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A Living Museum - Ethnotainment in Namibia
Year: 2015
Run-Time: 1 x 45 min.

Directed by Werner Zips

A co-production by ORF/3sat and Werner Zips Filmproduktion
Available worldwide

Languages: German (ORIGINAL) , English (DUBBED)
Format: 16:9

A Living Museum - Ethnotainment in Namibia

Himba, Buschmänner und Löwen - Wildnis und Kulturmarketing in Namibia

In their seminal essay on »Ethnicity Inc.« (2009) Jean and John Comaroff brilliantly summarized the rampant commodification of »ethnic cultures« as »a new moment in the history of human identity«. They mentioned the commercialisation and ethnic or »indigenous« entrepreneurship of San cultures as a key example for this process. The proposed documentary plans to focus on Namibia, where the actual Living Museum of Grasshoek shall be compared to the with community-based organisation of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy (roughly 80 kilometres away).

The main focus of the film will be on the strategies, processes and economic modes of marketing »traditional culture«. It will also take into account the complex forms of interaction with national and international NGOs claiming to help or assist in this process. The main aim is to view the entire spectrum of chances, potentials and benefits of »ethnic productions« along with some less convenient or even unwanted consequences. However, over time ethnic or indigenous life ways transform into what may be coined »simulacra of indigeneity«. Places like Grasshoek offer a «menu» to every visitor suggesting possible consumptions of culture with fixed prices. Such items include »Bushmen walks«, imitations of former hunting trips, healing dances and even traditional weddings - meaning ceremonies modelled on San rituals of manifesting marital bonds for the visiting tourists.

A traditional village such as Grasshoek increasingly takes on the appearance of a business company or even, through the media of international tourism marketing, a small corporation. There is a lot to be learned from such experiences about a general commodification of «culture» on a global level. In many ways these culture businesses resemble Ethno-theme parks as mentioned by »the Comaroffs«. Of course, the commodification of ethnic cultures is by far no new phenomenon and has been observed in different locations by many anthropologists.

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