Monday 9 March 2009

Near Enough

I quote that fount of uncontested truth, Wikipedia, when I say "the Kalahari Bushmen, San, Sho, Basarwa, Kung, or Khwe are indigenous people of southern Africa that spans most areas of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola."

You'll notice that list of countries does not include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which used to be the Belgian Congo, the setting for Joseph Conrad's famous Heart of Darkness.

So it's odd that two different publishers (Hesperus and Oneworld) should decide to use Kalahari Bushmen on their Heart of Darkness covers.

These are the original photos, both of men in traditional head-dresses, and both by Art Wolfe, whose website is chock-full of amazing photographs.

And here they are with the covers, just for the hell of it.

It's a bit of a shame that two publishers who do a lot to bring much great world literature into English seem to have plumped for an any-old-African-will-do approach for their covers.


Ian Koviak said...

Am I the only one who feel that those images look like full grown men being birthed through a...

Todd Fletcher said...

Not only that, but to me any picture of an African is off the mark. My first reaction to the images was the implication that the "heart of darkness" lay within the Africans, which is not the point of the novel. But maybe that's just me.

JRSM said...

Ian: Now I won't be able to see those pictures any other way!

Todd: Good point--some sinister representation of Kurtz would be more to the point.

Anne Healey said...

Was it difficult to track down the source images? It seems like it would be like finding a needle in a haystack!

JRSM said...

Hi, Anne: A bit tricky, but I had one of the books to hand, and it listed 'Getty Images', so I just started trawling their archives for Kalahari images, having vague memories of having seen the photos in a book of photos back in my bookselling days. plus, I obviously have too much time on my hands.