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Namibian premiere of “Authenticized”

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InfoEntrance 20,- Nam$

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With their so called “exotic” appearance (whatever that may be) and “unique” way of life, the ovaHimba people are a huge attraction for tourists, photographers and filmmakers. But authenticity comes at a price. As they become economically dependent on their own representation, the ovaHimba now have to live up to their image, while simultaneously trying to preserve a culture in transition. In the midst of this industry of images, “Authenticized” observes the groups on every side of the lens - framing, posing, paying and performing.

The film features Tjinezuma Kavari, Tony Figueira, Kapei Barnabas Tjitunda, Ted Scott, Willem Odendaal, Vickson Hangula and many more. The screening of the film will be followed by a discussion.

Since Namibia’s independence in 1990 and the following increased accessibility of the area, the Kunene region has become a prime site for international tourism. In recent years the ovaHimba have been appearing frequently on television shows and in documentaries from all over the world.

Tourism and television are now so ubiquitous in the region that for many ovaHimba it has become a source of income. Money is earned from tourists and
television crews who visit the compounds, and an increasing number of ovaHimba have started to work as tour guides, interpreters, location scouts or production assistants, have set up camp sites, lodges and luxury resorts for tourists or are providing so-called Himba Tours.

At the same time, the presence of such large numbers of tourists, photographers and filmmakers means a violation of the very same authenticity those tourists and media professionals come looking for. Precisely those aspects of modern life that tourists wish temporarily to escape from, - like smartphones, alcohol abuse and profit-making- , are entering the daily lives of the ovaHimba.

As they have become to a large extent economically dependent on their own representations, the ovaHimba now face the difficulty of living up to the image that is expected of them, while simultaneously seeing their traditional ways of life heavily affected by the arrival of foreign visitors and media. As a consequence, the ovaHimba have to cultivate their own authenticity.

And so the ovaHimba find themselves part of a true, socioeconomic industry of authenticity, in which tourists, local tour guides, professional photographers,
TV crews, camp site owners, municipal officials, film commission representatives, minority advocates and human rights lawyers all play their part in creating, recording, monitoring, legitimising and selling authenticity.

Fundamental to this industry is the paradox that can be found in many places all over the world: that for the ovaHimba authenticating their own culture now means cultivating their own authenticity.

© Copyright AfricAvenir 2014

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