BLACK PANTHER: OUR STORY OR MARVEL MAVERICK?
After all the hype associated with the Black Panther movie, I finally bowed to pressure and decided to take my family and drive to the neighborhood cinema in Jos, Nigeria, to watch the blockbuster flick so that I could stop acting lost whenever people around me decide to switch our discussions to Black Panther the movie.
We went to the movies and we were told that the movie was fully booked for that hour and the next one was almost fully booked. The young lady attending to us advised us to book for the evening screening before we miss out again. I agreed.
When we were finally ushered into the cinema hall accompanied by packs of popcorn and fizzy drinks, I was instantly enveloped with the hope that the movie should at least be worthy of our time, money and efforts. I wasn't disappointed but I had some reservations after watching the movie.
No doubt, Black Panther the movie is a piece of artistic wonder. It was wonderfully conceptualized, beautifully filmed, and accompanied by ecstatic sound and visual effects. Great piece. A box office usurper. A movie for generations. And a masterpiece of an effort to project the black race in good light, at least for once. But I believe the sci-fi effects took a lot out of the real deal and there was a little less reality. At a point I was beginning to ask myself if this was OUR story or just another MARVEL MAVERICK. Well, I guess it was supposed to be a superhero movie, maybe I was expecting too much seriousness instead of concentrating on the fun and excitement.
I couldn't help but quickly notice that there was a lot of feminist agenda pushed throughout the duration of the movie. The band of all-female hard-fighting royal loyal guards is a testament to the fact that women have always been at the forefront of the fight for Africa's liberation and preservation of self-worth.
Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett in Black Panther. Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Studios
I'm sure it went a long way to assure black women all over the world that they can achieve every and any thing they set out their hearts to achieve, regardless of whether they are supported or suppressed. I was also reminded by the movie about the legendary Queen Amina of Zazzau (Zaria). This was a woman who conquered and annihilated armies manned and commanded by men. I believe that this has served to let women know that nothing can stand in their way if they are determined to succeed. I only hope that this new found zest in feminism will not make women abandon their God-given roles for men, because as we all know, men are very bad at doing what women are perfect at doing.
Black Panther also reminded us about the "Ubuntu" spirit. The Ubuntu spirit is a classical African spirit that encourages togetherness and oneness. It encapsulates the phrase "I am what I am because of who we are". The entire Wakanda tribe was united and cohesive until Erik Killmonger sought to scatter the lot by claiming the throne and seeking worldwide domination.
The Ubuntu spirit has been a binding force for all Africans and it is one of our greatest assets. I remember in times past, African communities contributed money to send one person to the university to study Law or Medicine or Engineering or any other course that could better the lot of the community regardless of whose son or daughter the person was. The communities were united and indivisible because of the Ubuntu spirit. You had to shed everyone's blood to conquer a community or forget it. There was love, camaraderie, abundance, and friendliness, until civilization and modernization planted the seed of individuality in us all. And this seed has now germinated and grown into a very sturdy tree that is threatening our collective existence, dividing us on the basis of religion, ethnicity, nationality, and even the choice of football clubs they support.
Africa's serene beauty was given a massive publicity boost in the movie. Very good. Africa's wondrous aesthetic and scenic awesomeness were holistically advertised for the world to see. For once, Africa was celebrated. No more were scenes of starving children accompanied by swarms of green-bottle flies and equally starving vultures waiting for the child to drop dead before swooping on a sumptuous meal being beamed to viewers around the world.
Africa's amazing waterfalls, stupendously wondrous sunsets, excellent plains and valleys, smiling and hospitable faces and exotic cultures and traditions were ravishingly served for the world to feast upon bountifully.
In the movie we were treated to scenes of Africa's prized artifacts being displayed in the British Museum. I dare say that there are many other artifacts being displayed and even auctioned in various museums and auction houses around Europe and America. This is a sad reminder of the fact that Africa was raped and robbed of valuable assets by the colonialist Europeans. After our people were kidnapped and ferried abroad in the name of slave trade, our artifacts were also pillaged and carted away in quantum and the ones that couldn't be pilfered were pulverized. I think the West should immediately think about returning these pieces and pay commensurate damages for grand theft. Nok arts, Benin bronze pieces and other valuable art pieces are still lining the shelves of National and private museums all over the world and no one has made a case for their return. OK, this is one such appeal. #BringBackOurArtifacts
Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther. Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Studios
I couldn't help but notice that Africans were largely overlooked in the casting for this movie. Africans were not given a chance to tell their own story. Don't get me wrong, I give full credit to the men and women who acted this movie, especially veteran Forrest Whitaker, Boseman Chadwick, Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright who played Shuri, Black Panther's pretty and hilarious sister, and Angela Bassett who played Ramonda, to mention but a few. They did an exceedingly fantastic job. But, African actors were relegated to the background once more. I know you may argue that Lupita Nyong'o (Nakia), Dania Gurira (Okoye), and Florence Kasumba (Ayo) are Africans. Yea? Get this! Lupita Nyong'o is a Kenyan-Mexican, Dania Gurira is a Zimbabwean-American and Florence Kasumba is a Ugandan-German. All the rest are British, American, Guyanese, Tobagan, etc. There was not a great deal of African-Africans in the movie. Abi wetin happen na?
Because I'm a Nigerian, I couldn't also help but notice that Nigeria was given not too good a publicity in this great movie. The only obvious Nigerian scene in the movie depicted the kidnap of the Chibok girls and their subsequent transportation to Sambisa Forest. Yes, it serves to tell the world about the issue with a view to receiving assistance from the world's superpowers to bring the girls and other Dapchi girls safely back home to the warm embrace of not just Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari but also the tear-soaked embrace of their families and loved ones. I only wish Black Panther and Nakia had been in Chibok and Dapchi to help quickly rescue the abducted girls before they were swallowed by the yawning jaws of the infamous Sambisa Forest. Only if wishes were horses and only if superheroes truly existed.
I believe that since the movie was largely about Africa and the black race, Nigeria, being the most populous black nation on Earth with a fledgling population of over 180 million people and the critically acclaimed Giant of Africa, should have been given more prominence and projected more in good light. But you know what they always say: no publicity is bad publicity.
Finally, Black Panther is a fabulous movie designed to break the box office records and project Africa in good light. I'm impressed and happy about it. But I hope there will be a sequel that will take care of missed points. On a scale of one to hundred, I give Black Panther a seventy-eight. Nice!
In Ramonda's voice, I say "It is time for Africans and Africa to be King".
I give you guys the Wakanda salute.
Wakanda (Africa) forever!!
Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright in Black Panther. Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Studios