Celebrating Memories & Visual Cultures location:Zanzibar date:2-3 July 2007
The various ways in which peoples and places around the globe are represented and documented in popular media like movies, websites, or magazines have an immense impact on how tourists imagine their future destinations. Even though tourism and travel discourses take a variety of forms – oral, written, pictorial, symbolic, or graphic – visual imagery seems to have the biggest influence on shaping tourists’ pre-trip dreams and imaginaries. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, this paper illustrates the dynamic processes of cultural tourismification in Tanzania’s so-called “Northern Circuit”. In many parts of the world, famous nature documentaries, mainstream Hollywood entertainment, and semi-biographic films about this region have become fashionable icons for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, often reinforcing a perfect romantic and nostalgic vision of the black continent as an unexplored and time-frozen wild Eden. While tourism representations of northern Tanzania have overwhelmingly focused on its amazing wildlife, an increasing demand for meet-the-people cultural tourism has brought local people more and more into the picture. Interestingly, locals are commonly portrayed while engaging in vibrant rituals of celebration or in inauthentic, staged poses wearing celebrative costumes. As an example, the paper discusses how the romanticized image of the virile Maasai warrior, dressed in colourful red blankets and beaded jewellery, has led to a true Maasai-mania that is profoundly affecting the daily life and culture of Maasai and other local communities.