Sunday, July 6, 2003
Windhoek, Namibia N!xau, the diminutive bushman catapulted from the remote sandswept reaches of the Kalahari Desert to international stardom in the film "The Gods Must Be Crazy" has died, police officials said Saturday.
He was estimated to have been about 59, although he himself said he did not know his exact age.
Police in the remote area of Tsumkwe in the Namibian part of the Kalahari where N!xau lived confirmed his recent death, but did not have any details of how or when he died. His name is a usual transliteration of his tribal language, which uses clicking noises that have no letter in English.
He had suffered from tuberculosis in the past.
"The Gods Must Be Crazy" became a worldwide hit and a top-grossing foreign film after its release in 1980. Audiences swooned over his portrayal of an earnest bushman with a sheepish smile whose discovery of a Coca-Cola bottle sets off a comedy of errors.
N!xau starred in several sequels before returning to the familiarity of life as a herdsman raising cattle and vegetables in the Namibian bush.
When he was discovered by the South African director of the film, Jamie Uys, he had only had minimal exposure to modern life.
According to a 2000 story in The Namibian newspaper, he had only seen three white people in his life and had never seen a settlement larger than the village huts of his San people.
The San are the indigenous hunter-gatherer people of southern Africa. Today they number about 100,000 and mostly live in the Kalahari.
Not knowing the value of paper money, he let his first wages, $300, blow away.