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29 October 2014

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Bruce's Q&A

Below are Bruce's recent answers to a cross section of questions taken from the website responses.

View Q&A Session 2

  1. Andrew Killen
    The question is....When going from the Suri to the Nyangatom were you tempted to try to broker peace between the tribes?
    Of course it crossed my mind, but it was not within the remit of my job at that time. This process would not be simple, nor quick. Our aim was to raise awareness in the hope that people of power within the Ethiopian Government or elsewhere may be moved or pressurised in to doing something. I would simply have been potentially more troublesome to have half heartedly started a process which we had not the resources or time to see through. No matter how tempting to do so or how heart wrenching to not try at least.
    We wanted to show the fallacy of all wars through this film.
    When in Nyangatom country, did you have worry over your Suri tribal markings?
    No, they never came up particularly well on me due to my pale skin, and I feel that my respect and humility were enough to offset any problems of such a sort anyway. Of note, before I left the Nyangatom, the whole village was aware that I’d lived with the Suri too. This never became awkward. The film doesn’t show all our dealings here, but I’m writing about it for the book now.
  2. Martin McNulty
    I was wondering if you could help organise a meeting between the old Suri chief and the Nyangatom elder? They both seemed intelligent people. I am sure that if they talked they might reach some sort of agreement so as to stop the fighting.
    I thought about this at length, but for the reasons mentioned above have decided that it is not my place as I could not give it the time I feel it would require. My assistance is better served by informing others. Sad as this sounds.The situation is so much deeper than our film could possible hope to express in an hour. There is a lot of political rhetoric, lots of blood lust, cultural belligerence, and scarce recourses. I believe that the chiefs do want peace, but the young guns similarly want to express themselves . There simply are not enough resources to go round right now. There needs to be a bigger change here which would need governmental intervention. These tribal groups do often go through periods of truce, but the resources are too scarce for the truces to last long. It’s incredibly complicated.
  3. Tom Goode
    I really enjoy your programmes and I find it amazing how well you communicate with the people you are staying with, without knowing the language, you seem to keep eye contact and just smile! Is that all you do or is there anythign else you use to help with this communication (other than an interpreter!) Cheers Tom
    It’s just simple body language, eye contact, knowledge of the context of the conversation and simple friendliness. Not too hard really. Oh and interpreters do help but interestingly get in the way sometimes too. I prefer one on one regardless of how little I understand what’s being said, especially if it’s a physical activity.
  4. Sandy Jones
    What do you think the people of the tribes get out of the experience of your stay? How are you perceived by them and what do they know of where you come from and how we live?
    They generally love my visit. I say this in all honesty and almost without exception. They love the variety it brings, the interest I have in them and the new experience of having a funny stranger to stay. Often the people we visit are fully aware of the outside world and many of the villagers will have travelled extensively within their own nation state which means they have often seen a television set and are not so curious about where I come from.
    On occasion, like with the Kombai of West Papua, the people are completely unaware of anything beyond their own borders. Then it is more difficult. I do remember asking Bofoqo and Bomari if they had any questions about where I’d come from. Classically, in one of my favourite quotes of all time he said to me.
    “Not interested really. We like you, you’re very funny, but we have no interest in where you come from...Whatever jungle it is, it must be pretty s**t 'cos you can’t climb trees, you always have to carry ridiculous items on your body, you’re too fat, you can’t cross logs without a hand...In general you’re pretty sh**...Why would we want to know about this place?”
  5. Sam J, Bristol
    At the end of the Nyangatom tribe episode, the chief says something along the lines of "We won't forget you, please don't forget about us". Another special moment was the reaction you got from the Suri upon seeing them again.
    After a month as one of the Tribe, do you find your goodbyes difficult/emotional? And do you plan to re-visit any of the people you have met along the way?
    Always quite emotional and difficult, though I’m also always very happy to be heading home as I find living in the community very hard at times. I do plan to revisit every group if I can ever afford to. Maybe a revisit series in five years time.
  6. Vicky Kerins
    What is the scariest situation you have found yourself in?
    I don’t tend to get scared these days with most of these programmes. The BBC is much too safe! Also there is always a rational way of dealing with most human problems. I’ve had a few close encounters with wild animals, but I’m generally subconsciously prepared. I got quite scared crossing rivers in Papua on my expedition “Cannibals and Crampons”. I did also get scared a few times when I was doing my free fall parachuting course a few years ago. I kept spinning uncontrollably and couldn’t self rescue. Not a great place to be...
  7. Anna Cole
    When the expedition is over and you come back to your comfortable modern home, is there anything in the tribal live that you would like to follow and introduce into you own life?
    I’ve learnt so much from tribal communities. So, so much. Mostly it’s a philosophy for a way to live rather than any particular trait, object or ritual. These lessons have come about from looking at our own culture through fresh eyes.
    I feel that it’s very important to question all of ones own preconceptions. I feel I have stripped many of mine now, which has been quite a long, hard process. This has been my biggest lesson in life I feel. So much of what many of us say and believe in strongly, enough even to fight for or hate others for, is nothing more than a belief instilled in us from our parents or our peers or our society and yet we have no actual personal experience or true knowledge of that belief or view.
    I’ve realised the danger in this and the way that these views can be used by others to gain power and control over our lives. These preconceptions can come from all sectors of society. I’ve seen a hippie preaching love at a festival unconditionally hating the “Fascist Copper” just as often as the Policeman representing upstanding civil justice hating the “stinking long haired travelling types”.
    I’m no angel, but I try and question everything now and see all sides of the argument where I can, often to the dismay of any girlfriend.
  8. Colin Prout
    We often see you livng and eating like the locals. This often includes eating raw blood and untreated milk. How come you don't get ill from the bacteria's that exist in these uncooked delicacies and have you ever been really ill from eating anything on your travels?
    I get ill on occasion, though generally not as poorly as the crew sometimes do. In essence I’ve trained my gut up pretty well over the past few years and can get away with ingesting most things. I’m lucky I suppose and I am happy to maintain a high level of parasites and bacteria in my gut to help fight such illnesses. I generally get most ill if I’ve just returned to the bush from a long time back in pristine cellophane wrapped Europe, so when at home in Spain I try and eat old, off or dirty food where I can and think nothing of picking up food off a dirty floor to try and keep my gut flora and fauna topped up for my next trip away. It seems to work well enough for me. I also totally avoid antibiotics where I can. I am not a doctor though; so don’t do anything like that at home without consulting a physician first. Put it down to eccentricity.
  9. Jen
    Just wondering how you pick the tribes you are going to visit? There must be thousands of indigenous peoples all over the world - what made you decide to focus, for example, on Ethiopia for this series?
    We’ve got a great team of researchers in the BBC Wales Factual offices in Cardiff (where Tribe is made ) as well as anthropologists working the world over. Generally we know the potential spots in the world where traditionally living Indigenous Peoples still live and we choose according to the mix we want for the series.
    Also has personal secuity ever been an issue for you in the decision making process?
    Not for me, but the BBC get a little worried at times.
  10. David Johnson
    The eductaional merits of photography and filming are probably immeasureable but during my own travels I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the level of intrusion a camera lens may have on the local people. What is your view on the growing culture of 'trigger happy' photographers and what is your sense of the feelings of the locals as being the object in focus?
    Remarkably, once I move into the community all such issues seem to dissipate, especially as the community get to know not only me but the whole crew. The cameraman always gets known as the weird one who always walks around pointing the funny object at everyone. They love it when we show back the rushes.
    The Komoru in the Suri (Series 1) said to me once, “We hate some people who come to visit us. We let them in as they bring goods and cash, but we feel that they look down on us and just want to take photographs and leave. They seldom interact. But you: ...... You live with us. You sleep with us. You drink blood with us. This is what we want. This is good.”
    Imagine how wonderful that was to hear.
  11. Rebecca Hall
    Bruce, If you could begin your very own tribe somewhere in the world, what would your initiation ceremony be for new members into your tribe?
    I love this question. I live in Ibiza and the tribe would have to be there. As for the initiation ceremony, you got my imagination going and I think I’m going to leave that question blank for now.
  12. Rimika
    Now that you have spent time with all these diverse and stunningly different cultures, do you ever feel like taking a more active role in world politics to try and save these tribes and their traditions from the quickly modernising world?
    Yes I think about such things a lot, but my view is that half the problem of the world today is the system itself of world politics. I believe that we need a global moral voice that can challenge the nation state corruptions and imbalances of power which are at the heart of the environmental and other problems we face today. This can probably only happen from outside of the political system and my voice, no matter how small is better placed there. Read “The age of consent” by George Monbiot.
  13. Nancy Brunet
    I love traveling, mainly solo, and mainly outside touristic spots, but I am wondering, could a woman be accepted in those tribes as well as a man?? (I have my doubts!). It would be interesting to see.
    Of course any female could do anything I do, that’s not so hard, but the problem could potentially come from how the males in the indigenous cultures perceive that person. I cross the gender divide on occasion (which would be unheard of in some of the communities themselves), but it is difficult and needs to be done with great respect and caution so as not to offend. The same would be true for any female wanting to hang with the men in a tribal culture. It would always depend on the characters involved.
  14. Graham Lawler
    What happens to the crew when they are not filming,do they live in the same conditions as Bruce or are they given packaged food that they can cook themselves elsewhere away from the village.
    The crew generally are working very hard filming me all day long, so they have a team of fixers, drivers and chefs looking after them in return. So, to answer your question, each night when I eat sago and live in a mud hut, the crew go back to their campsite and have spag bol on a table with deck chairs and sleep on airbeds in their own tents. Why should they rough it too? They’ve got a tough job to do filming me.
  15. Cynthia Dodsom
    I do not want to pry into your private life, but are you able to have one? What does your family make of your chosen way of life?
    I do have the perfect job, but I am single at 37 and no closer to finding anyone willing to have an absentee boyfriend. Bummer eh?
  16. Debra Churchman
    How do you manage to be detatched emotionally when moving from such obviously intense and close bonds with one tribe and then moving on to make equally intense ties with another over a relatively short time?Does it cause you any kind of conflict of emotions and loyalty issues if you feel closer to one tribe than another?
    I generally live for the moment and without being emotionally void, I am quite easily capable of moving on quite quickly and putting yesterdays events behind me. I do this in most of my life.
  17. Billy Withers
    What I wanted to ask is what would be your favourite delicacy from all of the tribes that you have visited as when you see it from an outsiders point of view, some of the food consumed is of an acquired taste?
    Big freshwater crayfish taste good in any European restaurant, but much better by a river in West Papua.
  18. Elliot Harrison Crump
    I just wanted to know how you came to aquire such a job & do you have any tips for young adventurers who are wanting to follow in your footsteps?
    You don’t need any advice, you’ve already got the perfect explorers name.
  19. Mrs Sharon Gurr
    HI BRUCE ME AND MY HUSBAND TIM LOVE YOUR TRIBE ON TV.IT IS FANTASTIC.BUT PLEASE CAN YOU TELL US WHAT YOU KEEP IN YOUR YELLOW BOX.
    It depends on what my tribal mum cooked for me in the morning, that and my camera.
  20. Joe Foley
    Bruce, how do you protect yourself from the scorching sun? Do you pack sun cream into your loincloth? Seriously, I see you in hottest Africa with no burning & barely a tan. Also do you genuinely stay 100% of the time with the natives while in the village, or do you 'cheat' by having a reserve tent nearby? If the latter, is this when you apply cream? By the way, fabulous programme - well done!
    Rarely use sun cream as I build up a defence first. Sometimes I borrow some off the crew if it’s really bad.
    Secondly, once I move in with a family I never move out. I have been known to join the crew on occasion for a meal, but only after at least one week of abstinence.

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