Namibia 1991

Chained to the Fire

19 December 2016

How did photographer David Bruce get involved in Ju/'hoansi education?

‡Xáí-ó, à ré ‡xáí  (Hello and how are you)


Well over 25 years ago I visited the Ju/’hoansi Bushmen in North East Namibia. It was somewhat of an escape, given my hearing was below speech level, and a career in creative advertising in London seemed to be going nowhere.


After a few trips to Namibia, I began to spend long periods in the Nyae Nyae region attaching myself to N//hoq’ma, a village in the north west of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and //Auru, a village in the south.


As a photographer I was captivated by the subject photographing so many people, many of which have died over the years. I never knew how good my work was to become, but I certainly realised that I had a heighten state of observation that comes with being deaf, and a richness that comes from that struggle. Great photographs are often hard won, taking weeks or even months to create a single image.

/Auru Village 2009

The engagement and interaction with the subject has provided me with extraordinary experiences. Much of my knowledge of the subject is due to my adopted parents, /Oma and his wife /Am. They have looked after me and exposed me to so much of the Ju/’hoansi culture, with much fun and laughter along the way! So much so that was easy to forget the outside world and give of yourself to the subject. I have never felt vulnerable in the company of the Ju/’hoansi, such gracious people.

/Oma and /Am

Photographic success in New York, lead to the development of the Ju/’hoansi Development Fund, (JDF) supporting Ju/’hoansi education. This was directly due to a close relationship with Ui (Steve) Kunta, a friendship spanning 20 years. /Ui was concerned about his children's education and the very future of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy. Education in the Nyae Nyae Consevancy has always been problematic. Formal education, introduced to the Ju/’hoansi in the 1970’s, was based on abstract knowledge systems of the western world.

Steve and family

There also comes a time when you feel that you can never leave the subject, and that you are chained to the fires of.


Ì!á kà ||áú ú-ó (You all go well)



David Bruce

Namibia 2009 having fun

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