White stereotypes, black absences

I have contributed the post below about Louis Theroux’s African Safari to Sean Jacobs’ excellent blog, The Leo Africanus. Check it out.

There he stood, poor Louis Theroux.
Thin and civilised, black-rimmed spectacles and shirtsleeves, having to watch how an overweight Afrikaner, dressed in khaki, gets all excited about his daughter felling a wild hog with one shot from a crossbow.
Initially, upon watching his program ‘African Hunting Holiday‘ (BBC), one sympathises with Theroux to a certain extent – the dusty bush of Limpopo is no place for nuanced arguments or bookish chaps. As one of his interviewees less than delicately puts it in a heavy accent: “Africa does not have computers…it’s fucked, because we chop down everything and we eat everything. This (hunting) is a way of making money out what there is here.”
But Theroux’s posh indignitation at the bloodlusty, weird Afrikaner father-and-daughter pair becomes annoying when he insists on framing the farmers as the brutes, and lets their clients go scot free.
One cringes at the poorly executed machismo of the American clients who pay good money for the thrill of the kill.
Although towards the end it seems Theroux becomes a bit more sympathetic to the complexities of the hunting industry, what remains lost from sight is that these farmers play up an image of wildlife, the bush and ferocious animals to feed into Westerners’ fantasies about Africa.
On several occasions what becomes clear is that the farmers actually care deeply about the animals and the bush, and try to arrive at an ethical way of doing their job. But Theroux does not allow himself to dwell on these contradictions.
Rough farmers are part of the fantasy that the Americans come to enjoy, and Theroux actually is more complicit in upholding this colonial narrative than he would care to acknowledge. And then there are those parts of the fantasy which go wholly unspoken.
Theroux never complains about the black workers having to sit on the back of the truck or clean the bloody carcasses while he and the hunters engage in elevated debate about animal rights or enjoy the scenery from air-conditioned comfort.
Fantasies have many sides.

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Filed under Afrikaners, hunting, Limpopo, louis theroux, stereotypes

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