Report from Margrethe Haug, Master in Social Anthropology, University of Tromsø.
Økonomisk støtte til prosjektet:
” ‘Bushmen’ as a Trademark – Commercialisation of indigenous culture by the tourism industry, a ticket to development or to further marginalisation?” (Draft title)
My MA fieldwork has been financial supported by the Institute for Social Anthropology (ISA), the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), Centre for Sami Studies and SEMUT. I would like to start by thanking these bodies. Your generous assistance has enabled me to travel, work and stay in Botswana for four months, collecting relevant data on my filed of research.
Conducting fieldwork is a central and intriguing part of doing Master in Social Anthropology. I have recently returned from my fieldwork among the San-people in the northern part of Botswana (from March 18 until July 15, 2006). The general aim for this stay has been to study more thorough the relation between ‘Indigenous people, Tourism and Development’. Underlying this focus is an idea that tourism, as a global and commercial industry, has the potential to become a way for indigenous people to take part in the modern development process without necessarily having to give up their traditional culture. I base this on the thought that indigenous peoples’ culture should not be perceived as an essentialised, closed and unchanging entity, but as an ongoing process with capacity to incorporate elements of change, for instance brought about by involvement in tourism. Instead of assuming a-priori that tourism is all bad for indigenous peoples, I wanted to go to the field and learn more about the actors and structures involved in this complex relationship, which in my case was illustrated by the San/the Bushmen and the tourism industry in Botswana. In addition, I have tried to identify and recognize what conditions that must be present for tourism to promote and support a development process that preserves and protects indigenous people’s rights, traditions and culture.
With assistance from the UBTø-program (the NUFU-Pro 46/02), I registered as an exchange student at the University of Botswana (UB). The first couple of weeks were spent at UB in Gaborone, getting familiar with the field and preparing for further work in the north. The following three months I was based at TOCaDI (Trust for Okavango Cultural and Development Initiatives) in Shakawe. This is a self-help development organisation under ‘Kuru Family of Organisations’, that assists firstly, but not exclusively, the San through mobilising them into Community Trusts (i.e. a legal entity representing villages applying the Land Board for land leases for use in tourism businesses, for instance). My focal case study has been Teemacane Trust’s community tourism project – ‘the Cultural Hiking Trail’. In the middle of May Teemacane was having 28 Canadian and UB students from World University Service of Canada (WUSC) coming to pilot the Trail. This gave me a unique opportunity to work directly on tourism with the Teemacane villages, assist the Trust in the Trail preparations and finishing, and not at least, walk the Trail together with the students/tourists. Collaborating with Teemacane Trust and TOCaDI has provided me with much valuable information and data concerning the challenges, obstructions and potential gain from involvement in community tourism.
However, to grasp the complexity of my subject matter, I had to approach various sets of actors, arenas and relations: I attended relevant workshops and meetings addressing issues of ‘rural’ tourism, joint ventures with the private tourism sector and Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM). I have also been interviewing booking agencies, lodge managers, tour operators and safari companies about their customers, governmental policies, marketing strategies (collecting marketing brochures for analysis), joint venture arrangements and their general perception of community based cultural tourism. Together this has made me raise some critical questions towards the way the Botswana government and the private sector perceive and address community development through tourism.
To establish a framework for comparison, I have studied other San related tourism project and activities: I visited Dqãe Qare Game Farm in Ghanzi, a San-owned venture (through Kuru Family of Organisations) which is marketing the ‘Bushman Experience’ – a three day adventure, learning San traditional gathering and hunting skills. I also joined a fellow student from the UBTø-program on an excursion to her place of fieldwork – the luxurious Khutse Kalahari Lodge which is selling ‘Bush walks’ to high market tourists. It has been interesting to see how these different tourism businesses are promoting, presenting and selling elements from the ‘San Culture’ to different tourists categories. Furthermore I have focused on how the profit (- economical and socio-cultural profit, i.e. ’empowerment’) from this type of cultural commercialisation, is distributed among the partners involved. In this connection, I visited the San Arts and Craft program in Ghazi, which products are renowned throughout the country, especially among tourists. This program creates a central income and employment opportunity for San communities in the area, particularly for the women. Later I did a survey to compare the prices and the marketing of these products by private enterprise in Maun (the Botswana tourist capital). This has given me an idea of to what extent the San artists get economical and cultural recognition for their products.
Beside gathering first hand information and data, I have spent much time collecting and going through second hand data (i.e. governmental policy papers, brochures, management plans, newspapers, theses, reports, speeches, etc.). Midway through July my time in Botswana was ending. The last two weeks were spent in Gaborone wrapping up and conducting a field debriefing seminar at UB for the UBTø staff and other involved or interested in my field of research.
I will again express my gratitude to my financial supporters, the Institute for Social Anthropology (ISA), the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), Centre for Sámi Studies and SEMUT, for helping me realise an exiting, frustrating, unforgettable and no-regrettable fieldwork.