Biography of Nǃxau ǂToma

Nǃxau ǂToma (16 December 1944 – 5 July 2003) was a Namibian bush farmer and actor. He was made famous by his roles in the 1980 movie The Gods Must Be Crazy and its sequels, in which he played the Kalahari Bushman Xixo. N!xau, as the tribesman Xixo, is told to throw the troublesome item off the edge of the world, but his journey involves him in hilarious contact with white civilization.

He charmed millions of cinema-goers worldwide with his exuberant performance in the box-office hit which played all over the world from 1981, and without pause for three years in the US from 1984. It made nearly $100m. It was a disarming comedy of errors about the unsettling consequences of an empty Coke bottle dropped from an airplane on a bush village. The film was written, directed and produced in Botswana by the late South African filmmaker Jamie Uys, who also appeared in it. He discovered his star in his ancestral village with his people, the San, living in huts and surviving on a few cultivated vegetables and cattle, without electricity and only scanty well water.



N!xau was illiterate, although obviously very bright. The Namibians called him “Namibia’s most famous actor”. You probably couldn’t pronounce that name, yeah me either. The odd spelling of his single name was used for his film work, and the exclamation mark substitutes for the clicking sound in his native tongue, Ungwatsi, that cannot be rendered in English. However, the English-language newspaper, The Namibian, spelled it Gcao and added a surname, Coma.

Nǃxau was a member of the San, also known as Bushmen. He spoke Juǀʼhoan, Otjiherero, and Tswana fluently as well as some Afrikaan. Before his appearance in the films he had little experience of typical “modern” living: he had only ever seen three white people before being cast. He came from a culture that did not value the material things that money could buy and consequently had never before learned money management skills; ” he did not have the skills to manage his income, “.

He allowed his first earnings for The Gods Must Be Crazy($300 i.e ) to literally blow away in the wind. But he learned fast and demanded 600,000 rands for the sequel. Uys arranged for him to be given some cattle – the tribal capital – and drew up a trust fund. He used some of it to build a brick house with running water and electricity for his family, he also owned a car – but never learned to drive it.


In addition to The Gods Must Be Crazy, N!xau starred in a series of sequels: The Gods Must Be Crazy II, Crazy Safari, Crazy Hong Kong and The Gods Must Be Funny in China. After his film career ended in 1994, he returned to Namibia, where he farmed maize, pumpkins, and beans and kept several heads of cattle (but no more than 20 at a time because, according to The Independent, without the complex farming systems of the “modern world”, he had trouble keeping track of more). The Namibian local daily New Era stated that he simply could not count further than 20.
N!xau converted to Christianity In July 2000, he was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist.


He did not know his own exact age He died near the place he was born in the remote Tsumkwe area of Namibia, southwest Africa.N!xau was thought to be about 59 but said he never knew his birthday.

The details of his death are unknown. He went into the bush to gather wood on July 1 but did not return. A family search found his body, but the police did not confirm his death until July 5, 2003. According to official estimates, he was about 58 or 59 years old at the time. He had suffered from multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis. He was buried on 12 July semi-traditional ceremony at Tsumkwe, next to the grave of his second wife. He is survived by his wife Kora, four daughters, and two sons.


A Kalahari bushman who became a film star.

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