There are often times when the phrase “A picture says a thousand words” can feel understated—like a thousand represents a gross underestimation. Yesterday evening New York Times columnist and perpetually embedded journalist Nick Kristoff posted a photo on his Facebook wall. Here were the words he used to describe it:
On the occasion of South Sudan gaining independence and joining the United Nations, I thought I’d post this photo from a trip I made to remote parts of South Sudan last year. In the middle of nowhere, I ran into this barefoot hunter who had just killed a huge wart-hog with nothing more than a spear. I have rarely felt so inadequate.
(Click on the picture for a bigger window)
That’s a nice sentiment. No doubt, the guy on the left could survive on a deserted island longer than the guy on the right. But a comparison of manhoods is not what’s speaking to me here.
Here is what I took from this picture: it is impossible for the west to understand much of Africa.
I’m not preaching. My experience with Africa consists of reading stories in yuppie publications and a safari with my dad when I was about three feet tall. That’s all. I just looked at this picture and had one of those overcoming moments where my brain was floored with: “Holy. Holy. Moly.”
The guy on the left killed a hog so he could eat.
The guy on the right had to lead a camera crew, via Land Cruiser, through the brush so he could capture footage for his piece on Sudanese separatists for the office back in New York, all the while remembering a couple extra pens to keep notes and, of course, being extra careful not to get caught by prickers as they might damage the microphone attached to his polo shirt’s collar.
And here they are staring at the camera together—perhaps the difference in their facial expressions saying it all. And I have no idea what “it” is. Maybe the ridiculous spear splitting them into two halves is part of “it”. Maybe that they’re not standing on-plane together makes “it” just right. Maybe the fact that in his recap Kristoff makes the story about himself and gives no mention of the hunter’s name makes “it” a little more stark. I don’t know. I just know that when I look at these two, “it” is being said.
And that’s all I’ve got.
Here are some things I’ve written recently elsewhere:
(Photo credit: Nicholas Kristoff’s Facebook Page)