Africa’s majority population experienced marginalization and systemic oppression under this system. Apartheid’s pillars were built on racial discrimination and inequality.

Racial and Economic Disparity

The Ultimate Safari” by Nadine Gordimer is a critique of the racial and economic disparity heightened by the apartheid system in South Africa.

However, the system itself is never explicitly named. The narrative contrasts the lives of the displaced African refugees and the white tourists visiting the game park for leisure.

The protagonist, a nameless young girl, narrates her family’s perilous journey across the Kruger National Park after bandits destroy their village.

The narrative traces their efforts to survive and escape the horrors of their homeland, devastated by civil war and unrest – a clear reflection of the brutalities many Black South Africans faced under apartheid.

The racial and economic disparity becomes evident when the refugees encounter a group of white tourists in the game park. The tourists are portrayed as entirely oblivious to the hardship and dangers the refugees face. 

While the refugees struggle for basic survival, avoiding wild animals and park guards, the tourists are engaged in leisure activities. They are camping and taking photos of the wildlife. 

This stark difference in the experiences within the same environment underscores the vast chasm in living conditions and safety caused by apartheid.

The narrator observes the tourists cooking meat over fires, a luxury the refugees lack. The stark contrast in resources and the risk of detection amplifies the inequality between the two groups.

This shows the disparities and challenges the refugees face in their struggle for survival. While the tourists enjoy freedom and amenities, the refugees survive by consuming plants.

This contrast is not just about economic disparity but also highlights the racial divide. The tourists are predominantly white, while the refugees are black.

The ability of the white tourists to move freely and enjoy their time in the park, oblivious to the refugees’ plight, mirrors the broader racial privilege and ignorance often associated with the apartheid system.

Displacement and Hardship

In “The Ultimate Safari,” Nadine Gordimer uses the backdrop of a perilous journey through a game reserve to depict the severe displacement and hardship faced by the protagonist and her family.

It is an allegory for the broader experience of black South Africans during the apartheid era. The story begins with the destruction of the protagonist’s village by bandits.

It was an event that forced her family to abandon their home. The protagonist, her brother, and her grandmother had to journey through the Kruger National Park. 

They have to cross from Mozambique into South Africa. This journey, fraught with the risks of wild animals, starvation, and capture by park guards, is a literal representation of displacement.

The hardships they endure are immense. The young girl describes eating plants and walking barefoot after her shoes wear out. They are constantly on alert for the threats of wild animals and park guards. 

The narrator has to lose her grandfather on the journey towards the refugee camp.

The family’s journey through the game park actively symbolizes the widespread displacement many black South Africans experienced during apartheid. Violence and instability often compelled them to flee their homes.

Their arrival at a refugee camp does not end their hardship but changes its nature. They face new challenges here, such as obtaining food and adjusting to life in an unfamiliar and crowded environment.

Through depicting the family’s difficult journey and their experiences in the refugee camp, Gordimer paints a vivid picture of the displacement and hardship caused by political unrest and upheaval.


Nadine Gordimer’s “The Ultimate Safari” provides an incisive critique of the dehumanization process, particularly as black South Africans experienced during the apartheid era.

A young girl and her family’s experiences as they traverse the Kruger National Park metaphorically depict the dehumanization they endure.

The refugees, forced to behave like animals to survive, are symbolically dehumanized throughout their journey. They must hide from the park rangers and travel in darkness. 

It starkly illustrates the perception of them as being less than human. Their plight intensifies when they encounter the tourists, who are oblivious to their suffering and emphasize their marginalization.

The story’s setting in a game reserve, originally designated for the protection and observation of animals, further underscores the dehumanization experienced by humans.

The refugees are paradoxically both the prey and the intruders in this environment. They are hunted by the rangers and feared by the animals.

Furthermore, the refugees’ lack of names in the story strips them of their identities, making them faceless victims. This absence of personal identity is a powerful symbol of the dehumanizing effects of the racial and social hierarchies enforced during apartheid.

Child’s Perspective

In “The Ultimate Safari,” Nadine Gordimer employs the unique perspective of a child narrator to depict the realities of apartheid-era South Africa.

Despite the harsh realities she faces, the child’s perspective also brings a sense of innocence and wonder to the narrative. Filled with curiosity and childlike innocence, her observations evoke both poignancy and heartbreak.

For instance, she marvels at seeing a dead elephant and takes an interest in oblivious tourists. It highlights her naivety amidst the severe circumstances.

The child’s limited understanding of the political situation that has caused her displacement adds another layer of critique to the narrative.

Her confusion and fear reflect the senseless and arbitrary nature of the apartheid system that has uprooted her life. 

Through a child’s perspective, Gordimer skillfully highlights the contrast between childhood innocence and the brutal realities of life under apartheid. It brings a powerful sense of humanity to her critique of the political system.


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