Among the Savages

I asked journalist, filmmaker and photographer Pablo Mediavilla Costa, also one of my students at The New School, to give some perspective on the Spanish reality TV series, ‘Perdidos en la tribu’ (‘Lost in the tribe’) filmed, among others, in Namibia among the San (referred to by the derogatory Bushman in the series) and the Himba (that’s the Spanish cast members in Himba blackface above). In the host countries, the series has been criticized for its crude stereotypes and exploitation of the locals. I wanted to know from Pablo what the reception to the series has been inside Spain:

Lost in the (Spanish TV) tribe

The savage Africans have arrived to Spanish television. Supposedly progressive Spanish TV channel, Cuatro–close to the Socialist government- -last year unfurled one of the most racist products ever seen: ‘Perdidos en la tribu’ or translated ‘Lost in the tribe,’ a reality show in which three Spanish families live for a while with “three primitive tribes unaware of Western civilization: the Himba, the Mentawai and the Bushman”. The prize: 200.000 dollars if they integrate in the amoral wilderness of the uncivilized blacks and stay for, at least, 30 days with them. Painful.

Sharp TV critic Javier Pérez de Albéniz, wrote soon about it: “Are we talking about an ambitious anthropological essay? Maybe it is the making of a National Geographic documentary. Or maybe some ethnological project backed by the United Nations. No, my dear friends, it is a new television product of exploitation of the indigenous people”.

Now, after the success of the first season–with an average of 2 million viewers–the second one promises “more adventure” with the Hamer from Ethiopia, the Kamoro from Papua and the Nakulamené from Vanuatu. Shameful.

And that is not all, some Spanish NGO’s have denounced that the conditions of life are faked and the villagers were disguised and paid some 200 dollars that then were spent in alcohol.

Here it is an example. This clip is entitled, “the Bushman sick of love”:

Pablo Mediavilla Costa



Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

  1. i can not stand it when non south africans/africans comment on things african/south african….
    the bushmen actually refer to themselves as bushmen…they don't see anything wrong with the word (classification?)…they don't find it offensive…offensive is such a western word…i really don't like that word…pc'ness is so damn white….

    1. Please check your facts on Dr. Jacobs, the intro writer of this piece.

      I agree that PCness is typically a white racialization but conciousness knows no color.

  2. Cuatro is "close to the Socialist Government" how? As in the building is down the street from La Moncloa!? Mmmm…I guess having a Spanish journalist say it is supposed to give credibility to this. Let's see…Cuatro is a PRIVATE channel which is virtually owned (like another TV channel in Spain, Telecinco) in fact by its largest shareholder, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a well known right wing racist and reactionary individual, who (to be fair) I am sure had little to say about the concoction of this ignorant program, as he is busy being a fascist in his own country. I guess my point is that perhaps it might have been more accurate to say "Cuatro -close to the Italian government," as it is in fact closer to them. The only TV channel "close" to the socialist government is TVE, which is the public, national TV channel, but not in the way it is insinuated by Pablo (sneaky, sneaky…). The Spanish Socialist government can be criticized on many fronts, but standing on the wrong side of the discrimination debate is not usually one of them.

    In regards to the program, I have not seen it but it is probably bad taste at best or (it looks like) outright racist and a national embarrassment at worst…As a Spanish citizen I will make no apologies for it, but lets not make the mistake of smearing along the way a government that can give lessons in courage to Mr Obama in regards to social justice, anti-discriminatory and progressive policies….

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