“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.”
Yes…let it sink in again.
I was in Ghana when Black Panther was released but my brother (a massive Marvel fan who had so many of the comics) booked tickets for when I returned to the UK. I hadn’t been to Ghana in 5 years! I know, shame on me, why wait so long for 30 degrees heat, fresh coconuts, pineapples and REAL fufu (pounded cassava and plantain – not the powdered substitute we have in the UK)?! I never think of London when in Accra, but this time I was a bit distracted while in the Motherland, not completely, just a little. Black Panther was coming out.
BTW I am not a Marvel fan and don’t know much about the ‘Marvel universe’, apart from a bit of X-men. I saw Captain America: Civil War by chance and that was my introduction to T’Challa aka Black Panther. I was eager to see how an unconquered African nation would be visualised. It’s a thought I’ve had many times before; but now it was dancing at the front of my mind in the advent of the Black Panther premiere. The thirst to see African people living, thriving and loving their heritage because they don’t know how NOT to love themselves, was evident globally.
With the multitude of natural resources and food in Africa, but seeing how the continent stands currently, I’ve asked myself many times….
What if there was no trans-Atlantic slave trade?
What if Africa was never colonised?
I’m not saying the state of Africa is solely down to slavery and colonisation. There are internal problems and we know there was a small section of Africans complicit in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which of course is painful to digest (whether they were aware of the real fate of their fellow Africans or not). However, this does doesn’t negate the extensive role of Europeans in slavery. These two periods of history have probably had a heinous irreversible impact on Africa. That’s what I believed for a long time…and then came Black Panther.
I know Wakanda is not real and some say, ‘it’s just a film’. But it’s not ‘just a film’. Many themes trickle throughout Black Panther, but the ‘African elephant’ in the room was the potentially heated discourse between Africans and the diaspora (African-Americans, African Latinos, African-Caribbean people etc.). This ‘African elephant’ in the room has been discussed before in pockets of the community. I’ve had conversations with people about it, but seeing it manifested globally on the big screen forces us to acknowledge that this specific discourse needs to be extended.
For the children of African immigrants growing up in the UK / US / elsewhere, it wasn’t always ‘cool’ to be African until, maybe the last 8-10 years with the rise of Afrobeats. Some of the ‘African jokes’ immigrants / their children were subjected to were from African-Americans and African-Caribbean people. So there has been a long-standing tension and disconnect between us birthed from the psychological effects of slavery and colonisation.
I have never been to see a film twice and I probably never would have admitted it lol! When I did admit it on social media, I was so surprised that a lot of people also PAID MONEY AGAIN to see the film. The excitement of the possibility of what this film can incite among Africans and the diaspora is still palpable…
Seeing the possibilities of an African nation that hasn’t been physically, financially and mentally brutalised but allowed to maintain and advance its heritage with technical innovation, left me speechless with a big gap-toothed smile on my face! It was too empowering. I felt proud, that this image was being shown to the world and most importantly to those who need to see it most – us!
No film is ‘perfect’ and I’ve already and Instagram exchanges with strangers who say the Wakanda ideology is the same as Donald Trump’s right-wing stance and even liking Wakanda to North Korea. Of course I want all nations to have democratically elected governments, but for me Black Panther was about making us proud of our heritage, seeing how valued women are in African society in all their different talents and believing what is possible.
The fact that Wakanda has taken over social media, re-named emojis (see my Insta story above) in its honour and made $700M worldwide and counting, speaks volumes.
It’s not possible to erase the impact of slavery but I hope the discourse between Africa and her diaspora finally mobilises us to create an Africa that is sustainably great. When I say I want ‘a Wakanda’, I’m not talking about flying spaceships or a single party right-wing government, but an Africa (yes, I mean across the continent and not just in one country) with good healthcare, a diversified transport system, advanced technology, where every child has the opportunity to go to school. I’m talking about the promises of a ‘better life’ that pushed parents out and lured them to the West in the first place. Is that too much of a fantasy?
For this to come to fruition Africa and her diaspora must decide to work together. I think we can…but we can’t ‘watch this space’, we must create and be active within ‘this space’. Wakanda (albeit fictional) is an embodiment of what can be achieved when we work together. I loved the fact the main cast represents the continent and the diaspora (Lupita – Kenya, Danai – Zimbabwe, Leticia Wright – UK/Guyana, Winston Duke – Trinidad & Tobago, Daniel Kaluuya UK/Uganda, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan – USA).
Within the much lived up to hype, we can’t forget about the director Ryan Coogler, his interview about connecting with Africa was the most moving one I’ve heard so far out of all the snippets I’ve watched. Growing up in the diaspora with admittedly a colonised mentality at times, makes me feel like I’ve missed out on some of the richness of African heritage. But like many, Black Panther made me feel proud and tempted my faith in something that I didn’t think was possible in its entirety. #WakandaForEver.
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Cover photo credit: Marvel’s Black Panther film