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A Million Feet of Film / A Lifetime of Friendship: the John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000

Still frame, An Argument About a Marriage, HSFA, SI, 2005_11_19a

In July 2009, the John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000 was inscripted on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. The register is a carefully selected list of valuable and irreplaceable documentary heritage of humanity held in archives and libraries around the world.
Tsamko ≠Oma, /Gautcha, 1992

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John Marshall, known to his Ju/'hoan friends as ≠Oma Xosi (Toma Longface), was denied entry to South West Africa (now Namibia) for twenty years. When he finally returned to Nyae Nyae in 1978, he was greeted warmly by his mentor and namesake, ≠Oma Tsamko.


From 1950-2000, filmmaker John Marshall documented the lives of a group of Ju/'hoansi (!Kung San Bushman) of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. Marshall and his colleagues shot over one million feet of film and video (767 hours), beginning in the last years that the Ju/'hoansi still lived by gathering and hunting in their harsh desert environment. Tremendous and rapid changes occurred during the ensuing fifty years, both on the individual level and within Ju/'hoan society at large. Marshall's film and video document these changes, along with interviews in which Ju/'hoansi share their thoughts and feelings about the past and their hopes and concerns for the future.
All this, as well as audio recordings, photographs, maps, film and videotape logs, translations, and other papers, comprises the John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000, held at the Human Studies Film Archives, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. This audiovisual collection is unique in the world for its focus on one group of people over such a long period. The material can be used to study historic and contemporary Ju/'hoan life, culture, and language as well as the politics of international development amongst indigenous populations, the evolution of documentary and ethnographic filmmaking, human adaptation, and the cultural landscape of the Kalahari Desert.
Still frame, A Curing Ceremony, HSFA, SI, 2005_11_23f