This most CERTAINLY contains spoilers!
After a long internal debate on whether I should add to the plethora of reviews on this movie, a sweet little birdy in my life inspired me to do so. Perhaps an African’s perspective on the movie may be what is missing from the conversation.
Late have I loved Black Panther. I came to know of Black Panther (BP) about seven years ago through a silly fellow comic geek friend. When he told me about BP I wasn’t enamored at all. ‘That’s nice’, I thought, ‘An African superhero, what’s so great about that?’ However, as a longtime fan of Chadwick Boseman, I quickly sat up and started paying attention when I learned he would be playing BP in Civil War. But even as I sat in the theater on opening night of BP, I was convinced I would not be impressed. Boy was I wrong! I have seen BP twice (none on bootleg) and I have been won over deeply and truly by this movie!
It’s not even because I love comics and superhero movies, but it’s because of all of the realistic, relevant, and powerful things it captures and speaks on. BP touched history, spirituality, politics, romantic relationships, friendships, family, travel, art, technology, and fashion! That’s hard to find in a Superman or any other -man (or woman) movie! Those movies are heavily fantastical, but BP was more real life than fantasy.
BP was quite profound. Sure, BP was on point. But at the core of BP was the portrayal of many issues and scenarios very familiar to Africa. I began to ponder what implications or what lessons this FICTIONAL country-land could have for an African or the CONTINENT of Africa.
- Africa Can Still Thrive: I learned so much about Africa. Yes, that’s right, Africans do not know everything about Africa. I am thrilled about how the cast, the accents, the characters’ names, the hair, the music, and the attires represented all of Africa and not just a specific region or country. I am thrilled that at the center of this movie is the natural resources that make Wakanda so great. But it breaks my heart that we can’t point to a country in Africa that is as stable as Wakanda. BUT that is not to say all of Africa is a dust bin! An Africa where we don’t have to say, ‘NEPA don take light o!’, every other day, where technological and medical advancements are the norm, and reaping the benefits of the life giving power of our natural resources, is what I long for. Yes, Wakanda is a fictional country that depicts what Africa may look like had it not been chopped up like a pizza pie by colonizas. However, and this is something I’m still waiting for the movies to address, Howard Stark and his cronies got a hold of vibranium, someway somehow. This tells me that at some point some person stole elements from Africa. But Wakanda still thrived and still became the giant of fictional Africa. We can argue that it was a small amount of vibranium stolen to make Cap’s shield but it still stands that something belonging to Africa was taken out of Africa but Wakanda did not crumble. How I wish real life Africa could be this strong and influential. How I wish we could take back or at least stop the thievery going on in our land, rise up, mine, and nurture our resources for ourselves so that when the Agent Rosses come to our land they are stunned and amazed at our majesty. Enough complaints and blaming colonizas. Let’s take our land back and make it thrive again!
- Shame And Corruption: Zuri and T’Chakka covered up the death and the love child of N’Jobu. T’Challa tried to hush up Killmonger in his throne room. These two situations cried African nation through and through. Africans have a hard time owning up to their shortfalls; we can be a very proud bunch. And that pride can turn into a problem that causes our countries to fall. It’s a problem that we need to stop having. Africans don’t like situations that make them show shame. Africans tend to use proverbs and counterfeit hierarchy to shoo the problem away when confronted (see #3). This sort of behavior of shushing, hiding, and covering up is what causes growing political and social problems in Africa. I wish Wakanda served as a good example. T’Challa represented a young leader that steps into a mess that he unknowingly inherited. This leader is forced to deal with the decision of rectifying the damage done by prior generations or continuing business as usual. This leader risks exposing and tarnishing the good name of the predecessor or experiencing the internal struggle we see T’Challa have. This tests the allegiance of the sovereign: will he line up with the political norms or will he do what is right for his people? We see T’Challa decides to keep the situation hushed until it blows up in his face. T’Challa, you see your life? Just neh goh du!
- Respect For Elders: This theme reared its shady head when T’Challa had to bluntly and forcefully remind Zuri who was king and also had to confront his father in the Wakandan after-life. Both Zuri and T’Chakka coyly used proverbial language to pacify T’Challa’s attempts at uncovering the truth about his family. This also speaks to the idea that a lot of Africans have: once a child, always a child. I like how T’Challa took his stand to make the point that 1) he was a man, not a boy and 2) he was king, and as such had a right to be informed of the history that was presently affecting his kingdom and reign. This is a struggle I think many African young adults have in America and maybe even in Africa. How do we assert ourselves as adults without seeming disrespectful to our elders? How do we get the adults to see us as adults?! I think the approach T’Challa took was a good one and worked for him because he was so reverential and respectful and speaking sharply with his elders was not a normal thing for him, so when he finally did, they knew he meant business. This theme is also brought to the forefront when M’Baku shows up at the challenge and comments on Shuri (representing the younger generation of Africans) having no respect for tradition. This complaint is all too familiar to me. Being light hearted and young does not necessarily equate to a lack of affection for tradition. T’Challa represents the young but older generation, the more culturally aware generation, the generation that doesn’t mind falling in line with customs and traditions but still wants to have fun and make advancements. (Exhibit A: T’Challa’s village Grandpa silpas. Shuri: What are those?! 🙂 ) Essentially, the T’Challas of Africa can be the bridge uniting the Shuris with the M’Bakus, as we see later in BP.
- Patriarchy And The Birth Right: I am thrilled that T’Challa is a man… for many reasons… I’ll just let that sit here. 🙂 But BP being a man speaks on the customs of the role of the African son, especially the eldest African son. When M’Baku showed up to the challenge, he got snarky with T’Challa and challenged him on the basis that he could not protect his father. On the surface, it seems like nothing, but to an African, those are heavy words. The first son is burdened with much expectations and responsibilities. And that’s probably why T’Challa accepted the challenge. I wonder how it would resonate to us in real life and to the Wakandans if Shuri was the first born and therefore BP? Would she even be BP?? M’Baku makes a point to take another stab at Shuri and says the technological advancements of Wakanda have been overseen by a child. Doubtful that Shuri is a child, but there goes that idea again of, ‘If I’m your elder, you must be a child and nothing worthy of my respect. Respect me, jare!’ But perhaps he was also alluding to her gender and his disbelief that a woman could be anything more than a housewife or a pretty trophy princess. Shuri challenges these standards and shows African women can be the backbone of Africa!
- Tribalism: The Jabari tribe comes out of nowhere to the coronation. Seems like they were not invited or was it African time they were doing? And when Nakia, Shuri, Ramonda, and Agent Ross go to M’Baku for help, he pretty much questions why he should help when his tribe was abandoned by the king for so many years. This speaks to tribalism. Why was this one tribe ostracized by the others? Throughout the movie we see the other tribes dwelling together in harmony….up until it turned into Biafran War. We even see several inter-tribal relationships. This challenges the tribalistic mentality haunting and hunting parts of Africa today. Parents forbid their children from marrying another tribe, rights and privileges are given to one tribe and withheld from another, wars start because one tribe sees themselves as superior. This too needs to stop. There is nothing good that comes from this. I was thrilled when M’Baku got over his pride and came to T’Challa’s aid. This resonated with me: we are stronger together than we are apart. I was moved by the decision W’Kabi made to put down his weapon when Okoye was ready to kill him for Wakanda. On her part, that’s crazy! On his part, he had more love in him than hatred rising from political differences. We too need to find that same care and concern for our fellow Africans and fellow countrymen and women.
- Unity Among Black Cultures: Africans should no longer keep non-African black people, especially African Americans, at bay. This movie puts on full display the long-standing tension between Africans and African-Americans. I felt bad for Killmonger. I felt angry when Nakia, Shuri, and Okoye kept referring to Killmonger as an outsider. Why? Because he’s half AFRICAN-American?? I felt like that was what fueled his anger all the more. If they embraced Killmonger and welcomed him home, he may have thought twice before threatening to dethrone and kill his cousin. We need to embrace the sisters and brothers colonialism ripped from our land. Similarly, African-Americans should be receptive to Africans and embrace us as the family they didn’t know they had. We should be willing to come together, very much like this amazing cast of diverse black people did. Look how amazing this project turned out because they all worked together. No one calling another names because they weren’t black enough or spoke differently or grew up on a different continent or had a weird name or weird hair or weird clothes or weird food or were too dark. This is the kind of black excellence that is birthed from black cultures coming together, embracing our ethnicity, and erasing the divide.
- One Country Alone Does Not Make Up Africa: I was slightly annoyed that Boko Haram still existed in fictional Africa and that Nakia had to be the one to go address that issue in Nigeria. Wakanda with all its technological advancements could have brought back our girls 10 days after they were kidnapped! But they were over there making shakara just balancing majestically. What nonsense! Abi wetin!? Ah ah! Nah only Nakia waka come?? Dere is God oooo!!! Mtchew! But jokes aside, Wakanda’s constant fear of people plundering them if their true state was discovered wearied me. To their point, it did speak to a valid concern we see in real Africa: if we invite people in, how will they take advantage of us again? Nevertheless, how could they not help a country in their own continent?? Is real life Africa also guilty of this?? I certainly hope not because no one country makes up Africa. We need to be our biggest allies and our biggest supporters.
- Miscellaneous: This movie is not meant to exclude white people, but rather to educate and entertain everyone willing to watch. Please don’t go start barking at them! I take God beg you o! Ah! Also, watching this movie I learned something significant when Nakia, Shuri, Ramonda, and Agent Ross arrived in Jabari. If you can’t appeal to the king’s heart, appeal to his ego. M’Baku sat there and didn’t move until Nakia stroked his ego by offering him the heart-shaped herb. When was he going to tell them he found T’Challa? Probably never.
I hope that my addition to the conversation has been insightful and enlightening! Certainly, there are many other things that people picked up on. I love discovering and learning from them! Feel free to like, share, and comment on what golden nuggets you picked up. Wakanda forever! X
P.S. How cool would it be if the cast and crew of BP shared just a fraction of their profits with Africa?? 😉