NAMIBIA'S Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) has accused the Swedish national TV
station (SVT) of violating filming conditions and "exploiting minority
groups in Namibia" with its new reality show, 'The Great Journey', writes Nangalu Shejavali  in the Namibian.

The show – created by the production company Eyeworks Sweden, and set to begin airing on September 8 – depicts three Swedish families who live with people from minority groups in Namibia, Vanuatu and Indonesia. In the case of Namibia, the Himba ethnic group is used.

Referring to the life of the ethnic groups as "extremely primitive tribal life" and constantly calling them "tribe members" while the Swedish participants are called "the families", an excerpt from the station's website questions "…will the western families manage to change their lives to something this foreign – some times even frightening? (…) Can they eat what the host families are eating, dress, sleep, hunt and kill animals, just like they do?"

The show is much like the Spanish reality show – 'Lost in the Tribe' – which was also recently blasted by Spanish NGOs in Namibia and abroad for exoticising Namibia's ethnic groups, and for perpetuating negative stereotypes of Namibia's ethnic groups. In that show, both the San and Himba groups were used, and paid a pittance compared to their Spanish counterparts.

In a joint press release, the LAC and partner Africa Groups of Sweden (AGS) say the show is "permeated by a lack of respect", and "uses stereotypes reminiscent of colonial times in its marketing of the programme".

The two organisations say that in their treatment of the Himba, the producers have violated the UN Declaration of 2007 on the Rights of Indigenous People.

They also accuse the show of having violated the conditions for filming among the Himba in Namibia, by ignoring and sidestepping the prescribed process of consulting the LAC, which has the mandate to approve any filming among Namibia's ethnic minorities such as the Himba and the San.

"LAC was given this mandate since these groups are marginalised, with high levels of illiteracy, and since many Himba communities lack knowledge of laws and regulations which guarantee their rights," the Centre explains.

They say that by not complying with this regulation, the LAC was unable to inform the local community in advance of its rights and the possible consequences of participating in the production.

"Such prior knowledge would have enabled the community to have a better position in the negotiations with the production company, and resulted in a more fair, legally binding agreement," say the LAC and AGS.

As payment to the Himba participants involved in the show, the contract between the production company and those involved in the show only provides about N$44 per day, and a few bags of mealie-meal and sugar.

"This food supply would only last the people for the period they are being filmed," says the LAC, adding that unlike past initiatives by other companies that followed prescribed procedures, Eyeworks and SVT do not provide any long-term benefits to the community.

Click here to read the fullr eport, posted on the Namibian's website.