Treesleeper Camp: A case study of a community tourism project in Tsintsabis, Namibia

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This article focuses on a project called Treesleeper Camp as a case study about Bushmen, wildlife parks and tourism. Treesleeper is a community based tourism project in Tsintsabis, a resettlement farm in northern Namibia. The largest group here is the Hai//om Bushmen, who have strong historical ties with Namibia’s main tourist attraction, Etosha National Park. Treesleeper illustrates the changing culture of the Hai//om, since tradition and modernisation are strong forces within the project and the community. The ‘Bushman Myth’ lives on in tourism, also in more ‘responsible’ projects such as Treesleeper. In fact, the Bushman Myth can be seen as an important part of the broader ‘African Myth’ which is prevalent amongst tourists and constructed within tourism’s environmental bubble. Just as other Bushmen groups in Southern Africa, the Hai//om have lost their land due to immigration of Bantu tribes and colonialism. In Southern Africa wildlife parks have been created for conservation purposes, nowadays serving Southern African nature tourism. The Hai//om used to live in and around the Etosha National Park, but are currently the only tribe in Namibia without land of their own. Therefore their relation with and the position of wildlife has changed dramatically. This is illustrated by comparing the Hei//omn relationship with wildlife and that of the tourists. Tourists can hunt game on hunting farms as part of their ‘African Myth’, while Bushmen are restricted in their hunting for survival purposes. Apart from that, tourists can visit game parks such as Etosha to see the animals. Traditional hunting techniques and performances now have a different function at Treesleeper. These have become sources of generating income for Treesleeper Camp. At the same time, the village tour of Treesleeper Camp is an example of an attraction where tourists can get closer to ‘real Africa’. What is shown in the article is how Treesleeper Camp and the Hei//omn Bushmen make use of their possibilities within the growing industry of tourism in Namibia, using the proximity of Etosha and its’ tourists for generating income. For this they use their possibilities, traditional as well as modern, within the tourists’ ‘African Myth’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAfrican Hosts & their Guests
Subtitle of host publicationCultural Dynamics of Tourism
EditorsW.E.A van Beek, Annette M. Schmidt
PublisherBoydell & Brewer
ISBN (Print)9781847010490
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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