‘These are diamonds, aren’t they, Mama?’ Carolina’s innocent question leads to further questions and finally in answer to her ‘where?’ to Africa. But maid, Amina comes from Africa – so why doesn’t Amina have diamonds? This question is brushed away, but for Carolina (and the reader) it stays. Carolina’s dream consciousness takes us on the true journey of these diamonds from the mine in Africa to the necklace worn by her mother.
Greder’s reputation as an artist who confronts some of the most challenging and urgent issues of our time can only be enhanced as he explores how the desire for conspicuous wealth fuels a market that thrives on inequality and corruption. The opening dialogue – so undramatic but so revealing of adult attitudes – establishes the scene. As he does in The Mediterranean, Greder starts at the end of his story, here we see the conclusion of the journey taken by the diamonds for our society the ultimate gift, an expression of love or admiration. But their existence in our society begs the question – how did they get here? And Greder shows us, through powerful charcoal images reminiscent of Goya and Daumier at their most bleak. We see the miners for whom there is no reward as they writhe and toil underground, we see the violence that diamonds inspire, the greed, the duplicitous negotiations. There are no words after the opening dialogue; the story is told through these images – until Amina’s final answer to her mistress ‘Don’t worry, madam. It was only a nightmare’ – and it was – and is, but a nightmare that is not a dream but a reality.
The format of this book – as with Greder’s other titles – is that of the picture book. But this is not a picture book for the kinderbox. It is an uncomfortable read, demanding a response and raising issues about which there is deafening silence. This is a book that should be included in the curriculum in Secondary Schools, from PHSE to fashion, and should be on every adult library shelf.