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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It’s all in a name

Ethnographic filmmaker John Marshall became close friends with the Ju/’hoan Bushmen he filmed and worked with over fifty years. He was given a Ju/’hoan name, ≠Oma (after his mentor) as well as a Ju/’hoan nickname, Xosi. Ju/’hoansi assign nicknames based on notable physical characteristics and notable deeds. During the 1950’s in the Kalahari Desert, Marshall knew men named for their hunting prowess, skills as healers, and in one case, for an unusually shaped belly-button. As for Marshall’s nickname, Xosi means “long cheeks” or “long face”. And Marshall himself has become the basis of new nicknames; his longtime assistant, also named ≠Oma, is known as ≠Oma Johnmarshall.

Watch a moving film clip of Marshall’s reunion with his mentor, ≠Oma, after a twenty-year absence at the HSFA’s Marshall Collection web exhibit.

Hear more of ≠Oma’s infectious laughter in a film clip from 1955.

– Karma Foley, Human Studies Film Archives

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