You may have heard of this movie, Avatar. As one of the most expensive movies ever made, this sci -fi epic has captured a global audience, broken box office records and is climbing towards the the title of highest grossing movie of all time. Frankly, I wasn't impressed. In fact, I was insulted by the tired and one-dimensional, "noble savages get saved by white man gone native" storyline. It's been much noted in many reviews that Avatar is basically "Dances With Wolves" on another planet and I agree. So I won't go into the many racial and cultural issues that the movie has stirred up except to observe that African culture is on major display in Avatar. The Na'vi, 10 feet tall, blue people of Pandora, exhbit African traditions and cultural adornments on many levels. Neytiri, the warrior princess played by Zoe Saldana, rocks braids adorned with beads in the same fashion that African women have worn for centuries.
Moat, the Na'vi spiritual healer and mother of Neytiri played by CCH Pounder, wears a resplendent red, beaded corset. Although a traditional African piece like this might be unfamiliar to some, I immediately recognized it as a Dinka corset, pictured above.Traditionally, red and black beads are reserved for the 18-25 set. Yellow beads are worn by those over 30, which would probably be Moat's category.
Avatar joins a calvacade of fashion trendsetters in borrowing African fabric, jewelry and hairstyles to make a new millenium statement. The runways have been awash in African style bangles, necklaces and dresses, like the African wax print dress from Marc Jacobs above and the mud cloth print dress by Oscar De La Renta, below. Fashion comes and goes but African style always manages to remain present.