Neytiri of Africa

This project was inspired by the disparaging lack of representation for people of color in traditional fairytales, movies, and storytelling. Much of what I enjoyed when first watching the movie, Avatar, was the clear inspiration, drawn from African and Native American customs & traditions.

For this particular project, it was my desire to take into consideration what has and has not been represented well in mainstream media. Everything from accessories to hairstyling was carefully thought out. The chosen hairstyle, “Senegalese twists”, originated in Senegal, West Africa. It pays homage to the importance of hair to African and African-American communities.

The accessories were inspired by the shared commonality of the use of feathers and beadwork in many traditional African and Native American tribes and nations. The facial painting was also an effort at the uniting of commonly used patterns amongst both African and Native American traditions. For example, the use of white dots in traditional African face painting is a commonality across many of the 3000+ known cultures of Africa. The colors and meanings can change, but white typically represents hope, purity, light, and a spiritual connection. We chose to use specific shapes to highlight our model’s high cheekbones, broad nose, and forehead along with her full lips; features that she gains from her own African-American and Native American heritage.

In addition to all of the rich culture and tradition represented here, the body painter, Lucinda England, thrives on body positivity. The use of stripes was not only done because of the Avatar character that this project was originally inspired by, but also as a way to highlight the natural curvature of our model’s body, as well as her muscular tone.

All in all, this project was created to showcase the intense and undeniable beauty that comes with the acceptance and representing diverse customs, cultures, current-day movements, and traditions. It is a call and a plea for the acceptance and understanding of the fact that representation matters and no one should be excluded.

Words by Kelcy Short

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