African tribe reveals what they REALLY think about Scarlett Moffatt after she moved in next door

The question is one that any number of people might legitimately pose. 

But today the person asking is a Himba tribe chief holding court beneath the shade of a Mopane tree in a remote outpost of Namibia.

‘Why is Scarlett famous?’ enquires Chief Tijuone. He is referring to Scarlett Moffatt from Gogglebox and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! – and now stirring bitter controversy in the Channel 4 show The British Tribe Next Door.

Chief Tijuone is in his village, perched on a camping stool, flanked by his father and his head cattle herder. 

Scarlett Moffatt and her family star in the new Channel 4 show The British Tribe Next Door which sees them lives in the Namibian Himba tribe for a month

Scarlett Moffatt and her family star in the new Channel 4 show The British Tribe Next Door which sees them lives in the Namibian Himba tribe for a month

Scarlett Moffatt and her family star in the new Channel 4 show The British Tribe Next Door which sees them lives in the Namibian Himba tribe for a month

The family doesn't live in a traditional mud hut like the Chief and the rest of the villagers, but on the edge of the encampment in a perfect replica of their house in County Durham

The family doesn't live in a traditional mud hut like the Chief and the rest of the villagers, but on the edge of the encampment in a perfect replica of their house in County Durham

The family doesn’t live in a traditional mud hut like the Chief and the rest of the villagers, but on the edge of the encampment in a perfect replica of their house in County Durham

Semi-nomadic, polyamorous, the cattle-herding Himba – a proud, warm and dignified people – have lived in this inhospitable desert region of southern Africa, which early conquerors hastily bypassed for more fertile pastures, for centuries

Semi-nomadic, polyamorous, the cattle-herding Himba – a proud, warm and dignified people – have lived in this inhospitable desert region of southern Africa, which early conquerors hastily bypassed for more fertile pastures, for centuries

Semi-nomadic, polyamorous, the cattle-herding Himba – a proud, warm and dignified people – have lived in this inhospitable desert region of southern Africa, which early conquerors hastily bypassed for more fertile pastures, for centuries

The faint outline of where the Moffat House once stood outside the fence of Otjeme village

The faint outline of where the Moffat House once stood outside the fence of Otjeme village

The faint outline of where the Moffat House once stood outside the fence of Otjeme village

Behind them a dozen striking women sit in an attitude of listless grace, their hair and skin covered with a paste of red ochre and butter, a cosmetic adornment which instantly identifies them as Himba.

Semi-nomadic, polyamorous, the cattle-herding Himba – a proud, warm and dignified people – have lived in this inhospitable desert region of southern Africa, which early conquerors hastily bypassed for more fertile pastures, for centuries.

Chief Tijoune (pictured) wishes he could have learned more from the Moffat family while they spent time filming

Chief Tijoune (pictured) wishes he could have learned more from the Moffat family while they spent time filming

Chief Tijoune (pictured) wishes he could have learned more from the Moffat family while they spent time filming

The Chief, who heads a village of 100, had Scarlett and her family’s company pressed upon him earlier this year for a reality TV show or what Channel 4 pompously called ‘a reverse anthropological exchange’. He spoke to Scarlett infrequently, though, preferring to ‘leave her to our ladies’.

Now he is awaiting an answer and I have a stab at enlightening him. ‘Well, Scarlett became famous for watching television…’ I give up.

How to explain Gogglebox to a man who only became acquainted with television a few months ago when the Moffatts moved in? Or indeed how to explain to him the concept of reality TV?

Chief Tijuone runs a fingertip over his moustache and closes his eyes. He falls silent. What is there to say? Few would blame him if he was taking a moment to inwardly reflect on British culture, no doubt comparing it unfavourably to his own.

A light-hearted suggestion that, in Britain, Chief Tijuone is now quite famous himself, snaps him out of his reverie and he waves an arm dismissively. He switches the conversation back to more meaningful ground: animal husbandry and how the drought in this corner of the world has devastated his cattle herd.

Viewers of The British Tribe Next Door will recognise Chief Tijuone though. It is he who greets Scarlett and her family when they arrive in his village, Otjeme.

Kandisiko (left) sits with other Himbe women recalling her time spent with the Moffat family

Kandisiko (left) sits with other Himbe women recalling her time spent with the Moffat family

Kandisiko (left) sits with other Himbe women recalling her time spent with the Moffat family

The four-part show, now at its halfway point, has received an onslaught of savage reviews. Pictured is the Otjeme village where the Moffatts lived

The four-part show, now at its halfway point, has received an onslaught of savage reviews. Pictured is the Otjeme village where the Moffatts lived

The four-part show, now at its halfway point, has received an onslaught of savage reviews. Pictured is the Otjeme village where the Moffatts lived

They live there for a month, not in a traditional mud hut like the Chief and the rest of the villagers, but on the edge of the encampment in a perfect replica of their house in County Durham, eating their own food and enjoying home comforts, including hot running water (trucked in so they cannot be accused of dipping into the Himba supply), electricity, a washing machine, television and wi-fi – all the amenities the Himba lack.

The house appears absurdly incongruous, as though randomly beamed down to earth from outer space.

The four-part show, now at its halfway point, has received an onslaught of savage reviews . Channel 4 said the format and content was carefully planned with the help of experts and full agreement of the tribe, but critics have called it ‘twisted’, ‘dehumanising’ and ‘the most offensive reality TV programme aired this side of the Millennium’. 

Critics have called it ‘twisted’, ‘dehumanising’ and ‘the most offensive reality TV programme aired this side of the Millennium’. Pictured are Himbe tribeswomen tending to their hair

Critics have called it ‘twisted’, ‘dehumanising’ and ‘the most offensive reality TV programme aired this side of the Millennium’. Pictured are Himbe tribeswomen tending to their hair

Critics have called it ‘twisted’, ‘dehumanising’ and ‘the most offensive reality TV programme aired this side of the Millennium’. Pictured are Himbe tribeswomen tending to their hair

At the heart of the disquiet is, for many, an inescapable feeling that the Himba are being exploited. Scenes that have caused unease include the villagers’ trepidation at climbing the stairs in the Moffatts’ two up, two down – and Scarlett joining two female tribe members as they dig for drinking water. ‘I won’t take water for granted again,’ she says.

But what do the Himba and others who know them think of the ‘experiment’ which aimed to show what the two cultures could learn from each other after living as neighbours? Having made the long journey to the village – which involved a one-hour flight and a five-hour drive – The Mail on Sunday found that, while the affection in which the Himba hold Scarlett and her family is indisputable, they were not without misgivings.

Asked what he learned from them, Chief Tijuone struggles to answer, before venturing that a month ‘was not long enough’. He says: ‘I expected that they would stay for longer, we could have all learned more.’ How can Chief Tijuone be expected to know that a month is a long time in reality TV?

But Scarlett’s father Mark did have time to teach him something of British culture: as well as introducing him to television, he showed him how to play darts and football. Laughing, Chief Tijuone recalls: ‘I was the goalkeeper and used my stick to hit the ball.’

But the delightful possibility that the beautiful game might be taken up by the Himba quickly evaporated. Mark, it seems, took the ball home with him when he returned to England. And the dartboard? ‘Again, gone,’ says Chief Tijuone.

Then there is the house itself. That too has disappeared. The material to build it – along with the builders themselves – came all the way from South Africa, some 1,300 miles away. 

Many people have an inescapable feeling that the Himba are being exploited during the TV show

Many people have an inescapable feeling that the Himba are being exploited during the TV show

Many people have an inescapable feeling that the Himba are being exploited during the TV show

Scenes that have caused unease include the villagers’ trepidation at climbing the stairs in the Moffatts’ two up, two down – and Scarlett joining two female tribe members as they dig for drinking water

Scenes that have caused unease include the villagers’ trepidation at climbing the stairs in the Moffatts’ two up, two down – and Scarlett joining two female tribe members as they dig for drinking water

Scenes that have caused unease include the villagers’ trepidation at climbing the stairs in the Moffatts’ two up, two down – and Scarlett joining two female tribe members as they dig for drinking water

And when the Moffatts departed, it was immediately dismantled and returned whence it came. Now all that remains is a faint outline on parched soil.

Chief Tijuone would have liked to have kept the house, he says, though he acknowledges that he was aware from the outset that this would not be possible. ‘There was an agreement,’ he says vaguely. But he would have ‘liked the chance to sleep on both floors, just to try’ even though he would never abandon his traditional hut.

In conclusion he calls the house a ‘waste of money’. But of the experiment he says: ‘I didn’t know anything about British people, I could not imagine what they were like. When I heard they were coming I felt very excited. 

‘Now that they have gone I find myself missing them, we all do. They did not fear us and we did not fear them, there was cultural unity. We were like a mother to them.’

Could the Moffatts adapt to the Himba lifestyle? After all, in one episode dad Mark manages to temporarily lose the cattle in his care. ‘In time I’m sure the outcome could be positive,’ says the Chief. 

‘We tried to teach him [Mark] but the time was too short.’ And of the exploitation claim, he says: ‘That is not so. How can it be since we gave our consent for the British people to come to our village?’

Diane Mills, an education consultant who has lived and worked in the region for 16 years ‘and has come to know the Himba well’ disagrees. She accused Channel 4 of treating the Himba ‘like a human zoo’.

She said: ‘It is very upsetting. They would never in a million years understand how many people would be looking at them, watching.

Chief Tijuone said of the Moffatts: 'Now that they have gone I find myself missing them, we all do. They did not fear us and we did not fear them, there was cultural unity'

Chief Tijuone said of the Moffatts: 'Now that they have gone I find myself missing them, we all do. They did not fear us and we did not fear them, there was cultural unity'

Chief Tijuone said of the Moffatts: ‘Now that they have gone I find myself missing them, we all do. They did not fear us and we did not fear them, there was cultural unity’

Diane Mills, an education consultant who has lived and worked in the region for 16 years accused Channel 4 of treating the Himba ‘like a human zoo’

Diane Mills, an education consultant who has lived and worked in the region for 16 years accused Channel 4 of treating the Himba ‘like a human zoo’

Diane Mills, an education consultant who has lived and worked in the region for 16 years accused Channel 4 of treating the Himba ‘like a human zoo’

‘I would prefer to see a proper documentary film maker, rather than Scarlett Moffatt, make a programme about the Himba. In the way that they look after each other, each other’s children, and ensure that no one goes hungry or homeless, the Himba have a lot to teach the developed world. But this programme is totally wrong.’

Joshua Rukoro, a senior official in the region’s ministry of works also knows the Himba well. We show him a clip of the first episode. At first he seems amused, then shaking his head he says: ‘This is not good. The Himba are very friendly and welcoming, you might say naïve, and would not have understood the motivations behind this.’

Channel 4 said interviews with the villagers after filming found they did not feel exploited.

It is central to the show’s premise that the Himba’s lifestyle has changed little for centuries. That is certainly true. The narrator does concede, however, without offering explanation, that some of the villagers have been more exposed to Western culture than others.

Take head cattle herder Mboki, for instance. He has a mobile phone – but viewers never see it. We first encountered him in the town of Owpuwo, a two-hour drive from the village. It is the bustling regional capital and boasts supermarkets, bars, hotels and several banks. 

On Thursday, as he sat outside the Kaokoland Restaurant waiting for a friend and a lift home, Mboki ordered a pint of Carling lager.

Channel 4 said interviews with the villagers after filming found they did not feel exploited

Channel 4 said interviews with the villagers after filming found they did not feel exploited

Channel 4 said interviews with the villagers after filming found they did not feel exploited

His friend, Rimunikavi Tjupurua, 31, known as John, lives in the town but grew up in the village. By Himba standards his family was wealthy and he was sent away to be educated. Bright and affable, John speaks English fluently and makes a living running a campsite, but is always on hand to help his people.

It might surprise viewers to learn that he sometimes does a monthly shop for the village, buying pasta, cooking oil, coffee, sugar and maize. He was Channel 4’s ‘fixer’ – liaising between the Himba and the film makers, who first came across him in a manner that could not be less primitive – on TripAdvisor.

Scarlett’s ‘best friend’, mother of three Kandisiko cannot explain what she and Scarlett talked about, what they learned about each other. ‘It makes me cry just to think about it, I miss her very much'

Scarlett’s ‘best friend’, mother of three Kandisiko cannot explain what she and Scarlett talked about, what they learned about each other. ‘It makes me cry just to think about it, I miss her very much'

Scarlett’s ‘best friend’, mother of three Kandisiko cannot explain what she and Scarlett talked about, what they learned about each other. ‘It makes me cry just to think about it, I miss her very much’

During filming, he says he was given a ‘programme’ indicating where certain villagers might be needed for that day’s filming. Not that anything was stage managed. ‘It was all natural,’ he insists.

In the first episode, one scene sees Scarlett’s ‘best friend’, mother of three Kandisiko, look startled as she sees her reflection when, for the first time in her life, she holds a mirror. ‘I thought there was someone on the other side. It’s like water on the wall,’ she says.

Taking to The Mail on Sunday, Kandisiko goes further: ‘I moved my arm and it moved an arm. I smiled, it smiled, and then I knew it was me. I was seeing myself for the first time.’ And what did she think of herself? ‘That I was beautiful.’

She cannot explain what she and Scarlett talked about, what they learned about each other. ‘It makes me cry just to think about it, I miss her very much.’

It seems a pity that John doesn’t have a starring, rather than a behind the scenes role in the show. He has no wish to undo the tribe’s cherished traditions, far from it, but he considers education ‘the most important thing of all’ and outlines how it might ensure the Himba’s future. 

Meanwhile Scarlett has responded to criticism of the programme on Twitter saying: ‘Just to clarify we left a water borehole for our friends when we left Namibia which someone maintains'

Meanwhile Scarlett has responded to criticism of the programme on Twitter saying: ‘Just to clarify we left a water borehole for our friends when we left Namibia which someone maintains'

Meanwhile Scarlett has responded to criticism of the programme on Twitter saying: ‘Just to clarify we left a water borehole for our friends when we left Namibia which someone maintains’

But even this generous gesture has the potential for controversy. The pump is solar-powered and, according to Chief Tijuone, though he is grateful, hasn’t produced ‘as much water as we expected'

But even this generous gesture has the potential for controversy. The pump is solar-powered and, according to Chief Tijuone, though he is grateful, hasn’t produced ‘as much water as we expected'

But even this generous gesture has the potential for controversy. The pump is solar-powered and, according to Chief Tijuone, though he is grateful, hasn’t produced ‘as much water as we expected’

The programme makers have paid for it to be maintained for three years. But there is concern over what will happen when that period elapses

The programme makers have paid for it to be maintained for three years. But there is concern over what will happen when that period elapses

The programme makers have paid for it to be maintained for three years. But there is concern over what will happen when that period elapses

‘The Himba people do not need aid, they need to help themselves – education programmes to teach them about irrigation, for instance.’

Meanwhile Scarlett has responded to criticism of the programme on Twitter saying: ‘Just to clarify we left a water borehole for our friends when we left Namibia which someone maintains’. 

But even this generous gesture has the potential for controversy. The pump is solar-powered and, according to Chief Tijuone, though he is grateful, hasn’t produced ‘as much water as we expected.’

A Channel 4 statement said: ‘The community gave full and informed consent to take part in the series'

A Channel 4 statement said: ‘The community gave full and informed consent to take part in the series'

A Channel 4 statement said: ‘The community gave full and informed consent to take part in the series’

The programme makers have paid for it to be maintained for three years. But there is concern over what will happen when that period elapses. Poor Scarlett just can’t win. And there are still two more episodes left.

A Channel 4 statement said: ‘The community gave full and informed consent to take part in the series. Prior to filming a comprehensive agreement was drawn up, taking advice from independent experts, and was presented to all members of the community for discussion and agreement.’ 

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