Uma Thurman's Campari Calendar Looks Like a Colonialist Fantasy

What Women Really Think
Nov. 13 2013 10:00 AM

Uma Thurman's Campari Calendar Looks Like a Colonialist Fantasy

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Just a typical day at the Zanzibar Music Festival.

Photo by Koto Bolofo courtesy of Davide Campari-Milano SpA

Gruppo Campari is an Italian company best known for manufacturing the Robitussin-hued amaro that makes up one-third of the Negroni. (Although, fun fact, it also tastes great mixed with orange juice.) Gruppo Campari is perhaps second-best known for releasing a limited-run sexy calendar every year. Past editions have featured the cleavage of such stars as Penelope Cruz, Jessica Alba, and Salma Hayek (along with the bare breasts of lesser known models); the pictures of well-known fashion photographers; and lots and lots of Campari.

The 2014 edition is called “Worldwide Celebration” and features Uma Thurman—or, more accurately, a cartoonishly photoshopped figure that bears a passing resemblance to Uma Thurman—drinking Campari in scenes inspired by festivals around the globe. We see Uma reclining on a Chinese dragon puppet (for Chinese New Year in Beijing), Uma hurling strands of beads off a balcony (for Mardi Gras in New Orleans), Uma straddling a gigantic rocking horse (for the Melbourne Cup), and Uma being straddled by an anonymous Argentinian woman (for Buenos Aires’ Tango Festival).

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Campari chose a black South African photographer, Koto Bolofo, to shoot Thurman. This is seriously great, given that the world of fashion photography is not known for its racial diversity. And yet the photographs that take place in Asia, Latin America, and Africa are seriously cringeworthy—they look like they were taken straight from a “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” poster. Thurman wears a kimono in the photo meant to evoke Japan’s cherry blossom viewing parties, because how on earth would anyone know she was supposed to be in Japan if she weren’t wearing a kimono? She wears a black wig in the Beijing photograph, which makes it look an awful lot like she’s dressing up as a Chinese person. And then there’s the picture you see above, meant to evoke the Zanzibar Music Festival, featuring all kinds of generic African props and accessories: a tribal drum, a colorful headscarf, cowrie shell jewelry, and, of course, a barefoot black woman in the background, because everyone knows Africans don’t wear shoes. It looks like the opening scene of a colonialist’s wet dream.

To be fair, even the pictures set in Western countries are pretty bad—my favorite is the picture of Thurman strolling through a futuristic Stonehenge made out of metallic liquid, like the T-1000 in Terminator 2. But cheesiness is at least a forgivable sin.

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Photo by Koto Bolofo courtesy of Davide Campari-Milano SpA

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

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