African tribe reveals what they REALLY think about Scarlett Moffatt after she ...

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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