Inhabiting images: Ju|'hoansi, San and others
Kempinski, Aglaja Agascha
MetadataShow full item record
The Kalahari San or Bushmen are one of the most researched ethnic groups. As such, multiple images, produced by research, popular literature and films exist of them. Tsumkwe, the administrative centre of what used to be known as ‘Bushmanland’ during Apartheid, occupies a special place in the context of San image production as it is the site of most visual material produced about San, a popular destination for tourists who want to see San and a successful indigenous governed conservancy that attracts many NGOs and other projects aimed at San. The people living in Tsumkwe are the Ju|’hoansi, a group considered to be part of the ‘San’ category. This thesis considers ethnographic questions about the Ju|’hoansi and those who visit them, through a framework based on the theory of images. How do the Ju|’hoansi inhabit the multiple images of San-ness which non-San bring to Tsumkwe and how do they navigate the pressures of both San sociality and expectations from outsiders within and outside the structures of knowledge which shape our perception of these images? In addition to general participant observation in Tsumkwe and the surrounding Nyae Nyae conservancy, I make use of ethnographic data from filmmaking workshops I conducted with Ju|’hoan participants. These workshops created important primary data. Further, by inverting the hitherto passive relationship to film into an active one, the engagement with the medium and its production enabled usually invisible concepts and understanding of self and others to become articulated. Additionally, I conducted interviews with tourists, researchers and NGO workers. As Gordon discusses in The Bushman Myth, the label of San or Bushmen is an externally invented and constructed category. Over the course of the 20th century, a multitude of images of the San have emerged, ranging from ‘underdeveloped primitives’, to no ‘noble savages’ to ‘disempowered minorities’. However outdated, once articulated, remnants of these images have remained and contribute to the body of preconceived ideas outsiders approach the San with. | Inhabiting Images: Ju|’hoansi, vi San, and Others In Tsumkwe, different images exist simultaneously. In interactions with outsiders, Ju|’hoansi informants confirmed and enacted sometimes opposing images, depending on the context, without considering one more ‘true’ than another. Some Ju|’hoansi were able to switch between different images particularly well. Despite of the Ju|’hoansi community in Tsumkwe being accepting of the various images of San-ness brought in by outsiders, Tsumkwe was overall governed by Ju|’hoan values and sociality which stopped any of the NGOs that tried to establish themselves and their world views in Tsumkwe from becoming too dominant. Egalitarian pressures, however, also affect not only outsiders seeking to establish themselves but also Ju|’hoansi. Additionally, many Ju|’hoansi, experience the multitude of images brought in as a pressure. This double pressure can be somewhat relieved through carefully negotiated play in which caricatures of identities are acted out playfully. Despite possible overlap between San images and Ju|’hoan sociality, it is useful to understand San images as being a reflection on those who construct them. For the Ju|’hoansi, these images are part of the world they inhabit creatively.