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Published on Dec 30, 2011
Nǃxau Toma (1943 - 1 July 2003) was a Namibian bush farmer and actor who 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. The Namibian called him "Namibia's most famous actor".
N!xau was a member of the San tribe, commonly known as Bushmen. He spoke Juǀʼhoan, Otjiherero and Tswana fluently, as well as some Afrikaans. He did not know his own exact age, and 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 and was unaware of the value of paper money, allowing (according to legend) his first earnings for The Gods Must Be Crazy to literally blow away in the wind.
He earned only a few hundred dollars for his work in The Gods Must Be Crazy, but by the time of the first sequel he was educated about the purpose and value of money within the modern world and negotiated a much larger sum for the film. Regardless, he did come from a culture that did not value the material things that money could buy and subsequently had never before learned money management skills, "he did not have the skills to manage his income," although he used some of it to build a brick house with running water and electricity for his family.
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, he returned to Namibia, where he farmed maize, pumpkins and beans and kept several head of cattle.
On 1 July 2003, he died from multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis while he was hunting guinea fowl. According to official estimates he was about 59 years old at the time. He was buried on 12 July in a semi-traditional ceremony at Tsumkwe, next to the grave of his second wife. He was survived by six children.