The Nubile Savage

Michael Sturma identifies the portrayal of South pacific women.

'In Tahiti time stands still', proclaims a recent Qantas airlines advertising campaign. While time has certainly not stood still in Tahiti, in some ways the stereotype of island women has. Qantas' full page ad is dominated by a lithesome Polynesian woman. Viewed from behind, she stands looking out to sea, thick black hair falling to her waist. She wears a luxuriant garland of flowers around her head, and a bright yellow and green print pareu around her waist. She is apparently bare-breasted.

Most people will be familiar with the idea of the 'noble savage'. It denotes the close association of indigenous people with the nobility of nature which often shaded the reports of early European explorers. I would suggest that another stereotype, closely linked to, but in some ways even more pervasive, is that of the 'nubile savage'. If the noble savage idea persists in a muted form, the nubile savage assumes an even stronger place in the Western imagination.

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