Where Global Contradictions Are Sharpest ~ Textualising The San ‘Past’: Dancing With Development
The ‘exterminating’ impact of Uys’ The Gods must be crazy (1980) on the Ju/’hoansi, is a topic discussed by Robert Gordon (1992: 1). This film’s use of tongue-in-cheek documentary codes includes the ‘pseudoscientific narrator’ humorously relating the central San character’s first encounters with the signs of modernity (a coke bottle, tyre tracks in the sand, etc.). This narration draws on the naturist perceptions of the Other, so successfully popularised by early anthropology, and by commentators like Ross (1976), and Davis’ informants (1954).[i]
Alby Mangels’ commentary in Adventure bound (1993) sums up the debilitating Western common sense: ‘They do not seem to carry the pressure of the past as we do in the West’. Trapped in time as the Bushmen are, all ‘we’ (the West) can do is ‘dance’ (with them) as the encounter straddles ‘then’ and ‘now’. What is ironic in Mangels’ commentary is that it unwittingly intercepts a root metaphor for Ju/’hoansi symbolic action. The ritual of dancing offers a way of accessing ‘boiling energy’ to effect spiritual contact, healing and to address dislocations in the harmony of quotidian life (cf. Katz et al. 2001; Katz 1982). Mangels’ visualisation of this idea, however, evokes a Western view of the Bushmen as non-rational, given to instinctive impulses rather than intellectual cognition. The result is to exoticise an activity that has serious cultural and spiritual dimensions. I now turn to our negotiation of the multiple texts – popular memory, film, and social – that we encountered in Otjozondjupa.
Development: Dancing with time
Otjozondjupa is serviced by the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia (NNDFN) and various state agencies (Health, Environment, and through the often erratic provision of food rations). While we were there in July 1996, the average individual calorie intake was 2,500 a day. This dropped to 1,000 in 1997, when government rations were not delivered (P. Wiessner, Personal comment, 5 April 1998). We interviewed villagers at N/aqmtjoha and the /Aotcha Pan on the films about them, and especially on their perception of the Herero, who were pushing northwards into Otozondjupa with their cattle.
Photo-elicitation techniques applied by Jeursen and Morgan, with regard to a 1992-Spoornet calendar in which ‘Bushmen’ are shown to be living in traditional and environmental splendour, however, revealed no agreement that life ‘long ago’ was better than it is now. The ‘old days’ were a ‘hard existence’, the villagers of Kapteinspos told us.
Some informants at /Aotcha Pan explained that their contemporary settled existence was better in quality than the indeterminate time reflected on the calendar.[ii] Some of these informants included the now elderly people who had first met the Marshalls in the early 1950s – ‘Kaptein’ Kgau//au and !U, amongst others. From his experience of translating the sound tracks at DER in 1994, ≠Oma Tsamkxao observed that he had learned about the history of the Ju/’hoansi from these films: ‘I heard about their complaint of how they lived in the old days and how they live now. I can say now that the Bushmen in the old days had no option or opportunity to have an education or lead a better life … The children can go to school and study’.
The Ju/’hoansi conception of history in terms of “the old days” or “long ago”, is described by Lorna Marshall (1976: 53):
Although they look respectfully to the past, they are not history-minded. They make no effort to hold actual past events systematically in mind or teach them to their children – neither events that concern the living people nor those concerning their forebears. They remember what they happen to remember their father and grandfathers telling them.
This observation was corroborated by John Yellen (1984), who found that no contemporary !Kung informants recognised Stone Age tools excavated in the area.[iii] Lorna Marshall (1976: 52) further observed that her informants from the 1950s showed little interest in the outside world. This world, however, has since become much better known to them.
We explained that by looking so pristinely poor on film the N/aqmtjoha villagers, in fact, came across to Western audiences as living in primitive affluence; a pure condition that such audiences interpreted as idyllic and natural. We explained that Western audiences did not recognise the poverty that they wanted to convey in Hunters of the Kalahari (1995). The result was heated debate and a rejection of our argument. The R10,000 paid to the group by the Discovery Channel for their cooperation on Hunters of the Kalahari, no doubt contradicted our position.[iv]
John Marshall’s response to Hunters of the Kalahari was as hostile as it was to the The Gods must be crazy films (interview, March 1995). Anthropological consultant and authority on Bushmen folk tales Megan Biesele, previous director of the Nyae Nyae Foundation, was berated for her association with the film. Yet, Biesele (1999 – with Hitchcock) had consistently warned the filmmakers of recurring problems: over-sexualising, factual inaccuracies, cultural incongruities, speaking ‘for’ the Ju/’hoansi, and tending towards a romantic The Gods must be crazy-flavour. In Barnard et al. (1996), Biesele and her colleagues stated that the only reason she had associated herself with the film was because of a request from the Nyae Nyae Farmers Cooperative (NNFC), which feared gross misrepresentation. Biesele explained:
The experience showed Biesele, as a translator-after-the-fact, a bit of the frustration felt by the often-voiceless indigenous subjects of ethnographic film. Lacking education, finances, and information, these people have little power to influence images made of them. The bottom line of creative control, particularly in film, seems to be capital, lacking in most communities (and indeed among consultants, translators, and others) (Biesele and Hitchcock 1999: 148).
In the USA, the actors in the reconstructed colonial villages assume multivocality in the way that they sometimes adopt bygone speech accents and grammar – a front-stage performance. They even temporarily distinguish themselves from visitors by forms of address like, ‘in your society and time, but here and now we …’. While the Ju/’hoansi spoke to us in their own contemporary Ju/’hoan language, those who understood English, Afrikaans and Herero were more than happy to talk to us in these tongues. Though wanting to create an impression of the ‘old days’, they nevertheless conducted their transactions in the present. The point is that this front-stage reception (which is often misinterpreted by visitors as ‘hospitality’) may be a strategy of engagement for visitors moving from transient to more permanent forms of exchange. As ≠Oma remarked: ‘People have decided to ask for money or any form of payment because they do not get any benefit from films and books about them’.
Beating about the bush [text]
When Kaitira Kandjii and I interviewed Hereros at /Gam, on ownership rights to this waterhole, we were accused of being spies for the Ju/’hoansi at Baraka (the Foundation’s training centre and the headquarters of the Nyae Nyae Farmer’s Cooperative). This occurred despite the fact that Kandjii had found and was subsequently interviewing members of his own extended clan: ‘Tomaselli’s (white) skin colour became an issue. He was associated with other white people who were fighting for the rights of Bushmen to have a right to the land. Staying at Baraka became a political issue’ (Kandjii 1997).
The Ju/’hoansi at /Gam contradicted the Herero-claim of joint ownership of the waterhole. They were much more accommodating and, indeed, were resisting the Herero take-over by remaining at /Gam. They remained at /Gam regardless of the offer by the NNFC to provide them with facilities and sanctuary within the boundaries of the conservancy further north.
It was the association with the Foundation and popular Ju/’hoansi assent to our visit, that might have made them very careful in muting statements that might have goaded the more powerful Herero. No matter the village or the informant, the stock response to how the Ju/’hoansi identified the Herero, was: ‘No, they did not have any rude words for these people’. This held despite the fact that the Herero had so often dispossessed them in the past, and that they had occasionally engaged in warfare with them. The Herero held, and still hold, San groups in labour and economic bondage. They thus concealed the boo words or common sense othering discourses (for example, Herero as ‘thorn tree’, as one informant eventually described them),[v] the sub-texts we were aiming to identify as an indication of historical social relations between the two groups (Kandjii 1997). Far from the Ju/’hoansi being unaware of the ‘burden of the past’ or the ‘pressures of the future’, their responses suggested an intimate and dynamic knowledge of historically contested terrains and social relations. By cooperating with tourist companies, they also claim common cause with the government to keep the Herero out of Otozondjupa (Benjamin Xishe in Gordon 1996).
One of the reasons we were able to identify this discordant sub-text was because Kandjii and myself were less interested in confirming the 1950s-Marshall ethnographies, than in knowing what the Ju/’hoansi wanted to tell us in their own terms in the mid-1990s. Speaking Afrikaans and Herero proved to be a boon, as it was in these languages that the Ju/’hoansi sometimes undermined or inflected differently what they were telling the official interpreter in Ju/’hoansi (and from there to English).
Translating interpreters/interpreting translations
What and where is Otozondjupa? Geographically, this is clear. Politically, it is less clear. Discursively, it is not clear at all. It is this latter aspect – authenticity – that is under contestation (Biesele et al. 1996). The notion of a ‘conservancy’, which gained currency in the mid-1990s, in which ‘Bushmen’ live in harmony with wildlife, underpins ‘a strange alchemy of traditional Bushmen and modern science, with a team of unlikely scientists’ (Narrator, Dancing at the future, 1996). This alchemy, which rehabilitates psychospiritual ecoscience via cultural tourism, is being pitted against John Marshall’s (1996) modernist counter-argument for farming.
Ecological legitimacy is found in various forms and articulations in relation to cultural tourism: for example, in the guises of conservancy, living museums and cultural ecology.
The idea of a ‘conservancy’ evokes in the minds of its detractors, the earlier image of a nature park. This zoological portrait works at a number of levels: first, is the expeditionary discourse of early films like The Denver Africa expedition (1926), a safari of observers through a kind of primeval human zoo-land (Gordon 1997b). Laura Bolton’s description of her most treasured and poignant memory with the Bushmen is set in this indeterminate place and time. Tuning into the nightly short-wave music broadcast from Leopoldville occasioned the moment:
Forms moved from the darkness into the light of our campfire against the backdrop of the dark thorn trees. It was the Bushmen moving softly toward me out of the night, silently, stealthily, with movements usually associated with one animal stalking another. My body grew tense, in anticipation, but I soon realised that what had drawn them from the darkness was the radio several feet distant from me. With a shuffling, soundless dance step they moved circling past me, completely absorbed.
I wondered what they were feeling listening to the music, and as if in answer to my question they began to dance. Perhaps they danced in ancient ritual; perhaps they improvised as they went along. I only know that for me in that stupendous moment they danced to this symphony exactly as it should be danced to, with a profound primeval reverence. It was Beethoven’s Ninth, the setting of Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’, in which he proclaimed the brotherhood of men everywhere (Bolton 1969: 178-9).
‘Dance’ is a recurring reference in observations of the Bushmen, and as is explained below, buffers the utterer from any real material commitment in their encounters with the Other. It was this boundary, which melted when Charlize performed the fire dance at Ngwatle in July 2003 (Chapter 4).
Theme parks reconstruct earlier pre-modern conditions and lifestyles. These are designed mainly for the tourist’s gaze as through the restoration of villages found in living towns like Colonial Williamsburg in the USA. ‘Living museums’ integrate surviving or relocated dwellings and buildings, with re-enacted forms of petty commodity production, enacted slave-master vignettes, and other social and cultural activities. The question here is whether the ‘citizens’ of these restored parks and towns are forcibly or voluntarily located; and whether they are simply employees entertaining and educating spectators via interpretations of bygone scenarios. How they relate to these roles of domination and subordination for paying audiences, especially those who may make few distinctions between historical reconstruction and Disneyfied entertainment, is a crucial point. At Klein Dobe, for example, a village where the Ju/’hoansi have a partnership with Arno Oosthuizen, owner of Tshumkwe Lodge. He brings tourists to a front-stage next to the village. The village remains a private and concealed back-stage. The front-stage is a clearing with three unoccupied skerms on view. The villagers then dance, sing and perform in the area demarcated for visitor use. Our interviews with some of the performers elicited the response that their public enactments were simply a way of making money. This was confirmed by ‘Kaptein’ Kgau//au of Kapteinspos. Tourist activities (also at Kapteinspos) included the possibility of hunting and gathering with villagers. The lodge owner and some Ju/’hoansi were more romantic – they saw the recuperation of the youngsters belonging to nearly lost traditions, now being rekindled by the elders through the profit motive, as one of the results of this commercial relationship.
The Klein Dobe people clearly distinguished between ‘front-stage’ acting in traditional garb for tourists, and ‘back-stage’ life for themselves where they reclothed in Western dress. Trance dancing mainly occurred back-stage across the track beyond the gaze of tourists, for example. These performers are well aware that they are ‘acting’, and were quite clear on how to negotiate levels of tourist access between front- and back-stages. They thus protected their affirmations of belief in their repertoire of rituals via this performative spatial distinction. The importance of this kind of agency is that trance dances are amongst the mechanisms available to San peoples for coping with the vortex of change (Gordon 1992: 212; Katz 1982; Lewis-Williams 1981; Guenther 1976).
A key question is whether or not the employers of theme citizens and cultural tourism see their business intervention as some form of ‘ethno-survival’ for a pre-historical remnant on the brink of ‘extinction’. If employers or agents make no distinctions between front- and back-stage, then such re-enactments are necessarily advertised and sold in a naturalising way. As has occurred elsewhere, the vitiation of public rituals into paid tourist attractions evacuates people of the very meanings and social practices by which they organise their lives (Greenwood 1978).
The nature of the contractual relationships between Ju/’hoansi cultural troupes and entrepreneurs like Oosthuizen and Stander who have the wherewithal (telephones, faxes, four wheel drive vehicles, financial acumen, and capital) to facilitate cultural tourism, needs further research. The management of the NNFC has attempted to promote tourism, but conflicts have occurred between NNFC and some of the participating communities on the allocation of income. These appear to hinge on the question of decentralisation of authority to ensure that benefits also flow to the participating villages, households, and individuals (Hitchcock n.d.; Biesele and Hitchcock 1999). The perceived inequitable distribution of proceeds elicited strongly argued positions by the Kapteinpos and Klein Dobe villagers on their right to make their own contracts with whomever they wished – while recognising that the Cooperative might have some as yet indeterminate role to play in managing the process more equitably.
The more difficult question of cultural ecology is raised by Crawford (1993) – the problem of the Western gaze at ‘nature’ as a form of consumption. The concept of nature in modernity, which helped define non-Western cultures as ‘primitive’ and ‘traditional’ in the first place, secures short-term advantages for Western consumers rather than the long-term survival of humanity in general. The relationship between the Kayapo and the Body Shop may be one particular globalised case; the relations between the lodge owner and the Klein Dobe community, however, occur mainly at the micro-level.
What is required is a structural multi-sectoral development plan for Otozondjupa as a whole. The Living in a Finite Environment Project (LIFE), a USAID and Government of Namibia initiative, is working on capacity building and the possibilities of tourism. However, the assumptions that underlie this sector are often at variance with local beliefs. Dancing at the future (1996), for example, outlines the benefit of a narrow-based conservancy in which the Ju/’hoansi and large carnivores are argued to share a common destiny. This film reveals its (in)authenticity by going back-stage (see Gordon 1997a) to uncover knowledge ‘that we in Western science don’t even know about’ (Stander, Dancing). The hidden dimension of knowledge is seen in terms of its benefit to modern science, and not necessarily in the reverse.
Another contradiction is that the Ju/’hoansi’s popular marketing resources are films and TV-programmes which are an anathema to critical anthropologists, but not necessarily to those depicted, as I have argued with regard to Hunters of the Kalahari. As G/aq’o, the hero of the two Gods-films told us in exasperation, they were just stories (fictions). Why would one say that Western audiences think that the situations in which the Bushmen are narratively located are real? Why would Americans think the films are pro-apartheid? Gods and other films like them, presumably, have a different historical relation to the societies they depict when compared to films like The sound of music and The Salzburg connection, which promote the city of Salzburg as one of Europe’s premier tourist destinations.
Yes, some films might kill (Gordon 1992: 1), but more likely, they rearticulate ‘culture’, ‘identity’, and ‘ideology’ as economic resources in relation to travelling discourses. However, in a postmodern world where consumption is the driving force, very few people or communities are able to escape the effects of mediatisation. Survival now depends on producing symbolic goods which feed the frenzy of cultural and tourist consumption, whether of objects, artefacts, images, performances, or tourism.
‘Seeing is believing’
The media have brought previously remote Fourth World-societies into the global public gaze. But the images circulated tend to be the mythical constructions rather than the self-perceptions of those imaged. Cultures have been turned into commodities even if the subjects of these ways of life do not themselves feel commoditised or integrated into the global relations of image production. As such, one of the recuperations has been the ‘scientific gaze’, now revalidated in a world which places high credibility on the act of ‘seeing’, now also in the context of the recuperation of ‘indigenous knowledge’. ‘Seeing [and hearing] is believing’, especially when offered in the form of documentary, one of the forms mobilized by the Gods-films. For example, the narrator’s mystical animist identification in The art of tracking of the hunter’s strategy – ‘In my imagination, I become the animal I am stalking’ – is linked to the supposed San cosmology that animals derived from humans.[vii] Zoologist Charles Handley, who hunted with the Ju/’hoansi in 1952 while a member of that Marshall Family Expedition, explains more credibly that hunters ‘could actually think like the animal enough so that they soon knew what its strategy was, where it was going. They could take shortcuts and intersect the trail again where they thought it was going to come’ (interview, 26 February 1997).
Handley’s explanation locates experience and interpretation as the talents used by hunters – not some kind of mystical ability unknown to outsiders. This means that the ability to track is learnt, not genetically encoded, and ‘conservation’ in the sense of cultural and geographical mummification is a positivist red herring.
When science as a discourse of realism (positivism) is chosen, which is the resource offered by the Kayapo to The Body Shop in the form of indigenous knowledge about herbs, medicines, perfumes etc., then conservation is impossible because the Other has validity only as an object of study in its ‘raw’ form. However, this relationship can also be a dynamic one which confers some influence to the Kayapo via the economic power of The Body Shop in global relations. Similarly, as ‘Kaptein’ Kgau//au stated, ironically contradicting the dichotomy between tradition and modernity assumed by Stander’s assistant: ‘It is better that you get up … only then things will begin to happen … and [people] will say: “This is how he worked, and these are the plans he made”’ (Dancing at the future 1996).
When ‘anthropology’, also a realism, is chosen, the resource highlighted by Stander and the makers of The art of tracking, then ethno-spiritual/eco-science takes on an ecological legitimacy. ≠Oma Tsamkxao, confirming his allegiance to Marshall’s (1996) anti-tourist position, stated that:
I do not regard cultural tourism as being development … Through cultural tourism people are seen as living in the ‘old days’. Tourists come here to Bushmanland looking for Bushmen who live in a traditional way. If they do not find them, they go to other places and buy (traditional) loincloth and give them to the people to wear.
Recognising this problem, where tourists bluntly invade private cultural back-stages, the Namibian Airlines’ in-flight magazine offers ‘useful advice to travellers visiting Eastern Bushmanland’. Willie Olivier in the Namibian Air in-flight magazine (n.d.) warns that ‘traditional societies are often offended by ill-mannered tourists’ who ‘sneak up’ for photographs and haggle about the price of curios. ≠Oma Tsamkxao, implicitly recognising the tension between back- and front-stages, continues:
If the tourists want Bushmen to dance or sing they should let them do that in the cloth they are wearing. Tourists also demand Bushmen to dance and sing whenever they want them to do so. Bushmen have their own time of dancing. It is not good to decide for people when to dance and sing and also to film them (interviewed by Kandjii, 10 July 1996).
Dancing is usually associated with curing ceremonies, not entertainment for outsiders, unless allocated front-stage. The reference to ‘dancing’ is the driving motif of Dancing at the future. Here it is used as a healing metaphor in restoring social equilibrium ruptured in the clash between ‘tradition’ and the ‘modern’, the ‘past’ and the ‘future’, and ‘us’ and ‘them’. This is itself an affirmative articulation in comparison to the depiction of ‘dancing’ as a metaphor of a ‘lost’ ecological balance, entrapping the ‘Bushmen’ in a perpetual circular motion captured by the camera in the present, but whose significance and culture is located by the presenter in the ‘past’ (for example, Adventure bound). Bolton’s (1969-1979) description of ‘Bushmen’ dancing to Beethoven with ‘profound primeval reverence’ fixes this ‘long ago’ time in the observers’ mind. Or, as Laurens van der Post (1988: 24) puts it, dance provided a way for Bushmen to endure the visitor’s exacting presence. Dance sustained the ‘natural Bushman’ in the face of the ‘wilful’ Western lifestyle which influenced them by day.
The San have become, for the world’s media, a diorama of moral values,[viii] a natural existence for man before the Fall. The genuflection towards ‘conservation’ is perhaps an indication of the West’s own moral failure: it is laundering its own anxieties[ix] through the ‘Bushmen’. It does this by constantly drawing correspondences between ‘genetics’ and ‘community’, an ancient culture ‘rekindled’, and a modern culture that has ‘lost’ its innocence. By keeping the ‘Bushmen’ from ‘extinction’, contemporary filmmakers have encoded a parable, which keeps the idea alive that modernity might still save its own soul, and restore something of the ecological balance destroyed by industrial society. As the films analysed here suggest, this might be done via a mixture of science and priest-craft. Scientists like Flip Stander and Louis Liebenberg are presented in film as the facilitators who can ‘unlock a huge reservoir of Bushman knowledge’ which, as the rider states, ‘could be applied to satisfy the practical demands of Western science’ (Narrator, Dancing at the future, 1996). Even in its regeneration of priest-craft, science remains Cartesian and imperialistic.
Marketing ecological legitimacy
What is a paradox for anthropologists is an opportunity for markets and the subjects of culture. Commoditising traditions – invented or otherwise – is one way of tapping into the economic benefits promised by the postmodern condition.[x] Salzburg, Austria, for example, promotes itself as ‘The sound of music country’, notwithstanding the scant legitimacy of that film in Austria itself. Here, the ‘folkloric’ is the late-20th-Century merchant character of Salzburg wrapped up in indigenous clothing (Lugar 1992: 195). The myth popularised by the film becomes the reality that tourists come to see. What they come to see becomes the reality that the Salzburgers themselves promote. Film and video perform a similar function for Otozondjupa, though on a minimally organised scale when compared to the Austrian city.[xi] Tourists, photographers and filmmakers visit Tjum!kui to ‘see’ the Bushmen; ‘tourists’ (of the anthropological kind) visit to ‘study’ the Ju/’hoansi, who paradoxically sometimes negotiate their motives in terms of their mythical image of ‘poverty’. ‘Tourists’ (of the botanical kind) walk the terrain to ‘find’ plants via which indigenous medicines can be re-legitimated and re-introduced for villages too far from, and too dependent upon, the Western medicine offered by the Clinic (Mirchoff of Health Unlimited, interview, Tjum!kui, 11 July 1996).
The Bushman ‘image’ projected is derived from the merging of ‘reality’ and myth. It is this myth which can become an income generator for the Ju/’hoansi communities, provided they want to play the role. The heir to the cinematically depicted Von Trapp family in Salzburg is the tourist industry; but the heirs of the Ju/’hoansi could be the Ju/’hoansi themselves. This is the difference, and is what underlies the conflict between the Cooperative and the villagers themselves.
Clash of the Ti-texts
Clashes between John Marshall, who advocates farming, and conservancy advocates (which includes small-scale cattle husbandry), reached a peak in April 1996. Eighteen anthropologists objected to a scene in Marshall’s promotional film, A Kalahari family (1994). This scene depicts the Nyae Nyae Residents’ Committee, firing Axel Thoma, the then director of the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation (Biesele et al. 1996).
Thoma, financially backed by the USAID Living in a Finite Environment Program, had argued for a mixture of cattle and vegetable farming interspersed with game areas. The eighteen anthropologists suggested that Marshall had misrepresented the cause of Thoma’s expulsion (see Biesele 1996 and Marshall’s reply 1996). The struggle between these constituencies cut, of course, across the Ju/’hoansi themselves. The Chairman of the NNFC, /’Angn!ao /’Un, stated:
We do not want to leave off our ancient ways completely: we want to continue teaching them to our children along with the new things they are learning in our Village Schools Project. But outsiders [the Herero] want our resources for cattle … [Cattle] compete, if they are too many, with the wild game of the bush we are trying to protect. We live from these game by hunting them in our ancient ways … We also protect the game so that we can try to control and profit from tourism (nd. Duggan-Cronin Museum, Kimberley).[xii]
This statement encapsulates all of the discourses impacting on the Ju/’hoansi in the 1990s. It is, however, one that admits change, adaptation, and development. /Angn!ao/U’un’s assessment contradicts the ideology reproduced by Stander’s assistant in Dancing. When addressing the camera in her capacity as ‘expert’ she, the cameraman and editor, dances with the problem of the Ju/’hoansi becoming appropriately modern. In failing to locate themselves within the social relationships of Nyae Nyae of which they are part, they are unaware that the condition described by her does not apply to the Ju/’hoansi in the film. Put differently, when ‘man’ exempts ‘himself’ from the activity paradoxically being imposed by him, environmental and human consequences always follow. The ecological legitimacy that Stander is calling for cannot be unproblematically accomplished within this contradiction. One aspect of this contradiction is that foreign big-game hunters have been licensed to shoot lions; but the Ju/’hoansi are denied this, even when lions are killing their livestock. Lions, thus, have been described by ≠Oma Tsamkxao as ‘… the dogs of Western conservation’ (Bixler et al. 1993).
Reaching for star-texts
Negative developmental results have partly to do with the problems realised when people forget the original agenda within which an area of study came about. The need to ‘subdue the earth’, central to the methodological dispute between Galileo and the Church, becomes the objective. Farming, cultural tourism, and other forms of production and exchange in Nyae Nyae, are all products of this process. All are destructive in one way or another – there is no untainted solution.
Anthropology and, to a lesser extent, cultural studies, and least visual sociology, have tried to recover the subjectivity (that is, acknowledge the conscious presence of the body) of the analyst or actor within the system of relations being studied. Postmodern analysis, in contrast, is positively hostile to the idea that concrete ‘authors’ have anything to do with discursive developments. Otozondjupa exhibits aspects of pre-modernism, modernism and even post-modernism. Into this melange, the new ‘alchemy’ of science is meshed with priest-craft via development projects. The admixture offers a wealth of contradictions. As Belinda Jeursen observes:
The image we see so often in South African advertising of men, women and children walking in single file across a desert is not what I was expecting … I also didn’t expect to find a hut crammed to capacity with Ju/’hoansi men, women and children watching an old Bruce Lee film. As we put up our tents in the dark, a ghetto blaster somewhere else in the settlement provided a new set of sounds for the African night.
For a population long held to be the exemplar of the cultural isolate, their current lifestyle is a curious mixture of Hollywood movies (shown at Baraka), encounters with tourists, academics and development workers, shebeens, and a variety of languages, both European and African. Development agencies in the Nyae Nyae, can shape solutions within broader historical processes but they cannot change the general direction of history.
Whatever the outcome of plans for development in Nyae Nyae, it is clear that interests represented in the arguments from all sources include academics, donors, aid agencies, wildlife departments, tourist capital, and the Ju/’hoansi themselves. Outsiders in all manner of media are really conducting the real dance ‘at’ the future: government and foundation reports, film and video, advertising, and scholarly articles. The discourses draw on all three paradigms: science, priest-craft, and ethno-spiritual/eco-science. The boundaries of these grids of signification are becoming increasingly difficult to identify, determined as they are by global and competing ideological and economic interests. The negative case is merging with the positive affirmation in a new ethno-code adopted by significant parties to the encounter and popularised through TV and video (Greenwood 1978: 137).
If we look at the intersection of all these debates and discourses, then perhaps it becomes possible to differentiate between the ends that different actors seek to reach. From the point of view of the Ju/’hoansi, art commerce and cultural tourism become not a resource for operators and entrepreneurs, but something else. What we found can thus be seen as a form of principal tactic that people use within the broader strategy of combining development with survival on their own terms. Maybe ‘Kaptein’, the Klein Dobe community and Angn!ao/Un have already glimpsed the future and have set some planning – and regulation – in motion.
[i] Professor L.S. Forsdick, Northwestern University; Dr. M. Gusinde, US National Science Foundation, and Col. W. Morden, leader of the Morden Africa Expedition of the American Museum for Natural History (Davis 1954: 57).
[ii] All respondents pointed out incongruities in the dress, posture, and locations of the subjects depicted.
[iii] Similar lack of recognition occurred in April 1995, when an archaeologist showed flints he had found on Klein Mesetling Pan in Botswana to two Central Kalahari !Kung hunters who had also worked in Namibia.
[iv] The R10,000 had been injudiciously spent within months of receipt in an area where the two meagre shops and scores of shebeens were 80-minutes drive or a day’s walk away. This is the kind of lack of capacity that ≠Oma Tsamkxao was complaining about and which is echoed by someone in a Hunters of the Kalahari outtake: ‘The money is used for drinking and the cattle are just sitting there (not being cared for). This is a bad way to do things’ (Biesele 11.32).
[v] Biesele (1997) further develops this point.
[vi] The conservancy model is explained in Jones (1995), and a variety of Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism documents. An agreement was signed in April 1998, between the newly created Nyae Nyae Conservancy, located in the Eastern part of the Otjozondjupa Region, and the La Rochelle Hunting and Guest Farm. This agreement grants the Ju/’hoansi hunting and farming rights, and La Rochelle occupancy of a former hunting camp at Klein Dobe (The Namibian, 15 April 1998).
[vii] Compare this comment with Laurens van der Post (1988: 18-19): ‘The Bushman seemed to know what it actually felt like to be an elephant, a lion, an antelope, a steenbuck, a lizard, a striped mouse, mantic, baobab tree … Even as a child it seemed to me that his world was one without secrets between one form of being and another’.
[viii] This phrase belongs to Jake Homiak.
[ix] This phrase belongs to Tim Burke (2002).
[x] Cultural Villages in 1996 earned about N$200 a day, with about N$60 for each additional participant in hunting and gathering activities.
[xi] Polly Wiessner reports that in Vermont, where she grew up, the relocated Von Trapp family used The sound of music to attract tourists to this town. After the first ten years, younger generations of Von Trapps stood embarrassed as their elders dressed in traditional Austrian garb and sang, just as the Ju/’hoansi youth do. Maria’s youngest son then expanded the lodges and offered riding, cross-country skiing, theatre, music, hiking, and hosted old car shows, but only events of very high standards. The younger generation moves forward, does not remain in the past, and business booms.
[xii] Translated from the original by Biesele.