Naomi jumping rope with monkeys

Naomi jumping rope with monkeys

Naomi running with cheetahs

Naomi running with cheetahs

These images appear in the September 2009 issue of Harpers Bazaar magazine. They were shot by French photographer Jean Paul Goude.

Okay, so I don’t have time right now to write about how extremely problematic, racist, and stereotypical these images are, but I will say that there’s been a deliberate and intentional trend of advertisers and high fashion magazines continually linking black women and women of color models with the likes of animals and the jungle- leopards, cheetahs, monkeys, etc, historically and presently. Our bodies have become “things of the wild,” encompassing the unruly,  and “exotic.” The first image is particularly absurd as we see Naomi Campbell playing double dutch with monkeys as a white man looks on. This finds its foundation in “Orientalist” European Explorer folklore/propaganda where white men venture “into the wild” for a look at the “exotic” life in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, etc. I argue that a white model would not be placed in this same “jungle” theme.

If you want to read more about race and representation and why these types of images are problematic and have a very troubling history, refer to works by bell hooks (Black Looks: Race and Representation + many more), The Black Female Body: A Photographic History, by Deborah Willis and Carla Williams,  writings by Shohat and Stam, Edward Said (Orientalism + others), Maurice Berger (White Lies), + read this poem by awesome poet Suheir Hammad that directly confronts the “exotification” of women’s bodies:


suheir hammad

don’t wanna be your exotic

some delicate fragile colorful bird

imprisoned caged

in a land foreign to the stretch of her wings

don’t wanna be your exotic

women everywhere are just like me

some taller darker nicer than me

but like me but just the same

women everywhere carry my nose on their faces

my name on their spirits

don’t wanna

don’t seduce yourself with

my otherness my hair

wasn’t put on top of my head to entice

you into some mysterious black voodoo

the beat of my lashes against each other

ain’t some dark desert beat

it’s just a blink

get over it

don’t wanna be your exotic

your lovin of my beauty ain’t more than

funky fornication plain pink perversion

in fact nasty necrophilia

cause my beauty is dead to you

I am dead to you

not your

harem girl geisha doll banana picker

pom pom girl pum pum shorts coffee maker

town whore belly dancer private dancer

la malinche venus hottentot laundry girl

your immaculate vessel emasculating princess

don’t wanna be

your erotic

not your exotic

© Suheir Hammad