Journal Article

<i>Serengeti Shall Not Die</i>: Bernhard Grzimek, Wildlife Film, and the Making of a Tourist Landscape in East Africa

Thomas Lekan

in German History

Volume 29, issue 2, pages 224-264
Published in print June 2011 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online June 2011 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
Serengeti Shall Not Die: Bernhard Grzimek, Wildlife Film, and the Making of a Tourist Landscape in East Africa

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This article examines the documentary films, popular science books, and essays of former Frankfurt Zoo director and television star Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael as harbingers of a global conservation movement and an emerging tourist economy in East Africa, moulded by the unresolved longings of German imperialism, West German anxieties about decolonization and the Cold War, and the rise of West Germans as the ‘world champions of travel’. In their award-winning films No Room for Wild Animals (1956) and Serengeti Shall Not Die (1959), the Grzimeks depicted Africa's national parks as untouched ‘gardens of Eden’, a framing of nature designed to appeal to war-weary European tourists that elided the crucial role of Maasai pastoralists in shaping wildlife ecology on the savanna and the colonialist violence that had partitioned the African landscape to ensure European hegemony. In their quest to break with colonialist exoticism and racism, moreover, the Grzimeks embraced a developmentalist paradigm that envisioned black Africans as immature Europeans doomed to recapitulate the West's pathological journey to modernity, thus reinforcing the belief that what ‘ought to be seen’ in Africa was the fauna, not the people.

Keywords: tourism; documentary film; nature conservation; national parks; (post)colonialism; Julius Nyerere; Maasai; (safari) hunting

Journal Article.  22050 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: European History

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