“He wants to know how all those people got in there”: Surveying The Gods Must Be Crazy through a post- and neo-colonial telescope

Roie Thomas

Abstract


The popular film The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) remains, despite its age, the primary reference point for Westerners with regard to the San people of southern Africa (commonly known outside Africa as the Bushmen). It is a catalyst for tourist interest in the people since many tourists, as this paper demonstrates, credulously accept the mythology that the San people live now as (and where) they do in the film. Indeed, a Lonely Planet ‘coffee-table’ publication of 2010 cites the film as mandatory viewing for tourists prior to visiting Botswana. The San’s lifestyle is depicted in the film as one of Garden-of-Eden tranquility, although the landscape is somewhat more arid than the Genesis idyll. The San had been driven out of the Kalahari by the Botswana government in the interests of diamond mining, big-game hunting and high-end tourism. Meanwhile, tourist ephemera in-country extols the lifestyle of the Bushmen esoterically, producing imagery that suggests they are still living as they did for millennia, omitting any mention of their modern realities and perpetuating a lie about their ongoing relationship with lands to which they no longer have access. The film is explored here via some thematic distinctions of Spurr (1993). This paper transcribes these distinctions (or tropes) of colonialist thought and action as neo-colonialist which are ubiquitously in operation within the modern tourism industry, perpetuating disempowerment to a significant extent

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