It’s the African love story! A story of the love between an African man and an African woman, the love for a nation and the preservation of its people, the love for innovating using the resources we were naturally blessed with. Black Panther explores the narrative of the possibilities of what an African country could look like had the African journey not been interrupted by the impositions of slavery and colonisation. Wakanda is presented as a country hidden in plain sight from the rest of the world, which has managed to use its natural resources for the better of its nation, presenting the ideal of what we all hope and dream for Africa to be.
Why are we so in love with this representation? It presents the concept of an African country, and not the chaotic African continent we have come to know, reaffirming the view of those of who see its potential as Africa being pockets of maturity, with key individual countries driving its growth story. There hasn’t been a feel good movie which portrays Africa in a positive light since Coming to America took us to the kingdom of Zamunda, but in contrast to that, the focus here is not about searching for happiness, or value beyond the shores of the continent, but understanding we have everything we need right here, and must define our own requirements, and create the tools from which we can achieve our version of success.
What this film successfully does is align a fiction with the concept of ‘the African dream’, and the portrayal of true African development, fusing multiple African cultures and characteristics, presenting us with the various individual tribes aligned to the ideology that drives Wakanda.
The various African influences can be seen in the mixture of outfits worn in various African cultures, creating bold strong and vibrant images. The traditional view of the bare-chested lady wearing an African lip plate is replaced with the iconic image of the elder from the River tribe, adorned in an immaculate tailored green suite created by Ghanaian designer Ozwald Boateng, representing the African modernity in its design and elegance, yet keeping in alignment with the tradition of using vibrant colours as part of African culture.
Black Panther tells the story of Africa’s future, as opposed to the usual focus on its history. Wakanda is the ideal for which most African’s in the diaspora would be prepared to trade their western lifestyle for. Yet how many of us are involved in, or prepared to invest in developing and contributing towards the building this dream? There is a need to define our own models for development, as some would say, find African solutions for African problems. The one factor for which Wakanda does get it right is the alignment of the development of its infrastructure with the development of its people.
“How many of us are involved in, or prepared to invest in developing and contributing towards the building of this dream?”
A key point that resonates within the film is understanding the perspective of not just the African embedded within Africa, but the people who have been left behind in story of Africa’s journey. The individuals who descend from Africa, but do not have immediate ties with the continent, highlighting a sense of belonging that many of us take for granted.
As a movie Black Panther seems to have left its viewer either in awe, driven and inspired by the potential that lies within the continent. Or slightly disappointed, wanting answers as to why as a continent, and a group of people we have not strived to achieve more, possibly without giving full consideration to the complexities involved within economic development.
This is a movie which truly encapsulates the concept of an “all black everything” and in that includes our successes, as well as our failures. Presenting what some see as a dark element within the film, in the conflict between two of the main characters, which some have found unpalatable, challenging the film and raising questions on the portrayal of black on black violence. Which in a film with a predominately black cast makes the story line difficult to be anything but, if addressing physical conflict but, also raising the question as to whether the same perception is applied to movies with predominately all white casts.
The story of Wakanda goes beyond a Marvel movie and even that of the concept of the black superhero, it is the underlying focus of what an African nation could look like if it focused on developing it’s best minds, and enhanced the value of its resources, aligning itself to how it work best, rather than how the rest of the world would like it to work.
“It is the underlying focus of what an African nation could look like if it focused on developing it’s best minds”.
It serves as a stark reminder that we must clearly own, define and articulate the shared heritage that is Africa’s culture, rather than allow others to define the narrative. The concept of the utopia that is “Wakanda forever” could only ever be achieved if we develop the people required to build the dream.