Lynda Balloni
Dr. Shoup
HUM 2371: Popular African Cultures
15 September 2014
Response to King Solomon’s Mines
From the sta...
Although without further research into the making of the film, it is unknown whether the
clothing worn and dances performe...
only traits of his clearly revealed, the film gave off a sense that Khiva, and by association his
fellow African guides, w...
inch that doesn’t have war if you look for it,” perpetuating the idea that going to Africa is like
walking through a field...
of 4

pop culture 1

Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - pop culture 1

  • 1. Lynda Balloni Dr. Shoup HUM 2371: Popular African Cultures 15 September 2014 Response to King Solomon’s Mines From the start of its opening credits, featuring savannah landscapes during sunset with “traditional African” music playing in the background, Compton Bennett and Andrew Martin’s 1950 rendition of King Solomon’s Mines paints the continent of Africa as the perfect picture of what the Western World would consider exotic. The wild, untamed scenery, abundance of animals with varying degrees of lethalness, and clothes and dances adorned and performed by the “natives” all cater to the Western view of Africa in a disappointingly ignorant way. Although the film refrains from using language that directly refers to the natives as lesser human beings than the visiting whites, the blatant stereotyping and lack of character development within any of the African people makes up for the lack of harsh speech. All in all, the film’s portrayal of African is very expected. As previously stated, the movie refrained from using any sort of directly insulting language or racial slurs again the natives, but rather relied on more subtle nuances to the differentiate between the white and African characters. For example, when first referring to the area past the Kaluana region that was the destination of Beth’s safari, it was referred to as a place where “no white man has ever been and even the natives are afraid to go”, and later the Kaluana tribe was described as being “feared as much by the natives as they are by the whites”, insinuating some sort of inherit distinctions between the white British and black Africans. The linguistics used throughout the film, however, were only one aspect that caused the Africans to be other-ized; the attire and rituals portrayed as well as the language barrier between all of the white characters besides Allan Quatermain also aided in cementing this barrier.
  • 2. Although without further research into the making of the film, it is unknown whether the clothing worn and dances performed by the various African tribes throughout the film were actually an authentic part of the culture by the groups portrayed or not, the attire and rituals nonetheless created a very distinct visual difference between the whites and the natives. All of the African men were seen as at least partially shirtless and adorned in bright colors and at times decorations of feathers or bones, often singing and playing the drums, and when carrying anything they always held said objects above their heads. Excluding some slight insight into the dispositions of Khiva and Ambopa, the aforementioned characteristics were the only features of the African characters the audience had to go off of. Due to the language barrier throughout the film and the omission of subtitles to clarify what the natives were saying when they spoke, the impression the Africans gave was purely visual and musical, without any personal traits given to the individual natives while each of the white characters was given a distinct personality. This lack of personal development created an impression that the African men were more aspects of the film’s setting than actual significant characters. It is important to note that despite the language barrier, some slight insight was given into the personalities of Khiva and Ambopa, however, the aspects of their character only fed into the impression of a distinct difference between the whites and the natives rather than helping to play it down. Khiva’s positive characteristics included the insinuation that he was very helpful and kind to Mr. Quatermain, but despite the fact that he was native to the region they were travelling, at least in the beginning, and Quatermain was not, he was portrayed as the assistant rather than the leader. His role in the film was to follow Quatermain around wherever he, or rather Mrs. Curtis in the case of the excursion the movie focused on, desired to go. Since these were the
  • 3. only traits of his clearly revealed, the film gave off a sense that Khiva, and by association his fellow African guides, were submissive, and thus inferior, to Quatermain and his white party. Ambopa’s character did not give the impression of submissiveness like the other African’s travelling with Quatermain’s party at all, logically so as he turned out to be a banished king of his tribe, but rather Quatermain’s attitude toward him is what helped continue the trend of the whites’ feelings of superiority over the natives. When Ambopa is first introduced, Quatermain describes him as “arrogant” for refusing to state his purpose for wishing to accompany their group and makes a comment that despite his negative feelings, it would be “better to have him with us than tracking us”. Even Mrs. Curtis noticed Quatermain’s superior tone in these statements and remarks to him that “Perhaps you’ve grown too accustomed to subservience”, revealing that the writers of the film were fully aware of the way they were portraying the natives. Furthermore, the non-submissive tribes featured in the film, the Kaluana and the Watutsi, were shown to be violent and hostile, and even cannibalistic in the case of the Kaluana, creating the sense that the African people must fit into one of two categories, both distinct from the white people, of either vicious or obedient. Upon further examination, even the Kaluana could be seen as somewhat submissive as they were taking orders from Van Brun. When Quatermain requests that Van Brun call of his orders to the Kaluana, he remarks that “I am not sure I can control them now”, implying that he was able to exercise control over them previously. Departing from the role of the characters in the film, the setting also assisted in its stereotypically Western view of Africa. Throughout the movie, the party encounters elephants, lions, snakes, cheetahs, hippopotami, crocodiles, porcupines, and spiders, to name a few, and Quatermain even owns a pet monkey. A character remarks at one point that “there’s not a square
  • 4. inch that doesn’t have war if you look for it,” perpetuating the idea that going to Africa is like walking through a field of land mines; essentially every living thing is out to get you. Also, throughout Quatermain’s party’s journey, they travel through savannahs, the jungle, the desert, and a mountain range. At least the movie showed Africa’s geographic diversity rather than setting the entire film in either the savannah or the jungle, but it still did not show any scene in a place that was remotely similar to a modern city or town, even taking into account that it took place during the mid-nineteenth century. It portrays Africa, at least the part of it they travelled through, as an uncivilized and dangerous place where any man would be crazy to explore. Although particularly for a film made in 1950, King Solomon’s Mines arguably could have been a lot worse by being more upfront in its racism, it still gave off a laughably stereotypical view of Sub-Saharan Africa and its people. Ironically enough, Quatermain, who had been in Africa by far the longest out of any of the white characters, seemed to have the greatest superiority complex out of all of them. The combination of the visual and audial portrayal of the natives and their lack of personality with the scenery and abundant fauna played into just about every misconception many people in the Western world still assume about Africa today. King Solomon’s Mines. Dir. Compton Bennett and Andrew Martin. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1950. Film.

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