Written by Matt Packer, introduction by Kelutral.org
Like Hometree on Pandora, Kelutral is not a single organism, but rather a diverse and interconnected community of individuals who have come together to create an ecosystem for Avatar fans and Na'vi language learners alike to come and thrive. With the help of Matt Packer's wonderful wordsmithing, we are thrilled to bring to light the faces and names of community members who have contributed substantially to Kelutral in a series of Member of the Month profiles, the first of which can be found below and features our dear Eana Unil!
Eana Unil is an artist and Na’vi Language teacher from Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. Here, she talks about how Avatar has inspired her, and what being part of the language community means to her.
What's your biggest memory from the first time you watched Avatar?
Being completely overwhelmed by all the sensory input that was going on: this completely new world, with incredible, new visuals, and all these wonderful creatures – including, first and foremost, the Na’vi. And how I immediately – I don’t want to say “fell in love” with the Na’vi, but I was definitely intrigued by them and felt a strong connection right away – especially in terms of how they interconnected with their surroundings and all the nature they lived alongside. Their respect for it, and each other, just fascinated me. It really hit a nerve – like, “Okay, I wish we humans did that more,” you know what I mean?
The film resonated with me right from the get-go. And the scene that made me want to go down the rabbit hole of learning the Na’vi Language was when Grace was about to die and the Omaticaya were attempting to save her, and Mo’at is speaking her prayer to Eywa while the clan are sitting before her, all connected and chanting as one. Even today, that scene gives me shivers. And the first time I saw it, I thought: Okay… I need to learn everything I possibly can about this language.
What does Avatar mean to you – what sort of place does it have in your heart?
That’s a big one! The short answer is that it has been my home, more or less, on the internet for the past 12 years. From the moment I joined the Na’vi Language community, I just felt completely at home and never wanted to leave. I’m still part of it now, and I’m very happy about that. If I suddenly weren’t a member of that community anymore, well – I couldn’t imagine how that would feel. There would be a massive hole in my life. I have other hobbies and interests – but Avatar has become this huge thing that has influenced me so much.
How has Avatar influenced you and your life?
Even more so than I did before, I try to treat others with kindness as much as possibly can. I don’t know what each person who I meet throughout the day has been going through – so I try to judge less and be kinder. I hope that if I can inspire people by staying friendly in everyday situations, they may be inspired to do the same after me. I also try to do better at understanding where others are coming from. That seeing into people that the Na’vi do is something we humans are capable of as well.
This reminds me of the scene where Norm is coaching Jake on the meaning of ‘oel ngati kameie’, and Jake’s not really getting it – that it’s about seeing into who the other person truly is and understanding them, not just looking at what’s on the surface.
Exactly. It’s about accepting that person even if they’re withdrawn and, at the very least, taking it for granted that that’s just the way things are with them at that moment, and doing the best with that rather than trying to be negative about it. I think we could all use a bit more of that in our everyday lives.
But that’s just one aspect of it! Avatar has also influenced me a lot creatively. I’m an artist, and I’ve been drawing fan art pretty much since the day I first watched the movie. I was so curious about the Na’vi that I wanted to draw them as a way of mapping out their anatomy and how they work – and how they are proportionally so different to humans. But it’s actually helped me to grow as an artist – I’ve improved quite a lot as a result of all the fan art I’ve done. I mean, 12 years is a lot of time for getting stuff done!
Is your fan art concerned mostly with the Na’vi, or do you also explore the creatures and the RDA side of things?
I’m not an RDA fan! Their hardware looks amazing… but no! I’ve drawn some of the creatures because they’re cute and fun to draw, and I still think that the artists who worked – and are working – on Avatar are geniuses for coming up with those designs. But outside my Avatar art, the thing that interests me the most is the human subject. So that feeds into why I’m so fascinated by the Na’vi.
But it’s not just anatomical – it’s about the language, culture and lore. Everything is interwoven. A great metaphor for this is that if Grace is a xenobotanist who’s studying Pandora’s plants, I’d want to be the person who follows her around with a sketchbook, taking notes, drawing lots of pictures of the specimens she’s studying and trying to understand that world – only my focus is the Na’vi.
What does your non-Avatar art explore?
I’m a tattooist by trade, so I work with all kinds of art styles to give my clients the results they want. But the stuff I draw outside of client commissions and my Avatar work is really dark, weird and twisted – the complete opposite of my Avatar art! So I think I’m living a kind of duality, there – the dark side, and then the light-blue side! It’s a fun contrast.
How did you get involved with the Na'vi language community?
That happened around April 2010. I didn’t watch Avatar as soon as it came out – the first time I saw it was actually a few months later. I came out of the theater, let the movie sink in for a day, then started Googling to see what was out there about the Na’vi Language and whether there was a way of learning it. So, on one hand, I was a little late to the party – but on the other, by the time I started searching, a foundation stone of the community already existed. With that in place, I reached out to and started interacting with the people I found.
Who were your first contacts?
Probably the biggest name in the community who comes up when I think back to where I began is Plumps. My first language is German, so it was natural for me to seek out fellow German fans and find out how they were getting to grips with Na’vi. Plumps is now a very dear friend, and I can say without doubt that he was the person who taught me most about the language. He’s awesome – a great guy.
Thanks to the German side of the community, I came into contact with a Na’vi study group for German-speaking people. Fast-forward to the present, and I am now leading and administrating that group! That has been my role for the past three years. So, the group’s still around, I’m still around – and so are some of the people from back when I began.
Along the way, I also made contact with Mako, Pamìrìk, Txawey and Alìmtsì. Around three or four years ago, I took on Tekre and Tomke as students – and now I can proudly say that each of them has become a karyu, or teacher. I’ve met both Tekre and Tomke in person, and they’re great people. Meeting Mako, Pamìrìk, Txawey and Alìmtsì, who are all based in the US, is definitely on my wish list!
Oh, and I mustn’t forget nawma Neytiri, who we think of as ‘our’ Neytiri… people who know her will know who I mean! Out of us all, she’s the one who I would swear is actually from Pandora, because she’s just so fluent with the language and lore. She’s amazing.
What’s it like to be part of that community?
Warmth. Feeling welcomed. Being able to be yourself. We have all these very different people, with very different jobs and interests outside Avatar and even very different views on the world sometimes – and yet we all come together to celebrate this one thing, as one. And that’s a phenomenon I haven’t witnessed anywhere else on the internet, or in life. It’s really a clan – its own type of family. It’s definitely not your average type of online community. It’s something more.
What excites you most about the Avatar sequels?
More info and details about the Na’vi, Pandora itself, the biology of things and how it all works – and, of course, the language! More words, more grammar – but the thing that fascinates and interests me most on that front is the introduction of Na’vi sign language.
That’s going to completely change the game.
I hope so! It will mean more video lessons, which will be interesting and fun. I know that James Cameron will do a fantastic job with the story, but what I’m more interested in is finding out more about the world. It’s so unique, both visually and details-wise, that I’m just itching to get back there. The flying-fish/crocodile at the end of the teaser is already a big “Wow!” moment for me, and I loved the glimpses of all the different sea creatures and corals, as well as the Metkayina reef people. Can’t wait to take a closer look.
A community blog for language updates, AVATAR news, and community happenings, maintained by the members of Kelutral.org