A week ago today George Butler set off for a six month adventure to West Africa. Not adverse to spending time in alternative locations George has spent time in both Afghanistan and Azerbaijan in recent years documenting these places through his illustrative reportage.
We couldn’t let him leave without finding a bit more about why he’s going and what he’s got planned.
Hi George, you left for Africa last week, can you tell us a bit more as to what you got planned?
I am writing this from my bunk on the 24 hour ferry, aptly named “Splendid” from Genova in Italy to Tunisia. We have just driven a thousand miles and stopped in Paris and Lyon for the night. The rest of the trip is planned roughly through Algeria and further south, by road, plane and boat. I will eventually end up on the Equator and visit 15 different countries on route. The brief is to describe West Africa for what it really is and hopefully it won’t be too frightening a place to visit.
This isn’t the first time you’ve left your comfort zone, in 2007 you spent time in Afghanistan and last year in Azerbaijan. What is it about these places that appeals to you?
I think I am fascinated by things I don’t know about, and I often end up drawing things far removed from life at home. I enjoy drawing on location in foreign countries, the people are always unbelievably generous – and there is a sort of mutual interest between us. I was fascinated by West Africa because automatically you presume it is a terrifying place to go – but far from it. There is also an advantage in drawing places like this – because as an illustrator you can build much more of a relationship with people above that of the photographer – who in most cases will come up against a mistrust of their cameras.
What was your luxury item when packing your bags?
My friends have given me an ipod shuffle which is pretty ‘luxury’ And one of the guys in the kitchen is trying to persuade me to sell my laptop to him. But after that I have got some teabags and a fair bit of Bob Dylan.
Where can we expect to see you trekking off to in the future?
Well the week before I came here I was offered two weeks in Afghanistan at the same time as this… so I wouldn’t say no to that again, other than I’ll decide when I get back in May 2010.
How can we keep up to date with your trip?
As of the first week in January you can read about and see my trip in The Saturday Times weekend section and also online at www.timesonline.co.uk. I have also got a blog which will start at the same time, you can find here www.georgebutler.org/inafrica. This is all subject to the internet working though, which could be an experience in itself.