Police had to hold back a placard-wielding crowd of fifty on Wednesday night from disrupting a glitzy celebrity party at the London Natural History Museum where diamonds from South African mining company De Beers were being exhibited.
The charity Survival International organised the protest to highlight the Botswana Bushmen’s claim that their land had been taken away from them to mine the diamonds. Survival International director Stephen Corry says “most of the world’s quality gem diamonds come from De Beers in Botswana. When the Bushmen were evicted, they were told it was to make way for diamonds. How can their destruction be completely ignored?”
British actress Julie Christie added her weight to the public outrage: “I am shocked that the Natural History Museum can ignore the plight of the Bushmen while taking money from De Beers. Boycott De Beers! You’ll have the destruction of the Bushmen on your conscience.”
The Bushmen are angered that De Beers has refused their request to have the issue of the evictions included in the exhibition. In a letter to the London museum, a spokesperson for the Botswana Bushman Roy Sesana wrote: “The whole world has heard our cries. They know that we have been thrown off our land… because of the diamonds underneath. Please do not help De Beers keep our suffering secret”.
Already it seems that the protests have yielded results. Supermodel Iman has quit as the face of De Beers after letters she received from Survival International and British supermodel Erin O’Conner took similar steps to distance herself from De Beers. Survival International is now urging the new face of De Beers, model Lily Cole, to follow suit. Last month at the opening of De Beers’ first store in New York, Survival protested and urged US celebrities Teri Hatcher and Lindsay Lohan not to cross the picket line.