Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Going Native (2001)

Courtesy of RDF Media

Main image of Going Native (2001)
RDF Media for Channel 4, 28/8-11/9/2001
3 x 60 minutes, colour
DirectorHelen Richards
Executive ProducerStephen Lambert
ProducerHelen Richards

Narrator: Angie Greaves; Particpants: Rob, Lynn, Daniel, Chloe and Callum Nestor

Show full cast and credits

The British Nestor family - Rob, Lynn and their three children - spend ten weeks on a remote Swaziland homestead with the 25-strong Shongwe family.

Show full synopsis

Structured more like a gameshow than an anthropological study, and angled more towards entertainment than science, Going Native (Channel 4, 2001) does offer a useful, if crude, examination of how western experience adapts to African imperatives. Initially, the Nestors struggle less with the conditions than with fitting in with the people and their customs.

Lynn is frustrated to the point of breakdown with the strict gender division of labour. In rural Swaziland, women are expected to endure perpetual domesticity, while men must go out and find work. As outrageous as this may appear in the west, in rural Africa it appears to make perfect sense. Salaried work for men in rural Africa is usually associated with harvesting natural resources (mining, logging etc); the tasks are physically demanding and often involve migrating over great distances. Such work is generally prohibitive to African women, who bear many children (with no prospect of maternity pay). All of this is lost on Lynn, who is more concerned with asserting her independence than pulling together as the Shongwes have learnt to do. Lynn also fails to appreciate that major decisions in the community are taken by committee, on which women are the most vocal participants, and usually have the last word.

Rob, a lorry driver of West Indian origin, sets out with high ideals. He sees the trip as "a quest for identity, to identify myself as a black man. Am I a black British person or am I African?" Yet although he is enthusiastic in applying himself to the demands of the situation, his early idealism founders on his unyielding westernised attitudes. He refuses to do menial work, leaves a job in a hotel because it was too far to walk and refuses to call customers 'sir'.

Perhaps because of the presence of the cameras, or because the Nestors were always free to pack their bags and leave, after ten weeks they failed in almost every sense to adapt to the circumstances they found. Moreover, they failed to appreciate that much of what we might consider trivial can to Africans be a matter of life and death. It is telling that the Shongwes' matriarch, Maga, felt, based on what she gleaned from the Nestors, that life in London must be chaotic and 'impossible'.

Carl Daniels

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. The Swazi village (4:00)
2. Going to school (4:00)
3. 'A boy's dream' (4:00)
Faking It (2000-05)
Living in the Past (1978)
Social Experiment TV