Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ten Ways Black Panther Destroys Narratives about Africa

Image courtesy of Marvel
I watched Black Panther with hubby and some friends last night, and even after a night's sleep, I'm still buzzing! I didn't really want to write about Black Panther, not because I didn't think it was going to be a groundbreaking film, smashing box office records and raking in over $400 million worldwide in its first weekend, but because there are already so many articles, blogs and analyses about it and I thought my voice would be drowned in the millions of others on the internet. But then again, how could I not say anything? If you have seen the film you'll know what all the hype is about, so please indulge me a little, ok?

If you have been paying attention to the book reviews I write here, you might have noticed that they are predominantly of books by women of colour. I have chosen this route because I believe that these are the voices that have been silenced for a long time. Our TV screens, our government, and even the English literature school curriculum are filled with all that is male, pale and stale* so here my aim is to amplify the voices of those who are not often heard. Plus I am in love with African storytelling. So Black Panther, which is a story set in the kingdom of Wakanda- a fictional African country, ties in nicely with the ethos of this blog.

One of the landmark features of the film is the destroying of age-old narratives of Africa, done beautifully by Black Panther's characters, costumes, and storyline. These are outdated narratives that have long been pushed and propelled through history books and the media. Subtle (and not so subtle) hints were made throughout the film to suggest that these stereotypes were being challenged. All I can say is storytelling is powerful!

If you've already watched the film, you may agree with some of the points I am about to make. If not, you may want to navigate from this page (read my previous post instead), because there are a few spoilers coming.

I am about to share ten ways Black Panther destroys narratives about Africa.

1. The women were not confined to the role of homemaker, and subservient to the men. The all-female Dora Milaje army, charged with protecting the country will give you thrills.

2. These black women didn't feel the need to subscribe to European standards of beauty.  An action scene which shows Okoye (leader of the army) throwing her wig in a white American man's face is the most poignant symbol of that. 

3. Africa was not portrayed as being stuck in the dark ages with no technology and no innovation. The princess's lab of inventions is far ahead of any western technology.

4. African society wasn't shown as patriarchal and misogynistic. Angela Bassett's character, Queen Ramonda's role was significant. Many of the film's action scenes were lent to the women.

5. Africa was illustrated as having something to offer the world, and not just in need of a handout. Vibranium was Wakanda's natural resource. Its properties rendered it superior to any other metal in the world.

6. These black people were by no means in need of a white saviour. Wakanda's protection came from the fact that it was an insular country. Ross, the only white man in Wakanda was simply an aide to help Wakanda's cause and not the main hero.

7. Wakanda, an African country wasn't vulnerable, unable to defend itself, and susceptible to attacks from outsiders. The country had kept its strength, its resources and wealth hidden for millenia. 

8. Africans were seen as able to control their own resources. Aside from the tiny bit of Vibranium stolen by the villain, Klaue, Wakanda was able to preserve masses of the stuff.

9. These African leaders were not corrupt and selfish (well, not all of them!) T'Challa (Black Panther) was a king, who although strong, led with gentleness, and didn't necessarily always want to resort to violence to settle a score. Furthermore, he went to lengths to try and correct his father's mistakes.

10. Wakanda wasn't solely made up of bushes and huts. I mean, did you peep the city of Wakanda? NYC and Singapore best step aside!

I have my passport ready, someone please just take me to Wakanda! But on a serious note these breaking of stereotypes are not just confined to the film. This is the real Africa. Well done Ryan Coogler and Marvel, and all the actors and behind the scenes people who brought Black Panther and the country of Wakanda to life! I believe this film has made history.

What else stood out to you in Black Panther? Please comment below.

*Read my Huffington Post article on how much social media has pushed diversity

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14 comments

  1. I have not watched Black Panther yet but, definitely planning on doing so this weekend if God permits. Thanks for sharing. The hype is definitely real about this movie. Ha!!

    https://www.missymayification.co.uk

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    1. Please come back and share how you find it! My guess is that you'll love it! Have a great weekend Missy!

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  2. A great deal of what you say is pure truth. And the biggest factor which sets Wakanda apart from real-world Afrika is the fact that Afrika believes itself to be dependant upon europeans in order to truly survive. Wakanda shows how to truly liberate the ideals of Black Power.

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    1. You are so right. Many thanks for adding your thoughts. But until leaders and society shift its beliefs from dependency to freedom, Wakandan ideals will simply remain "ideals" and not a reality. Let's hope that even if it doesn't happen in our lifetime, our children will see true liberation awakened.

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  3. I can't wait to watch this movie. I just had a newborn added to our family so I think I'd wait even longer but I really want to watch it. Most of all, I am so happy for Chadwick Boseman who played T'Challa. I think he's been a great actor who's been downplayed. I remember when he acted as James Brown and also starred in a biopic of a black Baseball legend; he did so great. I'm happy he is getting the attention he deserves.
    www.bubusboulevard.com

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    1. Congratulations my dear :) I hope you and bubba are doing well! I loved Chadwick Boseman in the James Brown biopic. I think the other film you are speaking of is called 42. Hopefully you'll get some help with the little one so you can sneak out for a few hours to watch Black Panther.

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  4. Great post. You might like the Afrofuturism class by Steve Barnes and Tananareve Due.

    Cheers!

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  5. This is actually the first blog post I've seen discussing the film and so this made for a very, very interesting read! My brother saw the film yesterday and said it was incredible - I'll definitely be watching it sometime very soon :) Hope you're having a lovely weekend so far Madeline!

    aglassofice.com x

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    1. Oh really! Maybe it's just me who have been reading too much about it! Your brother has told not a single lie. Please come back and share your experience!

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  6. You never fail to amaze me with your well thought-out and considered posts. I'm not gonna lie, I did watch Black Panther, loved it (obviously...I mean, who hasn't?) and I did not pick up on about 9 of those points that you mentioned. I truly believe that one of the reasons that the movie has been such a success is because of its novel approach. I think it was about time that a movie (especially from Marvel) broke the mold. x

    Sheena
    https://afashionstudentsdiary.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Aaaw thank you so much. Black Panther was amazing! You probably didn't notice these things because like most normal people, you simply went to enjoy it - not like an overthinker like me!

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  7. I'm among the minority of (black) people around the world who haven't seen Black Panther - yet - has read many tweets, reviews and thought pieces on it... I keep reading is that it's indeed an empowering movie; an opportunity to see the continent differently. For that, I'll tolerate the nauseating Hollywood "African accent" on a couple of people (when I finally get a chance to see it in 3D in English) lol. PS: I love the fact that you use your voice to highlight the work of fellow black people - thank you. || www.lorikemi.com

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    1. Yikes, I am cluching at y pearls, as I read that you have not yet watched the movie! (joking). It is a fantastic movie (not without flaws), but I really feel they did their best. Please forgive the 'African accent' sis. Not everyone nailed it, but they did try to base it (along with the accent), on the real accent of a tribe of a Southern African tribe.

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