“Avatar: Way Of The Water- Exploring The Parallels Between The Movie & Igbo Spirituality”.

“Avatar: Way Of The Water- Exploring The Parallels Between The Movie & Igbo Spirituality”.

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“Avatar: Way Of The Water” was visually stimulating and a stunning masterpiece with an engaging storyline. At some point, I began to wonder when our local movie industries would evolve from writing crappy and uninspiring movies to something mind-boggling and mentally stimulating. I resonated with this movie in a myriad of ways which enabled me to see traces of our cultural and spiritual practices being portrayed in a beautiful light. The plot of this movie started with a young Na’vi, Neytiri who fell in love with a Sky Person “Jake Sully”, their love wasn’t great at first but as Jake learned the Na’vi way, he understood their way of life and eventually became “Toruk Makto”, unlike Jake and a few “Sky People” who did not seek to embezzle they learned from the people and the people accepted them, therefore forming a beautiful cultural integration which manifested through “Jake’s Children”. At this point, I began to imagine Western incursion and their counterparts “The Missionary” and the integration and acceptance which occurred and such acceptance led to the dissemination and partitioning of our lands, values, and spirituality.

Neytiri’s mother who was the “Tshik” a priestess and in the Igbo context “Ezenwanyi” said something fascinating when Jake was first captured by the Na’vi. She said “You cannot fill a cup when it’s already full”, this quote to me is directed towards the Christian Igbo, you cannot learn or digest the mysticism surrounding Igbo Spiritually or culture when you are filled with Eurocentric ideas of what your own culture and spirituality entails, therefore it calls for a redress, which can be achieved by you emptying yourself and allowing it to be filled with your own ideas.

Inspiration & Na’vi Spirituality

This movie was inspired by the Nilotic people of Eastern South Sudan, Western Ethiopia & Northan Kenya, who are known to be the world’s famous tallest and darkest people, aside that the Na’vi to me represent the Igbo people.

Na’vi believes in Eywa whom they refer to as Great Mother or All Mother “This reminds me of the Norse God Odin also known as All-Father”, the Na’vi perceives Eywa as a “Globally distributed consciousness”, who isn’t found in a particular level of consciousness but exists globally within Pandora and might I say other planets with no knowledge Eywa. Now the law of Eywa stipulates that they do not be destructive to themselves and by extension others. Here even animals are not exempted, when Neytiri taught Jake how to hunt, she also taught him in the Na’vi way which is to take only what they need for sustenance and not for sports, she also showed him a rite that aided in the easy passing of the animal.

In our universe, Ewya can rightly be regarded as the cosmic mother of the Igbo people known as ALA OR NNE UWA, mind you the word “Eywa” sounds like “Uwa”. Ala or Ajani is also perceived as a globally distributed consciousness, she is regarded as the custodian of morality and the keeper of memories. Hence why oaths are usually taken bare-footed as an indication of once innocence with the belief that Ani/Ala sees all.

Ala as a Global Consciousness- We believe in Odibendi, this translate to “As it is done in a place”, this limits the assertion that Ndi-Igbo has a unanimous culture or belief. Each community has its own interpretation and variations but the reverence of Ani or the reverence to Ani is found in all Igbo communities, even in non-Igbo communities. As an Igbo indigene we can connect to Ani through the Ajani of our current location, this is one outstanding similarity Ani shared with Eywa.

Tree of Souls- We do not have a particular tree with such reference but we have a myriad of spirit trees that house the essence of divine being such as Alusi or any other entity. We also imbue the essence of our ancestors within effigies that were crafted from such trees, we call them “Okposi Ndi-Ichie”. Through this Ikenga Ndi-Ichie or Umuada, we can connect to the spirit of our past ancestors, interact with them, and manifest a reality through them. At the end of this Movie, we can see Neytiri and Jake plug into a spirit tree “The Tree of Souls”, where they accessed memories of Netayam. By connecting with these ancestors through these Okposi, we are creating a relationship with them, we are holding on to their memories through our daily Igo-Ofo, and by acknowledging their existence, they can through this channel interact with us via our dreams.

Nso- This was represented through the laws of Eywa, we also share the same perception. To obey Ala is to preserve her Nso Ani and by doing so, we are being less destructive to ourselves and by extension others.

These Nso include;

Do not commit murder

Do not commit suicide

Do not commit incest

Do not lay with a menstruating woman

Do not lay with the same sex.

Do not lay with another man’s wife without his consent.

These laws are guiding principles for a community, at a personal level we also have other aspects of these moralities, which we adhere to in other to remain aligned with Ani and our personal forces.

Osu- It was quite interesting to see the portrayal of Osu in this movie and I doubt if James Cameron is aware of this Igbo cultural trait. In the movie, Lo’ak was almost mauled to death but was saved by a Tulkun “Payakan”. When he shared his experience with his siblings and the children of the chieftain of the Metkayina, he was informed that the cycle of migration wasn’t complete for the Tulkun, but they have an Outcast. Lo’ak couldn’t believe that Payakan was a killer and his instincts were right, he bonded with Payakan and he showed him what really happened, and while the people were aware that he wasn’t directly involved with the deaths, he bore the mark of those death and was declared an Outcast. Lo’ak understood that even though he was indirectly responsible for those deaths, he shouldn’t suffer for it for the rest of his life. Currently, we have a wrong perception of what Osu is and the circumstances that can make an individual an Osu. We also misrepresent it with Ohu and outrightly compare it to Western slavery. In our society, Osu doesn’t translate to individuals who are inferior to the Nwadiala rather just like the Payakan, these individuals may have committed a heavy atrocity such as; murder, and by our law, they are to be banished, in Nnewi, this banishment would last for 7years. There are other parameters that would transform an individual into an Osu/outcast in our society but none of those parameters is the result of one party being superior to the other “Well some communities have corrupted it in a way”. Something to note here is Lo’ak’s perseverance in defending Payakan, whom he now sees as not just a friend but a spirit brother, he raced to his defense and in the process lost a brother. This teaches us a lot as Igbo people, even though an ancestor commits a crime, should his lineage be accountable for it all the rest of their existence?

Agwu: Agwu has always been a very interesting Igbo concept to me, seeing it being portrayed in this way sent chills down my spine, especially when Kiri has an underwater seizure. Jake being a “Demon blood”, tried to solve it through modern medicine but thanks to Neytiri, she chased them off when the “Tshik-who was a spiritual leader to the Matkayina almost left since she felt not needed”, and where modern medicine failed traditional medicine came to the rescue. Note in this part of the movie Kiri was connected to the “Tree of Souls” which resulted in the over-load of her sensory system and prior before that she had no issues manifested a tiny bit of weirdness but her close contact with the Tree amplified her abilities. In the Igbo context individuals born with Agwu would at some point manifest strange abilities which would leave passersby bewildered, with time this Agwu would emerge and this emergence is noted as “Agwu Ichake”, an individual who understands what this concept knows he or she is ripe to perform the ceremony of Iru-Agwu because this Agwu energy would only grow and at some point over-power its bearer, therefore to sediment or diffuse this interaction, our forebears diluted Agwu through Iru-Agwu, while Kiri just seized, this amplified emerged Agwu can result in mental illness most especially Schizophrenia or Psychosis. Also note that Igbo people perceive this Agwu as the “Universal Mind”, a direct capable into the mind of the creator. This idea was represented through the “Tree Of Souls” and we can see them often connecting to this tree and making a cerebral connection.

Afa: This idea was represented when Jake and Neytiri plugged into the tree of souls and had visions of Neteyam, this is the same as plugging into the universal collective consciousness, through Afa systems or strings. Ancient Igbo Dibia knew the science of Universal Fields and acknowledged Afa as a system of cosmological knowledge. When we see them accessing their visions of Neteyam through the tree, we also access our ancestors through Afa, who reveals the past, present, and possibly the future. As represented in the movie, the Na’vi not only bonded with the tree of souls but also bonded to animals whom they share one mind with as they ride, in the Igbo Afa context, this is achieved with the Osisi Ofo/Mkpi-Atu, at the earliest point of divination, the Dibia uses this instrument to form a psychic connection, thereby creating a neuro-link with his client.

The Destruction of Home Tree: In the first movie, this particular scene drove a lot of people to tears and this is because, despite the movie being fiction, it is the reality of most natives, especially in Africa. Note that beneath the home tree is a large deposit of Unobtanium, at first they wanted to move the residents out but this was their home and they simply resorted to violence. The early missionaries didn’t come to Africa with the hope of converting the black man, they simply came to spread dominance through religion, if they had hoped to give the black man purpose through religion, they would have noticed that the black man already had an idea of God and what God was, they wouldn’t request the destruction of ancestral shrines and alters only to replace them with their own images,i.e, you cannot remove the image of Ogwugwu only to give us the image of Mary, the only difference between the two is one is dark and the other white, this act subconsciously reintegrate the ideas of colorism and white supremacy. In the process of destroying these shrines, they also made away with these effigies and displayed them in their museums or sold them to private collectors and turned over huge profits. Aside from this, the western mining companies who are in search of cobalt or uranium for their nuclear and green energy would only continue until it strips Africa bare and some say, the third world war/cold war would be fought over these mining rights. In this first movie, we can also see that they tried to Educate the kids and that is just a tactic for the Na’vi to lower their defenses and it worked until they revealed their true intentions. Now some may say education is not such a bad idea but the question is, what kind of Education are we receiving and what intention do they have, is it education/aid for the enculturation of gender ideas or homosexuality? these are viable questions that need to be asked. They may have not actively shown a religious aspect to this incursion but they showed the renaming of a native mountain. In the movie, the general gave Quaritch his mission, now note that the animals or predators within that region sense their pale skin as a threat, so they planted Quaritch and his team and sent them towards the “Hallelujah” mountains, this is speaking “Mungo Park” all over. If this movie was happening in real-time, then you’d be forced to ask, didn’t the natives have a name for this mountain?

Ndi*Mmiri( Primal Ocean Of Consciousness-Onye obuna di ndu, si na mmiri): “The way of water has no beginning and no end, she is around you and in you, she is your home before your birth and after your death, she gives and she takes, water connects all things, life to death, darkness to light, I hope this sounds familiar. Note “Water has no end, she is your home before and after your death”. This represents the Igbo idea of “Ebe mmadu si bia uwa”, this belief is so steep in the Igbo idealogy that even after death we look at it as not being finite rather the individual has gone back to his/her original home. Aside from this phenomenon, the Matkayina have different features than the Na’vi, these features helped them to adapt to their natural environment. You may not be aware but nature provides every consciousness with a means of survival that is tailored to their immediate environment and that includes their spiritual beliefs because none can exist without the other, therefore the first model for learning is Nature before any other thing, and Oh also did you see the Maori “Haka” and do you know what is symbolize?”

Igo-Ofo: I wouldn’t say this was hugely portrayed but my focus is on the Song Bead” for the ancestors, each bead represents a story for the ancestor. In our society, we never had history classes but we shared the stories of our ancestors in form of folklore and moonlight tales, we also pass on the names of our ancestors through Igo-Ofo, by saying: Chukwumajo nwa Nwakanwa bia maa Nzu, Ezeoguinyi nwa Ejefoehi bia maa nzu, Umenwa nwa Okafor, Ikenga nwaburo omeee..etc. This process would be recited until we get to the progenitor of a linage and this is a powerful means of socialization, currently 90% of Igbo indigenes including this author, cannot confidently call on these ancestors down to those we consider as “Ndi-ichie obi-ancestors living within the Obi”, but we have successfully groomed our catholic kids to recite the liturgy of the saint which has over 50 saintly names but we dont know the name of our grandparents from the third generation to our parents. So yeah, the Song Bead was a nice touch and a lesson, you are a combination of these ancestors, their trauma, experience, and healing all runs through your veins.

Death & Funeral: This is the saddest part of this movie and to took me a while to watch, especially after seeing Neytiri’s reaction and the pain in her heart on Tik Tok-thanks a lot. Well like jake said, “All energy is borrowed and nothing last forever”, we are a combination of energy and matter, and we are in constant interaction with these energies. This is why the Kundalini awakening or the awakening of the third eye chakra is even possible, but just like all finite things we must return these energies in order to renew it “Ilo-Uwa-reincarnation”. Ewya holds her children in her heart, we also give back this energy through the funeral or burial system which also includes the burial rites we give to our deceased depending on gender and accomplishment. For this energy to be renewed, an individual must be commuted to Ajani, who sheds the flesh and sets the consciousness “AKA” free to begin a fresh cycle of resurrection.

“Avatar: Way Of The Water”, highlighted the extent of human ignorance and greed, our constant worship of technology “technocracy” and the dangers of Westernization. The Na’vi showed that we do not need to upload to artificial neuro-links or destroy our environment or our spiritual system to be perceived as advanced, advancement should be built on an existing spiritual structure of the people and their environment, so that way they can retain what they have without losing it at the alter of capitalism. Note that our environment is an infinite motion of consciousness, she throws back what we give to her.


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