Kalahari Perspectives: Anthropology, Photography, and the Marshall Family

Tsamgao, son of ≠Toma, with his homemake clay "camera," 1955

TsamKxao ≠Toma, son of ≠Toma, with his homemade clay camera, 1955. Photograph probably by Daniel Blitz. Gift of Laurence K. Marshall and  Lorna J. Marshall.  ©  President and Fellows of Harvard College,  Peabody  Museum of  Archaeology and Ethnology, 2001.29.657

September 29, 2018–March 31, 2019

In June 1951, Raytheon founder Laurence Marshall and his family left Cambridge, Massachusetts to spend over a decade documenting hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari during a series of expeditions sponsored by Harvard’s Peabody Museum. The family’s photos of the Ju/’hoansi and /Gwi peoples—once known pejoratively as the “Bushmen” —heralded a transformation in the ways these Indigenous people had been represented through history.

The Marshall’s experience became a groundbreaking photographic experiment and one of the most important ventures in the anthropology of Africa. Previously, the Ju/’hoansi, also known as the !Kung,  had been depicted as primitive, romantic, or exotic, but the Marshall family’s 40,000 still images showed the men, women, and children at work and play, revealing both their culture and humanity.

Kalahari Perspectives: Anthropology, Photography, and the Marshall Family opens September 29, 2018 at Harvard’s University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology and will remain on view through March 31, 2019. The exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of Documentary Educational Resources, the Watertown-based film company co-founded by Laurence Marshall’s son John, and is one of many Harvard-based events celebrating the anniversary. On October 11, a companion film screening and panel discussion of N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman, will feature Ilisa Barbash, Ross McElwee, Michael Ambrosino, Sue Marshall Cabezas, and moderator Alice Apley. N!ai is a documentary about a woman who was a young girl when the Marshall family expeditions began. The film is by John Marshall, who filmed and took many photographs during the expeditions.


Where the Roads All End: Photography and Anthropology in the Kalahari (Peabody Museum Press, 2016) by Ilisa Barbash with a foreword by Paul Theroux

October 11, 2018 Film Screening and Discussion at Harvard University: N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman

Documentary Educational Resources