Avatar and portrayals of Pacific peoples

Friday 2 July 2010

Pacific connections

Professor Nancy Lutkehaus, consultant anthropologist for James Cameron’s science fiction film Avatar, will be in St Andrews next week for a public event exploring the resource wars on planet Earth.

The event will be held on Tuesday 6 July in St Salvator’s Quadrangle from 19.00 – 21.00.

James Cameron’s science fiction film Avatar brought the planet Pandora to life in 3-D, in which an indigenous people-like tribe of Na’vi are threatened by a mining corporation seeking to exploit a large deposit of ‘unobtanium’ located on Na’vi land.

Professor Lutkehaus will explain what was involved in inventing the Na’vi – aspects of their social and spiritual life and their interconnections with the fantastic creatures, landscapes and mystical powers of Pandora.

Avatar has also brought to life concerns over the nature of contemporary encounters between indigenous peoples and resource extraction on planet Earth. Often taking place on remote and rugged frontiers, these encounters have been called the ‘resource wars’ – bringing the different interests of local peoples, governments and corporations into complex confrontations.

Professor Lutkehaus will be joined by Hon. Boka Kondra MP who leads a campaign against the impact of mining in Papua New Guinea, Dr Andrew Moutu an anthropologist from Papua New Guinea, and Dr Tony Cook of the University of St Andrews in a discussion of how best to balance the demand for resources, social responsibilities and the rights of indigenous peoples.

The event is part of a week-long series of free public events that aim to go beyond stereotyped portrayals of Pacific peoples and to open up what anthropological research is all about. The programme of events coincides with a major international conference, ‘Exchanging Knowledge in Oceania’, being hosted by the University’s Centre for Pacific Studies.

The public programme will kick off on Saturday 3 July with the opening of an exhibition of contemporary art from Papua New Guinea. Other events will include the showing of a short film about the people of Banaba (Ocean) Island, a working session designed to give insight into Melanesian art and the role of museums, and an opportunity to meet the BBC programme-makers of ‘Lost Land of the Volcano’.

For further information and the full programme of events go to: www.st-andrews.ac.uk/esfo2010/connections

Issued by the University of St Andrews

Contact: Emma Shea, Communications Manager, on 01334 462 109 or email [email protected]

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