This Article first appeared on frontpageafricaonline.com.
On February 16, the largely anticipated movie by Marvel Comics, the Black Panther had it’s world premier, and Liberia was part of the action. Thanks to the efforts of the event planner and promoter, Kou Dolo, Salamartu Duncan and their team, Liberia joined the rest of the world in premiering the long awaited film. With attendees on the lappa carpet at the Silverbird Theater in TM Mall ranging from current and former Government officials, to Socialites and people wanting a good night, the Liberians made sure to visit Wakanda in style and show the Wakandans what we are all about.
With all this talk about Wakanda, what, and where is it anyway?
Wakanda is a fictional African nation in the Marvel Universe, which is home to the Black Panther and his people. In Wakanda, the slave trade never existed, and the nation was never colonized — not by Westerners, and not by freed-slaves. The Wakandans project an image of poverty to the world, but behind its protective shield lies the most technologically advanced nation in the world which is self sufficient, needs no foreign aid, and is ultimately, independent, in every sense of the word.
This idea of an African nation which never participated in the slave trade, was never colonized, and is completely self sufficient romanticizes an afrofuturistic reality of what the lives of indigenous Africans would be like had those experiences never occurred. Their indigenous languages are widely spoken, their traditions upheld, their clothing authentic, and their exotic animals cared for. There is a sense of traditional pride in the people of Wakanda, who walk with their heads high in total security and confidence knowing that they do not have to worry about things like poor healthcare systems, bad roads and infrastructure, or no money to eat for the day. In Wakanda, their mouths are fed, and their lives are fed, but of course, there is a “but”, as always.
The “But” of Wakanda is that, though they are an all advanced nation, they are not exempt from the same demons which haunt the African continent today — greed, selfishness, and lack of unity among ourselves.
The wealth of Wakanda derives from Vibranium, which, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the most precious metal known to mankind — more precious than gold, or diamond. However, the Wakandans keep this metal all to themselves, using it to create a shield which hides their wealth and riches from the world and their African counterparts. The idea is to protect themselves from the West, so as to discourage the West’s knowledge of the real power of Vibranium, and discourage their infiltration into Wakanda to disrupt the order of the society in an effort to steal the metal — you know, the same thing that has been done by the West to practically every existing African nation with a wealth of resources — Divided, Conquered, and Stolen. Quite frankly, I don’t blame the Wakandans. Its a situation one cannot win — open up your nation and weaken your defenses and put your people at risk of overthrow, or close up your nation and be seen as a selfish and greedy nation who only cares about its people— Which path is a King to choose for his people?
The Black Panther is a film which must be experienced, as I believe it feeds each of its viewers with something different. For me, I was fed with a delicious serving of the idea of reconciliation among Africans in Africa, Africans in the Diaspora, and African-Americans. When I first moved to America as a child, I did not know what to expect, as it was a land completely different from what I knew in Liberia. What I did receive, however, was not part of my expectations, as I was received with unwelcoming arms from people who looked like me, but did not understand me, and did not try to. Instead, I had to understand them, adapt to their ways, use their slang, feel their pain, and check the boxes meant for them on forms that I filled out, as there was never a box for me. This lost connection between me and my African-American peers symbolized the lost connection between Africans and African-Americans. It is a known and recognized fact that the ancestors of African-Americans are indeed from West Africa, however, so much has happened in between the time of their capture to their freedom, and to the present, that there needs to be some serious joint effort in fostering some form of reconciliation so that the two groups are better equipped in understanding one another, and in turn seeing each other as belonging to the same group, deserving of one another’s love, empathy, and support. The same also goes for Africans in Africa, and those in the diaspora.
The next delicious serving for me was how quickly, the seemingly perfect, Wakanda became divided to the point of bloodshed among themselves all because of a single human threat. This reminded me of how sometimes even the strongest nations aren’t as strong as they think because they focus their strength on their financial wealth, and not on the strength in the unity of its people. Wakanda could’ve lost it all — all their technology, development, and financial strength — all because of the conflicting loyalties in its people. Something to think about.
With a lot of pressure on the film to do so much, it is important to allow it to not do everything. This single film cannot realistically be the sole liberator of all Black people in the world, as our experiences, fights, and stories are different. However, what remains the same across nations is the Black Experience where we all have to work twice as hard to get what our White counterparts put little effort towards. This is prevalent, even in Africa. So what this film does, especially for African Americans is show a wide range of positive Black representation for young Black boys and girls to see the film and see themselves. This film does this, and at the same time shows that a super-hero blockbuster with an entirely Black lead cast can sell, and break records. The Black Panther is more than a super hero film, but a revolution which symbolizes the changing times we are currently experiencing with Black people no longer taking “no” for an answer, but are rather giving ear to some of the important conversations needed in the societies we occupy and amongst ourselves.
I could go on and on about the film and all of its thought-provoking themes, but I’d rather remain vague in this review and encourage you all to see the film, as it is well worth the hype around it, and will feed you with something you didn’t even know you needed.