The House that moved to Africa

Scarlett Moffatt and her family move to remote Namibian village… and take their house with them

Category: News Release

In a ground-breaking new series, The British Tribe Next Door (w/t), 4 x 60’, Scarlett and the rest of the Moffatt family will spend four weeks with the Himba tribe in a remote Namibian tribal village.

But unlike most adventurers, they won’t be saying goodbye to the comforts of their County Durham home, because they’re taking it with them, complete with all mod cons, running water, electricity, and all their possessions around them – from hair straighteners to metal detectors, iPhones to frozen ready-meals, and of course, the all-important family television.

The community the Moffatts will be joining is a small village of semi-nomadic Himba cattle-herders, who live largely traditional lives. In the spirit of Meet The Natives – the celebrated 2007 Channel 4 anthropological series – the Himba have agreed to host the Moffatts, because they welcome the opportunity to assess and judge at first hand the sedentary, high tech and consumerist Western lifestyles they have heard about but never seen close-up ...  

Striking differences quickly emerge. The average Himba family have little more than a dozen possessions each, compared to the nearly 22,000 items in the Moffatts’ home. Exploring the terraced house for the first time, the members of the tribe have strong reactions to everything from biscuits to the microwave; the bedrooms to the stairs that led up to them; and even the hallway mirror: ‘I like what I see,’ says one young Himba mum, who has never seen her own reflection before.

Each member of the family has a very different experience during their month-long stay. Scarlett’s dad, Mark, finds that being a cattle herder – the most important job for a Himba man – is harder than it looks when he loses several cows, triggering a nervous three day search across the desert in blistering heat and granny Christine bonds with the tribal elders, not least by introducing them to knitting.

Through this reverse anthropological exchange, the Moffatts face questions and judgments from their hosts, and are forced to reconsider their own assumptions and way of life. Beauty and body image, the wealth gap, social media, sex and infidelity, consumption and waste, and the roles of men and women – all come under the Himba microscope as the cultural exchange deepens.

The four episodes will also explore the challenges posed to the Himba way of life by the modern world, from the lure of nearby towns on their young, to the effects of global warming on their harvests.

Alf Lawrie, Head of Factual Entertainment at Channel 4 said, “For the first time in human history, British suburbia and Himba tribal life will co-exist side-by-side. This series contrasts two worlds on a spectacular scale – but at its heart, is about the extraordinary relationships it creates. Scarlett and the Himba are the perfect foils, both hospitable, curious, friendly … and sharing wicked senses of humour.”

Sanjay Singhal, co-executive Producer for Voltage TV added, ‘We’re excited to be making such an ambitious and innovative programme. It feels totally unpredictable and I’m intrigued to know what the Himba and the Moffatts will learn about themselves from taking part.”

Scarlett Moffatt said, “This is one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. I feel privileged and humbled that the Himba tribe invited us to join them and we have all learnt an enormous amount.”

Chief Tijone of the Himba tribe, said, “I was born in our village and I’ve never travelled far so I don’t know the Western life. Of course, there are benefits and there are disadvantages. When the visitors come, they can explain everything to us, and we will learn from each other’s cultures.”

Emma Gilberthorpe, Senior Lecturer in Development Anthropology at the University of East Anglia’s School of International Development and Consultant Anthropologist for the series is very positive about its ambitions: “Rather than presenting Indigenous peoples as relics of a forgotten past, The British Tribe Next Door (w/t) has the potential to celebrate our shared humanity, enabling the audience to relate to the Himba as agents of their own reality. The building of a Western homestead within their village creates the possibility of a uniquely balanced and equal cultural exchange.” 

The British Tribe Next Door (w/t), 4 X 60’, was commissioned by Alf Lawrie, Head of Factual Entertainment at Channel 4. It is a Voltage TV and Motion Content Group co-production, the Executive Producers are Sanjay Singhal and Dominique Walker for Voltage and Melanie Darlaston for Motion Content Group, the Series Editor is David Vallance and the Series Director is Christian Watt. The British Tribe Next Door (w/t) will TX later this year on Channel 4.

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About Motion Content Group:

Motion Content Group is a global content investment and rights management company. It invests and partners with the world’s leading talent, producers and distributors to fund, develop, produce and distribute premium content. Motion supports editorially and commercially vibrant networks and platforms by helping meet the ever-increasing demand for premium content, for the benefit of advertisers and its content partners. Headquartered in London and Los Angeles, Motion currently operates in 26 countries worldwide and has a broad range of award-winning programming distributed globally. Motion Content Group is part of GroupM, the world’s leading full-service media investment management operation, a WPP company.