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the historical presentation of ethnicity while primarily focusing on the Daughters of the Dust film

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the historical presentation of ethnicity while primarily focusing on the Daughters of the Dust film

Ethnicity is a controversial and historical issue which negatively affects peaceful coexistence of societies. It involves the protection of communal interests without minding the well-being and welfare of the counterparts. Ethnicity has been a global concern, especially in the 20th century due to the existence of slavery activities and oppression of the black people primarily by the western culture. It has proved to be a significant hindrance to globalization due to the associated negative impacts comprising of regular disagreements and diversities. As a result, multiple platforms have collaborated in endeavors to rebuke ethnicity and encouraging diversity. The movie film has been phenomenal is covering ethnicity to portray the associated negativities and persuade people to refrain from discriminatory racial activities. Since 1945 to present multiple artists and film producers have focused on ethnicity as the dominant theme in their movies targeting the global setting. Matriarchy social order is also a controversial issue which has been critically highlights the role of gender in the society. The concept denotes an organized social system whereby the female dominance is embraced and considered legitimate. The Daughters of the Dust movie is the epitome of ethnicity and matriarchy social order as it primarily focuses on the relationship between the Gullah community of the Islands of the Georgia and South Carolina coasts. The narrative was predicted to be the one concerning the Gullah family taking part in the Great Migration during the turn of the century, motivated by the experience of Dash’s father’s family. Through their isolation, the Gullahs were able to maintain the customs and rituals of the African culture. While they were cut off from the mainland, the Gullahs ha their patois- a dominantly English yet with a stable West African intonation. The film narrates the Peasant community set to vacate the island and head northwards, looking to start a new life. The film effectively demonstrates the matriarchy social order led by Nana Peasant and the dispute between the Gullah community and those anticipating to vacate the island. In this context, we shall critically outline the historical presentation of ethnicity while primarily focusing on the Daughters of the Dust film and other movies produced from 1945 to the present.

Daughters of the Dust film concentrates on the mental and spiritual disagreements among the women of the Peasant family. This Gullah clan makes excruciating decisions to relocate to the American mainland (Alexander et al. 21). The film portrays an extended family picnic, a rite parting ceremony attended by a photographer. Every principal character denotes a different perception of a family heritage, which might not survive once the Peasants have scattered in the North. Nana Peasant is the senior family member and the link to the clan’s Yoruba roots and practices ritual magic and laments over the death of their tradition. Also, Viola Peasant is a staunch Baptist and rejected the spiritualism of Nana. However, she brings a similar fervency to her religion (Alexander et al. 22). Viola’s clothes have different colors from other women. This signifies that they are not linked in any way with her African way of life. The color in Viola’s clothes is black, and her clothes are conventionally clad. Besides, her hair is made in style held up to mimic that of the white women on the mainland. Thus, Viola’s appearance symbolizes her eagerness to separate herself from the customary practices (Alexander et al. 23). Hagar married into the family but disparages its African heritage as a “hoodoo” and eagerly expects absorption into the American middle class. On the other hand, Yellow Mary returned for the ceremony, the family recluse, got shunned by the other women for being promiscuous. The most volatile conflict is between Eula and her husband, Eli. Eula is the granddaughter of Nana, who is pregnant, and Eli believes that his wife’s pregnancy is from a white rapist (Alexander et al. 24). However, Nana’s ritual revealed that Eli is the father of the unborn daughter, who forms the occasional off-screen narrator of the movie.

To Sleep with Anger film is also outstanding in the portrayal of the role of gender in family and ethnicity. The movie is entirely based on a family involving a loving older couple, sons and their daughter in law who get an unexpected visit from a mysterious character (Harry). Although the film was produced in the 20th century where men dominated in multiple aspects, the movie portrays a revolution concerning the female roles (O’Brien 113). Alice, together with her daughters-in-law, are directly involved in formulating family decisions widely compared to the men. Although they do not control everything, it is worth noting that they represent female to have same capability compared to men. Additionally, the film peaceful coexistence of individuals from different ethnicities. Although the film was produced when the black people were experiencing oppression and torture from the whites primarily through slavery, the film portrays commonality among black and many other families irrespective of class or ethnicity (O’Brien 113). It is speculated that the film anticipated promoting diversity.

The Daughters of the Dust film is full of symbolism and meaning. In the entire the movie, Julie Dash employs the color of the clothes to signify the link or disassociation between the characters and their respective African ancestry (Machiorlatti 98). In this light, Nana Peasant is the family member who is mostly in touch with African heritage, and she is full of the blood recollection of her African way of life and traditions (Brouwer 6). Besides, Nana Peasant is rooted in the ancient paths, engrosses in old kinds of ritual, and preserves their way of life. In the entire movie, Nana serves as the key image and a stern materfamilias. Similarly, she counsels the young generation and shares her experience and acquaintance with them. Also, she tried her best to express the significance of recalling and acknowledging their cradle (Machiorlatti 99). The color of her attire and her hands’ skin is the purplish-blue color from the indigo dye. Else, the dye had infused her skin and act a long-lasting reminder of old farm life, when she was made to employ indigo to dye materials with her bare hands. Hence, the colors in her clothes symbolize her position in the family and clan (Brouwer 7).

Most of the older women in the film are clothed in white attire. Besides, most of their dresses are decorated with purple belts, scarves, and sashes. Also, these women are wearing natural hairstyles, showing that they are teaching the younger generation how to be responsible people in the future. They are shown teaching the children different games and preparing meals common within the Gullah culture (Brouwer 8). The deep indigo color in Nana Peazant’s dress signifies her strong ties to the past. In the same light, the small touches of purple colors seen in these women’s garments portray that they are detached from the past and surging towards a more “modern existence” (Brouwer 6). In another scenario, Eula, Iona, alongside the younger generations, are clothed in all white. The generations are removed from the servitude and the plantation experiences, and Africa in the macrocosm. The only understanding that the children will carry is the history and traditions handed down to them by their parents.

The Daughters of the Dust film has several instances where some characters experience trauma. Eula and Eli are two examples of characters who have encountered traumatic experiences in their life. Eula as rape and the indignity of the occurrence scarred the couple. As a result, Eula and Eli are struggling to make things right even though they underwent great pain (Thomas 118). At the final dinner, the woman of the island ridiculed Yellow Mary, triggering an angry and emotional outpouring regarding the islanders’ relationship to their inherited trauma as the descendants of slaves. Furiously, she releases all the frustrations and sadness that she had carried and said, “we carry too many scars from the past. We wear our scars like armor for protection. Let us live our lives without living in the fold of old wounds” (Thomas 118). Thus, at the heart of the strive happening within the Peasant family is a disagreement concerning dealing with traumatic conditions as well as attachment to the old wounds.

In the film, Yellow Mary wears a dressed colored pale yellow. The color symbolizes impurity. This is because a deduction is made Yellow Mary has been engaging in some immoral behaviour unacceptable by the women in Ibo Landing. In the film, the audience is made to know that she has been participating in promiscuity. Yello Marry has returned to the island to help her family in evacuating to the mainland (Cucinella and Renee 200). Yellow Mary is characterized as worldly and hardened. Thus, she seeks refuge in Ibo Landing and decides to remain behind. Also, she is the closest in look to a white woman, wearing a bright yellow dress. The yellow hue signifies her tainted moral character. The bright yellow color with her friend’s clothes symbolizes moral damage, and separation from her African roots (Cucinella, and Renee 202). When the family comes together to participate in a ritual honoring the desires of their eldest female ancestor, the friend to Yellow Mary finds the occasion unbearable and disappears. Lastly, the Daughters of the Dust film is narrated from the standpoint of the unborn daughter of Eula. The child is innocent together with her mother, and they are dressed in white. The unborn child would have the advantage of growing up in Ibo Landing with the influence of Nana Peasant and her ancestors, unlike other children (Curry 336). Thus, Julie Dash provides the audience with the evidence by presenting that the unborn child has indigo marks on her finger.

The Daughters of the Dust film’s primary theme is history on a broad social level and individual, familial level. In the entire movie, the Peasant family strains to reconcile their members’ future inspirations with reverence and attention to history. Nana Peasant, the oldest female in the Peasant family, holds the key to the history of the island and Ibo Landing (Curry 338). The personal history of the family is inextricably connected to a broader American history, in that the wounds of the Peasant family and the points of pride that they have passes down from generation to generation, are associated to their forced migration to America in the slave trade. The inquisitive little oasis that the Gullah nation has whittled out on the island is a place where African and Caribbean culture may be recalled without the incursion of white American society (Thomas 118). Hence, the idea of leaving Ibo Landing is the perception of the Peasants to assimilate with white American society, shunning more directs connections to Africa, supporting the culture of their oppressors (Thomas 118). In this light, the subject of holding on to history against moving on from the wounds of the past and developing their own culture hangs in the parity in the narrative.

The dispute between the Gullah community and those anticipating to vacate the island is mostly due to the belief systems. Nana believes in magic as well as the spiritual world. Thus, the younger generation in the island dismisses Nana as she is not a realist in the slightest (Cucinella, and Renee 200). However, Eula and Nana share a desire to perceive things through a magical lens and to comprehend the world as somehow metaphysical. Consequently, other characters are deeply rooted in their standpoints. Thus, the center to the disagreement at Ibo Landing in whether magic is real. However, the social order is a matriarchy; Nana Peasant leads it. Also, it is full of strong and able women. All the women abound in the film pay reverence to their matriarch regardless of their conflict.

My Brother’s wedding movie also outlines the issue of ethnicity and gender roles which were controversial during 1983 when the film was produced. According to the author, it takes longer to establish dialogism between classes and generations among the African society (Masilela). Although some Africans have potential and capacity to execute particular duties similar to the whites, the movie presents them inferior. The film is effective in depicting the stereotypes describing Africans through Burnett evolvement. The context of the film has been closely correlated to the To Sleep with Anger film. This is because My Brother’s wedding movie film also portrays women to assume leadership positions and perform better compared to men. The two films critically outline the most anticipated revolution to promote globalization and diversity. The production of My Brother’s wedding film in the early 1980s anticipated sending a sounding warning to call for what to come later and therefore significantly changed people’s worldview on matters pertaining ethnicity and matriarchy social order (Masilela). As a result, the two films contributed majorly towards advocating for gender equality and diversity currently enjoyed internationally.


Conclusively, this report has outlined the matriarchy social order and ethnicity as depicted in three essential films comprising of My Brother’s wedding, To Sleep with Anger and Daughters of the Dust. The three films were produced when the Africans were experiencing oppression and torture in the western cultures. They were considered weak and inferior, thus exposed to slavery. In Daughters of the Dust film, the Gullah community headed by Nana Peasant as well as the disagreements between the Gullah community and the people suggesting to vacate the island indicate a transition in gender roles. In this light, the Daughters of the Dust film concentrates on the mental and spiritual disagreements among the women of the Peasant family. However, the film has used different colors to symbolize the individualities of different characters in the narrative. Nana Peasant is the family member who is mostly in touch with African ancestry, and she is full of the blood recollection of her African way of life and traditions. Hence, the colors in her clothes symbolize her position in the family and clan as she maintains the traditions bequeathed to her by the ancestors. The author has used the themes of history, birth, and death, trauma, and matriarchy to demonstrate the social traditions of the Gullah community and African American societies. Also, the primary source of dispute between the Gullah community and those anticipating to vacate the island is mostly due to the belief systems. However, despite their conflicts, the women abound in the film pay reverence to their matriarch.

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