For many it seems brave to quit one’s job, give one’s car away and to pack a 33lt backpack, a camera, a R100 and walk and hitchhike around South Africa. I think not. For me, it would take bravery to live in a country where I don’t know my fellow South Africans. Because that would make every interaction with others, a trip into the unknown.
Instead I opted to step into a vision that explored the heartspaces as much as the geography of our land. It was to be a journey of discovery – discovery of the sincere hospitality offered by complete strangers and the uncovering of my own fears, apprehensions and preconceived ideas. I left without a tent, sleeping bag or bank cards. Instead I carried a deep belief that I am because of others.
The astonishing reality is that along the unplanned route, 150 families from 16 different cultures opened their homes and hearts to, in essence, a stranger. I stayed in affluent suburbs and dusty townships, in shacks and in mansions; meeting pensioners, school children and students, farmers and labourers, rich businessmen, poor widows, artists, housewives, truckers, curio sellers. And everything in between.
What they all had in common was the spirit of ubuntu that compelled them to reach out to a lonely traveller. In doing so they filled my journey with extraordinary stories, teaching me about humility and grace. From the first night spent in the home of a Scenery Park mother who slept on the floor so that her guest could sleep in her bed to meeting the only white induna in the history of the Zulu Royal House on my last day.
The families taught me that ubuntu is not about your space or mine. It is about our space. And that is how the book – The uBuntu Girl – having generated an energy all of its own, decided that it needed to be written. And so began a whole new journey…
I had to learn to QWERTY type, to write and, more importantly, how to honour each person in our collective story. There were over 14 000 photos to pick from. Because one thing was for sure: our country is not a black and white book with a few colour plates. Our country is full-colour explosive!
To help me on this journey, I was fortunate to find a like-hearted and like-minded editor, graphic designer and publisher who were able to share and expand the vision. And with their guidance, we created a 240 page full-colour book that captures the essence of the journey and the lessons that we can take from it.
This book has been described as a travelogue, but I think it is more of a ‘humanlogue’ – a celebration of the human spirit.