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Primitive TV for whites

TV3's new reality show from "primitive cultures" in the South fits into the white man's long traditions of fairness mentality at the expense of other people, writes Ny Tids Harald Eraker.


The year was 1982. By chance, during a trip in Sri Lanka, I became aware of a brochure from the travel agency Tjæreborg. It advertised a charter trip from Copenhagen to Sri Lanka which included a week's exotic tour of the tropical island.

One of the exotic features – a visit to Sri Lanka's indigenous peoples, the Weddas – particularly piqued my interest. For in Tjæreborg's description of the lives and remains of the Weddas, the word "primitive" was suspiciously often used.

So I went to the Tjæreborg office in Colombo and asked them if it was possible for me to join the tour they were advertising, even though I was not part of the charter trip from Copenhagen. A couple of seats were available, so for a relatively inexpensive money I got a seat.

A few days later, I sat with a dozen Scandinavian tourists in a Tjæreborg bus on their way into the Sri Lankan jungle. Over the speaker, the Danish tour guide prepared us for the meeting with the weddaes. And he did not put his fingers in his description of the indigenous people: They are primitive, they have no culture, he said. They have no religion, they do not wash, he continued, to the general amusement of the Norwegians, Swedes and Danes in the bus.

A while later we had completed the last executable stage on our way to the wedda by jeep. Before we set out on foot on the final stretch, the Tjæreborg tour leader once again reiterated that the wedges were primitive, that they had no culture, that they were almost naked, that they were going to show us how to shoot with the bow and arrow and make up fire without matches.

Then the tour guide took out a paper bag and pulled up some dry breadcrumbs. With a grin around his mouth, he slammed the pieces of bread against the hood of the jeep he was standing by. The bread is a bit dry, he said, but when we visit the weddas we have to bring gifts for them. We also give them smoke, he said – again to the general cheerfulness of the Scandinavian tourists.

Then the Tjæreborg entourage went the last bit into the jungle to feed the "primitives" with dry bread and smoke. When we arrived, the weddings in the small village were in the middle of their daily chores. Invaded by Scandinavian tourists – snapping game with their cameras – they were asked by the Tjæreborg tour guide to shoot with a bow and arrow and make a fire without matches.

Then the tour manager gave the bag with the dry breadcrumbs and some packages of smoke. As the Scandinavians pointed and laughed and asked the weddas to pose in different positions, the Danish tour leader kept repeating his message: The weddas have no culture, they are primitive, they have no religion, they do not wash.

Why do I remember this experience now in 2005?

Yes, because TV3 this autumn launches its new reality show, "Another World", where Norwegian families are challenged to "live with different tribes and nomadic communities in Africa, Asia and South America".

Last Sunday, the first episode was broadcast – it was about a Norwegian family with children who lived in the village of a group of semi-nomadic ovahimba people in the northern part of Namibia.

For ten days, the Norwegians lived on "the premises of the local population", as TV3 puts it on its website, "completely without their usual comfort. Built-in water, electricity and easy access to food are non-existent. ”

"Another world" will be one of the autumn's most exciting adventures for TV3's viewers, the TV channel further proclaims. For, as TV3 has tempted in its full-page ads recently: "How will Norwegian families cope with living with the locals in some of the world's most primitive areas and cultures?"

Some criticism has already come to the program, conveyed by Norwatch. The production company Rubicon, who has made the series, had originally intended to place the Norwegian family with the san people in Namibia. But when they demanded payment in the form of money, Rubicon moved the recording to the ovahimba people in Kaokaland further north in Namibia.

The village of Ovahimba was satisfied with a few blankets, a water tank, ropes and a couple of boilers in payment.

When asked by Norwatch whether the claim for payment was the reason why the recording was moved from the San people to the Ovahimba, Rubicon's production manager Lasse Hallberg replies to Norwatch:

- No, the san people were just a backup plan in Namibia. The Ovahimbas – which were the original plan – are not commercialized in the same way, and more so what we were looking for.

Because that is what Hallberg and TV3 are looking for, which is the big problem. They are in fact looking for what they perceive as "primitive cultures", and then focus on the entertainment in relation to "well-developed" Norwegians' encounter with these "underdeveloped" people far away.

Basically, this TV series builds on the same fairy tale mentality at the expense of indigenous peoples that Tarje posted in Sri Lanka over 20 years ago, and for which the white man has been an exponent all year.

Behind it all lies the notion that the others are underdeveloped and primitive, while we are the developed and smart ones. This solid misconception that the white race builds its self-image on living is still at its best in countries like Norway.

However, there should be plenty of signals that the white self-image should be the subject of self-examination. For example, all the primitive reality shows that flood our TV channels are good enough evidence for that.

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