Tutu: The Authorised portrait

By Michael Tambo
December 2011/January 2012
Book Review
Last month saw the publication of an inspiring coffee-table book, Tutu: The Authorised Portrait, written by a legendary journalist and political commentator, Allister Sparks and Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Reverend Mpho A. Tutu, the youngest daughter of Leah and Desmond Tutu and the book’s co-author.

The book was published by Harper Publishers, South Africa.

According to Philip Pullman (a well known author), the book is second only to the wheel as the best piece of technology human beings have ever invented. The book symbolises the whole intellectual history of mankind; it is the greatest weapon ever devised in the war against stupidity.

Tutu: The Authorised Portrait, published on Tutu’s 80th birthday, is a celebration of 80 years of the life of a South African icon whose humanity and compassion have touched millions of people around the world.

The book tells the remarkable story of Tutu’s courage, faith, perseverance and his life-long commitment to the liberation of the oppressed.

This extraordinary book also features a biography by Allister Sparks, authorised by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and includes over 40 interviews conducted by Tutu’s daughter, Reverend Mpho with close family, friends, colleagues and critics.

“This is Desmond Tutu through the eyes of those who have known him best, his intimates, the people he has challenged and the people who have challenged him,” says Reverend Mpho.

Born in Klerksdorp, South Africa and trained as a teacher, because his family could not afford to send him to medical school, Desmond Tutu was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1960. He vigorously opposed Apartheid and has dedicated his entire life to fighting all forms of oppression, advocating non-violence, peaceful reconciliation and social justice for all.

Tutu: The Authorised Portrait is complemented by an unprecedented collection of images and unpublished artefacts drawn from Tutu’s private life; a phenomenal story of one man’s extraordinary life and work.

The two authors of this book have also included interviews conducted with Kofi Annan, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President Barack Obama.

“As a crusader for freedom, a spiritual leader, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a respected statesman, he has become a symbol of kindness and hope far beyond the borders of his native land. Through it all, he has been guided by the belief that, (in his own words), “My humanity is bound up in yours and we can only be human together,” says President Obama.

Desmond Tutu is also described as a humorous character by South Africa’s founding president, Nelson Mandela, who refers to him as ‘the voice of the voiceless.’

“Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless,” says Mandela.

Mandela further says that the history of the long fight to end Apartheid in South Africa had many heroes but none quite like the 5-foot-4 Anglican archbishop with an impish sense of humour who became a giant irritant to the white authorities... Tutu was the moral voice of South Africa’s anti-Apartheid movement. He, however, has never held any official position with any political party. With flowing religious robes as his only shield, he bluntly challenged successive white governments to end Apartheid, skilfully leading the nation’s post-Apartheid efforts at reconciliation and later standing up to black leaders when they edged away from the democratic principles they purported to espouse.

“Those and other moments in the life of the anti-Apartheid crusader and 1984 Nobel Peace Prize recipient get heroic treatment in Tutu: The Authorized Portrait, an unapologetic fan book... a high-gloss keepsake filled with historical photographs, pages of Tutu’s quotable quotes and dozens of vignette-style remembrances from the global luminaries,” adds Mandela.

Allister Sparks has been a friend to Desmond Tutu for many decades. He is the former editor of the Rand Daily Mail and South African correspondent for The Washington Post (USA), The Observer (London), NRC Handelsblad (Netherlands) and The Economist (London).

He was named the International Editor of the Year by World Press Review magazine and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on racial unrest in South Africa in 1985. In 1992, Sparks founded the Institute for Advanced Journalism to upgrade the standard of journalism in South Africa.

Reverend Mpho, an Episcopal priest, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer & Pilgrimage.

Ms. Tutu has run ministries for children in the downtown Worcester, Massachusetts; for rape survivors in Grahams town, South Africa and for refugees from South Africa and Namibia at the Phelps Stokes Fund in New York City. She earned her MDiv from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and began her ordained ministry at Historic Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Ms. Tutu is an experienced preacher, teacher and retreat facilitator. With her father, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, she has authored the book Made for Goodness (Harper One, March 2010).

The Reverend is the chairperson of the board of the Global AIDS Alliance, chairperson of the Board of Advisors of the 911 Unity Walk and a trustee of Angola University. PF