Black Taxi:
Shooting South Africa

by Kendall Hunter,
160 pages,
ISBN: 0888011989

Post Your Opinion
Children`s Books
by Susan Mason

This is the story of an idealistic, somewhat naive young woman who became fascinated by South Africa while on a short visit there in the summer of 1991. Two years later, her degree in political science at the University of Calgary almost completed (the last two years focusing on African history and politics), Kendall Hunter returned to work as a volunteer photographer for an independent, anti-apartheid newspaper in Johannesburg. She has captured a crucial period in South African history from the point of view of an outsider, but one much better informed about that beautiful and confusing country than the average North American.

The "black taxis" of the title are an only partly effective solution to the problem of a huge work force living on the outskirts of a city without much public transport. Entrepreneurs who own fleets of these taxis can make a fortune if they can restrict competition by intimidation, riots, and, sometimes, murder. Hunter frequently found herself in danger as often through thoughtlessness as bravery, and was shot at more than once. Those who record the trouble spots of the world are often considered to be invasive and voyeuristic; Hunter's qualms about exploiting her subjects rarely stopped her from taking pictures, resulting in some of the book's most eloquent illustrations. She asked a white homeless man if she could photograph him, and he challenged her, "You think a picture is going to say what it's like to live here?" She took the picture and says of the shot, "It captured what words had been incapable of expressing. His eyes...showed the unbridgeable gap that I had placed between us." A picture of a fourteen-year-old girl named Tsholofelo ("Expectations") shows an extraordinary mixture of pride and beauty and stubborn anger. Hunter and the girl had been rooming together. "What have you found out since you've got to know me?" asks Hunter. "That we are just the same," replies the girl. "Her bluntness hugged my heart," Hunter says.

Adolescents love this sort of stuff, and it is right that they should. Hunter's ingenuous style and innocent eye bring home a sense of hope, a clarity of moral vision, and truths that a more sophisticated angle might miss.

The book ends with a description of the 1994 election; all races could now vote in South Africa, if they were brave in the face of threats and were patient enough to stand in line all day. Such courage and patience, the reader realizes, will be tested over and over before this country can be secure. l

Susan Mason is a school librarian in Toronto. She is married to a South African, and last visited South Africa in 1993. Though older than Kendall Hunter, she is still occasionally thoughtless and naive.


Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us