Sunday, January 10, 2010

Africa Arrives Once Again With Avatar Movie



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.


28 comments:

Tiffany said...

I agree about the cultural adornments that were worn.

Tiffany said...

" Fashion comes and goes but African style always manages to remain present."

Great quote. Fashion designers have long been influenced by African culture not just the culture from Africa, but the African culture from the diasporas around the globe.

Anonymous said...

Despite all that you said, I did like the the movie. It was entertaining, and it brought up good points about the state of our environment today, and the path we'll be going down soon if we don't clean up our act. Literally.

Fly Girl said...

Tiffany, Africa and her diaspora have influenced style and culture from the very beginning, it's just not always acknowledged.

Anonymous, lots of people like Avatar because of the great animation and action. I do hope people get the message to honor the earth from it.

Prof. Mac said...

I didn't see the movie and do not plan to see it. I'm just not into special effects spectaculars. However my sister described the plot to me and my first thought was this sounds like the arrival of the Pilgrims or colonialism in Africa.

A Cuban In London said...

My children saw this movie last weekend and they weren't very impressed either. But for them it was the 3D effects they were waiting for but never materialised, if only once.

And you brought to my attention another element that had completely been lost on me: the African influence. Yes, it's true and you can see from the trailer.

Great post, as usual you're spot on.

Greetings from London.

AngelaCorrias said...

Agree on the movie 100%! And also on African style, spontaneously trendy all the time!

Fly Girl said...

Prof Mac, the issue of colonialism and manifest destiny is clearly an Avatar theme. Thanks for dropping by.

Cubano,the special effects are what draw most people to this movie. I don't think the storyline is as important to many viewers but that's all that interests me.

Angela,I'm glad I'm not the only one that recognized these themes! Thanks for visiting.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

There have been many mixed reviews of this movie, many with the 'Dances With Wolves' connotation. It may well turn out to be very influential, but is definately meant to link with earth history.

Fly Girl said...

Jean-Luc, there have been so many charges about the parallels to Dances with Wolves that I didn't think it was even necessary for me to go into it again. It will clearly have some sort of historical note, for what exactly, is the question.

Ekua said...

Interesting take. I have no desire to see the movie, but not for these reasons. Now I have more of a desire not to see it, if that's even possible.

Footsteps said...

I appreciate your perspective on the movie. The underlying message: to value the earth and its people is unfortunately one for which we seem to need constant reminding.

Fly Girl said...

Ekua, I wouldn't have seen it either but my husband is a sci-fi fanatic.

Heather, I hope that all the viewers do at leat get this message.

Catherine said...

so glad you have given me a good reason not to go and see that film - I was wondering why i just didn't fancy it or like the sound of it at all - now I simply won't bother...loving those African textile prints though...

Mary and Sean said...

I agree with you about the contrived plot, but the movie did put a lot of attention on the the rich highly complex wondrous aspect of the Navi people. At least that's something in the right direction

Fly Girl said...

Catherine, I'm glad you got some good African textiles out of it!

Mary,hopefully, viewers will get the honor the earth message.

SamanthaClarke said...

There is no doubt that there is African undertones. My question is, is there something that people are learning from movies like these? Or is it all fashion and fun?

Fly Girl said...

That's a very good question. From my discussions on here and Facebook, many take it as just a great action movie and love story. Some get the message of taking care of the earth but that's the only thing that I've gathered. All the other cultural messages seem to be blocked. Thanks for dropping by.

Lola said...

Haven't seen the movie yet, still on the list, but it's really interesting (and pretty cool actually) how African fashion and attire are now crossing over big time.

The pic I supplied to Vogue was for an article that talked about this very issue - http://lolaakinmade.com/2009/01/16/v-is-for-vogue/

mangocheeks said...

I live in the U.K and have not heard of these reference to the movie, but as a person of colour as soon as I heard the storyline from my nephews who went to see it for the special effects. Hey ho - the story rang big bells.

I don't intend to watch it at all.
Patronising. I want to see real life human interaction, not movie fairytale fluffiness.

Fly Girl said...

Lola, African clothes have always had a presence on the world's stage at some level or another. I read that article, really informative!

Mango, fairytale blue people are part of the sci -fi appeal but there was clearly other things going on with that story. Thanks for dropping by.

puregoldlady said...

Interesting post. I saw the movie and didn't take away the whole "white man" saving the natives bit...maybe because I didn't look at the Nav'i in the same way. I saw them being helped by an outsider who felt he was one of them at heart. What I took away more was a message about shareholder responsibility in companies who take resources from our earth and I loved the message about being connected to the earth and being respectful of life (this is something I remember studying in school w.r.t various Native American tribes in the US).

As for the Marc Jacob prints, when the pictures for Sprint 2010 came out I immediately saved some pictures for "sewing inspiration" for myself or a seamstress to work with. He definitely was influenced by African print and I appreciate seeing the ways people come up with to wear traditional cloths.

Now if only African designers could get the same attention...

Fly Girl said...

Gold, I liked the caring for the earth message too, I just couldn't ignore all the other messages though. African designers have actually gotten some notice at NY fashion Week last year.

Louis said...

I came across your page while looking at reactions around the world to the movie "Avatar". I find it interesting how such a "shallow" movie brings up so much discussion and identification. Indigenous people and colonized peoples from around the world have seen themselves. And similarities in clothes, headdress and jewelry have been noted beyond just african ones.
Tribal leaders of Amazonian tribes saw the movie as being about their battles with oil and mining companies. (http://www.theworld.org/2010/01/29/avatar-in-the-amazon/ ). Hindu sites see things borrowed and twisted from them (http://girishshahane.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-avatar-hindi-movie.html ). The Na'vi language is based on Maori and they see much more from their history, culture and myths. (http://news.tangatawhenua.com/archives/2632). The Vatican condemned the movie "Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship." (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/12/entertainment/main6086883.shtml).

Simplicty hides a much deeper draw across many cultures and makes the movie much more interesting.

Louis said...

Actually a better link about the Hindu aspects of the film.
http://www.hindu-blog.com/2009/12/avatar-movie-similarities-with-hindu.html

Fly Girl said...

Louis, I heard about the parallels with other native cultures as well. Thanks for the links and dropping by.

Anonymous said...

hello...i was reading these posts and wanted to share...although the movie derives from many cultures it is the message louder than words..the tribes around the globe were all nomadic and for thousands of years traders and artisans have shared the work of the adornments they wear..the beadwork found here of the planes people is also so reflective as the beadwork of eastern europe..what is white?? why is the context of racial divides still abundant on this planet?? why does it matter where the pieces are3 from?? it is a shared song..a global story and it is the west who continues to have ego over it..my mixed race has led my life of contravercy but it is my heart that matters..the film was amazing as we live in a digital world that is one of the only ways to reach many many people with a message..we are hurting eachother and the great planet who loves us all..but please please set aside all the divides and remember that our bones and blood our the same..and our cultures are a diverse tapestry woven together by the threads of time..In La'kech

~rAGU said...

It takes huge amount of ignorance and unwillingness to call Avatar a "shallow" movie. Any thing of creativity becomes intimate if it can create a connection with audience. Those who find similarity rightly do so. Where does the word Avatar come from ? Cree? What about amazing technological achievements and graphics. As I said, "It takes huge amount of ignorance and unwillingness to call Avatar a "shallow" movie".