Marvel’s Black Panther has become a cultural phenomenon like no other in Africa and beyond and continues to break box office records. At a time when white nationalism is on the rise in America, when the U.S government does not seem to be working towards reducing the suffering and racial persecution of people of colour and when depictions of Africa remain restricted to poverty, war and suffering, this film is a welcome celebration of being African and being of African origin.
Wakanda is a technologically advanced, resource rich kingdom in Africa that was never colonised by Western powers. The countries leader T’Challa (the Black Panther) and his father before him have upheld isolationism to keep the kingdom safe. In comes Killmonger who does not approve of the countries isolationist policies as he does not understand why Wakanda stands idle when it possesses resources that could free African people around the world from their oppressors. Despite Wakanda being fictional it draws on several real life African influences. The film does an excellent job of portraying Africa in a positive light, has several lessons for policy makers who continue to fail to effectively manage the continents natural resources and reminds us that Africa is a rich continent not only due to resources but through its people and its culture.
Depicting Africa in a positive light
The film has been critically praised for painting a positive side of African culture that is rarely seen in Western media. The image portrayed in the film is empowering as it shows off various aspects of African culture and how Africa can be at the forefront of technology. The presentation of the characters in the movie showcases a range of African influences. For example, in one scene T’Challa wears the Kente cloth which is native to the Akan group of South Ghana. Killmonger has ritualistic tribal markings on his body for people he has killed as a soldier. These markings resemble those of the Mursi and Surma tribes in Ethiopia. The Dora Milaje female worriors led by Denai Gurira’s character Okoye wear striking uniforms and metal rings that draw from tribes such as the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania.
Poor management of resources
Wakanda which possesses Vibranium a non-renewable natural resource has effectively managed this resource and used it to become the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. Unlike this country depicted in Black Panther, many resource rich African countries have unfortunately failed to use this to their advantage since colonial times.
North Africa has vast oil and natural gas deposits while the Sub-Saharan countries hold resources such as gold, copper and coltan. These countries are dependent on the export of these resources. In 2015 for example, mineral exports made up over 90 percent of exports in Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Angola. The high dependence on the export of natural resources comes at a high cost. The dependence on oil exports for example has led to misaligned exchange rates, a decline in the focus on non-resource sectors, increased conflict, economic inequality and general political instability.
The Best of Africa
The narrative of Africa as being a continent that is riddled with conflict and suffering carries a lot of truth and there is a clear mismanagement of the resources the continent possesses, however nowhere in the world is all bad. Beyond resources, beautiful sunsets and animals, the continent has shaped the modern world we live in. The history of modern mathematical systems has been traced back to Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is among the world largest producers of cobalt which is used to build lithium-ion batteries found in mobile technology. Additionally, notable African leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara have provided the world with examples of what good leadership is.
For Africans and those in the diaspora, the success of Black Panther can open a path for more films that are dedicated to painting Africa in a more positive light. Perhaps this film will also empower Africans to share our story to the world from our own Afrocentric and not a western perspective. For the African continent, Wakanda provides an image and example of how effective management of resources, isolationism and harnessing of technological advances can help to create a better Africa.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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