N!xau The Bushman


Rememeber that guy? yea, N!xau was his name. I bet you’re wondering how an exclamation mark found its way into his name. Well, the wierd spelling of his name and the exclamation mark substitutes for the clicking sound in his native tongue, Ungwatsi, (i just bit my tongue trying to type that out) that cannot be interpreted into English, so yea, the best they could do was put an exclamation mark in there. As if that’s not wierder.

You see, i was watching Strike Back last night and then i saw him, or someone who looked just like him in it. Nope, it was definitely him. Looking older, of course, same small build, rough hair, cheekbones poking out, a bit more flesh though. As i was engulfed in the excitement of seeing him again after such a long time, watching as he was helping the bad guys track down the good guys in the bush i thought “hey, wherever can this small, funny, bushman be now?” Well it turned out that the Kalahari desert bushman known as N!xau, who thrilled the entire world in the 80s with his brilliant performance in the movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, died near the place he was born in the remote Tsumkwe (there goes my tongue again) area of Namibia, thats somewhere in south west Africa. I couldn’t get details of his death but the news was that He went into the bush to gather wood on the 1st of July but did not return. His body was later found. He had suffered from tuberculosis.


His unexpected fame came about from the remarkable success of The Gods Must Be Crazy. That film made nearly $100m in that era’s $US value, real success. We saw him in that film as he had a hard time trying to get rid of an empty coke bottle that was dropped from an airplane on his bush village. He went on his way, or out of it, to throw the bottle off the edge of the world, but his journey involves him in hilarious contact with white civilization.

A sequel was released in 1989, and he went on to an even stranger career in Hong Kong, making three action films. ImageYea, that looks hilarious.

N!xau was illiterate, of course, although obviously very bright. He had previously seen only three white people, knew of no settlement larger than his village, and had no notions of modern society. When he received his first wages of $300, he threw them away because he did not think they had any value. But he learned fast, and demanded 600,000 Rand for the sequel.  He was given some cattle instead – the tribal capital – and he was excited!  He then started to make some real money and then got himself a car – but never learned to drive it. He did drive a jeep in reverse while standing on the hood and backwards in The Gods Must Be Crazy.

oops!    Image

Sorry about that, no i mean it, don’t look at the pic! But he does look like he’s Ushers uncle though. No, don’t look! Oh dear, what have i done? Moving on.

The bushman was a natural actor, but his exposure to civilization had two corrupting influences on N!xau: he learned to drink alcohol and smoke. He had a wife, four daughters and two sons. N!xau was thought to be about 59, but said he never knew his birthday.  I don’t blame him, calenders are usually hard to find in this parts. i got my calender for this year in March, imagine that!

But i digress.

N!xua, bushman and actor, born probably in 1944, died July 2003.

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