The sharing of one’s culture and identity can be a most rewarding exchange between guests and host, but there is a
It is critical to have some boundaries defined to avoid a cultural tour becoming a human safari. The long term sustainability of any cultural tourism project depends on this. Not only does it empower the cultural group to assert a level of control over the interaction with guests as equals, it also acknowledges and respects the inherent value and ownership of cultural knowledge and property. The ongoing dialogue serves to help define, preserve and support the autonomy of the cultural group, to recognize individual opinions within the group, and to avert the risk of cultural exploitation.
It is very important that all parties understand that guests do not need to visit their host in their homes for this venture to be successful and meaningful. They can visit if they are invited/welcome – and it could be an incredibly enriching experience for guests to do so – but they do not need to visit. It should be considered for what it is: a privilege granted by the Batwa, not a right for paying admission.
Private and Public spaces in cultural tourism need to be overtly defined and respected. The boundaries of such spaces should be determined by the hosting cultural group, and guests need to be made aware of any guidelines or protocols ahead of time to ensure the interaction is respectful. It is important that the Indigenous group define and refine amongst themselves which elements of their culture and daily lives they want to share with guests, under what conditions, and which elements they would prefer remained private.
I encourage any tour operator working with an Indigenous group to open an ongoing dialogue with them on this topic in an effort to co-develop a common understanding of what is acceptable, with whom, where and when. Boundaries will inevitably change and evolve over time as trust and experience ebbs and flows. Further it should be understood that an Indigenous community is not a homogenous group – they are individuals working and living together, with individual experiences, feelings, and opinions (all of which can also change). With an open line of communication between the Batwa and the lodge, boundaries can be monitored over time and the program adjusted as needed to maintain harmony with the group as a whole.