Last night, as I emerged from a late-night screening of Black Panther, I came face-to-face with the amazing cultural impact of this landmark film. At 12.30 am, I had to squeeze through a tiny gap in the huge crowd that filled the cinema lobby, waiting to enter and view a movie that would probably end around 3.00 am.
Why would these Lagosians, normally tucked safely in their beds prior to Sunday morning church, be so desperate to see a film? The anticipation has been unprecedented, for a production based on a comic book I first read when I was around 8 years old. At that time, it was the only character of African origin and one of the few, including Thor and the Fantastic Four, that I connected with. Racial identity didn’t mean that much to me at the time because I was growing up in Jamaica and felt quite secure in who I was.
After years of living in the UK and now Nigeria, it’s easy to see why a Black superhero is so important for so many people, especially in the era of Trump and a seeming regression in the progress made in race relations around the world. In Africa, where the sense of leadership failure is palpable, a strong, noble and capable leader like ‘T’Challa’, in a successful, modern nation, is an elusive dream still cherished by many. And, for Black people around the world, Black Panther is a rare opportunity to see themselves portrayed positively in a Hollywood film or series, knowing that a huge global audience has a chance to see them as noble, intelligent, capable and heroic as well. Already, we know that thousands of young people, especially girls, will be inspired to take more of an interest in science and technology because of ‘Princess Shuri’, perhaps the coolest character in the movie.
As you would probably expect, my take on the film is a little different and has more to do with the setting of the story – the fictional African country of ‘Wakanda’, a technologically advanced, independent nation that has never been colonised. While its futuristic capital and economically stable way of life is hidden from the world by a force field, it appears to be nothing more than a typically impoverished, ‘third world’ sh*thole, as the leader of the free world so eloquently puts it. As the sole source of ‘vibranium’, the world’s strongest and most precious mineral, Wakanda’s reclusion over the centuries is deliberate and strategic, to avoid exploitation and plunder.
While this is clearly the stuff of fantasy, it reveals a fascinating possibility – something I have wondered about for many years. What would Africa have become if it had managed to retain control of its rich resources and, through strong and wise leadership, developed robust and progressive economies? As a child, I remember when the oil-producing developing countries formed OPEC and began to control the price of oil, sending the world economy into a tailspin. The western economies recovered and the OPEC countries with visionary leadership, like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE, began to prosper beyond their wildest dreams. Meanwhile, Africa, the largest source of the world’s most precious minerals – gold, diamonds, copper, oil and coltan – remained desperately poor and mired in conflict.
I’m willing to bet that Africa’s super-rich leaders and their pampered offspring will watch this movie as pure entertainment, ‘marvelling’ with the rest of us at the advancement and prosperity of this fictional state, without ever considering that some version of Wakanda is still possible on the continent. The truth is that, with purposeful leadership, it could happen in our lifetime, just as we’ve seen Dubai’s inexorable rise in just two or three decades.
Can a whole continent be devoid of real-life heroes as leaders? In Black Panther, even the ‘bad guy’, the formidable ‘Erik Killmonger’, is really a good guy, if a little misguided. He wants to become king of Wakanda, so that he can use their weapons and other resources to instigate the liberation of Black people around the world and make them a dominant force. Imagine that – an African nation giving aid to less fortunate people in other countries and helping them to gain economic freedom.
I believe that the potential leaders are out there somewhere. Perhaps one of them is reading this and wondering if he or she has the strength for the task. In the film, when T’Challa is being prepared to replace his dead father as king, he has a vision of the old man and tells him that he is afraid to lead. In a powerful moment, his father reminds him that a man has failed if he hasn’t prepared his children to take his place. I’m certain that many young people in Africa are more prepared than they realise – especially those who have worked and been schooled in the world’s most advanced economies – but they lack the courage and conviction necessary to assume leadership.
One thing we learn from Black Panther, is that sometimes a leader has to be more than wise and visionary – sometimes a leader has to be courageous and face down all challengers who would lead a nation down the wrong path. Sometimes you have to be a hero and a warrior.
So, while we wait for Africa’s new leaders to emerge, I’ll be dreaming of Wakanda – a fantasy more possible than we could ever imagine.
“The world is changing. Soon there will only be the conquered and the conquerors. You are a good man, with a good heart. And it’s hard for a good man to be a king.” ~ King T’Chaka to T’Challa in Black Panther
“Let’s face it – think of Africa, and the first images that come to mind are of war, poverty, famine and flies. How many of us really know anything at all about the truly great ancient African civilizations, which in their day, were just as splendid and glorious as any on the face of the earth?” ~ Henry Louis Gates
25 thoughts on “Dreaming of Wakanda”
‘One thing we learn from Black Panther, is that sometimes a leader has to be more than wise and visionary – sometimes a leader has to be courageous and face down all challengers who would lead a nation down the wrong path. Sometimes you have to be a hero and a warrior’
You have hit the nail on the head Michael with this comment. Until a hero and warrior emerges as a leader with richness of imagination and the willingness to serve a nation with principle-centred integrity, the status quo will prevail. We need someone who deeply cares about his fellow man rather than to accumulate private jets, untold properties, cars, entourages and cash mountains. Someone who will be prepared to go into the trenches with their soldiers when the fight against corruption is tough.
Someone who realises that a noble legacy far outlasts the private jets that will eventually house lizards, jackals and snakes somewhere in a wasteland and the cobwebbed properties that probably remain empty.
Noble warrior leader, it’s time to arise and take your place! (You will need guts and wise counsel)
Thanks Paul. That has to be the fastest response to my blog ever. Make sure Sam sees it several times.
Maybe you are such a man…….
“Great piece. See my comment
Michael, a powerful and thought provoking article about a film that made me think that with the right leaders the bar can be raised! Here’s to no limitations for future leaders. Many blessings, Mary x
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It’s going to take me a while to see this movie and when I do it’ll be in snatches.
My take is that this is a “vision” of Africa dreamed up by Marvel and it’s not as though people are just traipsing into the cinemas without paying. Sure, it’s nice that it stars predominantly Blacks and is directed by a Black BUT it is funded by White money. Makes you wonder what the likes of Jay Z and Kanye et. al are doing. My intent is not to rain on the fun.
Most people may need fantasy but I prefer to do the things people wish they could fantasise about.
It’s a fantasy but before you’re so quick to dismiss it, the creators, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, were quite courageous in introducing this character in the 1960s when there was no need to do so. It preceded the Black Panther Party and was named after a tank unit of brave African-American soldiers. Money is green and a lot of it is being earned by the actors and crew who are Black. The source of funding for a business is never a concern if it’s ethical. Are you saying that a Black-owned business should only take investment or loans from Black people? I’d love some clarification on this point. Doing is always better than dreaming but dreaming is where every great accomplishment begins.
No doubt it’s a great film. However, much more is needed to get Nigeria and Africa to turn this bend. South Africa could go from Mandela to Zuma in the space of a few years and Zuma only got “kicked out” with a few months to go of his presidency.
Let’s see this movie for what it is: entertainment. If it inspires some, great. Then let’s get down to doing the work needed to create the change we seek.
I think we can agree on that! Cheers, bro.
This is more than a movie for me, i think its a movement!
An awesome movement too, image is everything sometimes and it puts things in perspective even if it take forever to achieve!
Its like rebranding for me at a time when its more than necessary!
It really does not bother me who funded d movie, most importantly its a great projection of the black race or africa if u will.
We need more of these movies cos i think its another tool to give black pride no matter how little!
Its a great movement!
Couldn’t agree with you more. People sometimes forget how many of these opportunities have been squandered in Hollywood because they didn’t believe a Black lead cast and director could make such an impactful film. It’s a small step but an important one for the image of African people globally.
Another expertly articulated piece my brother. Africa definitely needs to be percieved in a more positive light.
Thanks Ricky, much appreciated. Hoping this film will inspire a generation.
What a beautiful blog you have. I’ll visit often henceforth. I just watched the black panther and I’ve realized one thing…. A nation can either be great or a shit-hole by the action of the leaders and the attitude of its followers. The potential of Africa is indeed great, we can blame colonization to an extent but bad leadership has been a major hindrance. Zuma & Mugabe’s resignation proves Africa is waking up.
Hi Victor, I hope you are right. Let’s hope also that those who replace them do better. Thanks for the compliment. 😊
thanks Michael…insightful as usual
Thank you! Looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.
Don’t forget the equality of women. Women being soldiers are protecting themselves and their loved ones. Pushing the boundaries that women shouldn’t be hindered by their gender. Same as you spoke about the character Shuri. They should be encouraged to go into science related causes and so Stem as a fun and enjoyable career path and not straight jacket and off putting, solely for men. That both men and women are partners, fighting side by side for the same goal not against each other. It really does address a multitude of things. Planning on seeing it again this coming week.
Hi Ebele. Yes, there’s so much that’s relevant and inspiring in the film. I’m sure you’ll see even more in your next viewing.
Michael, as usual a wonderfully crafted and though provoking piece, which needs to reach as wide a Black audience (particularly African) as possible. I have not yet seen the film (seeing it tomorrow) but everyone I know who has seen it is raving about how inspiring it is.
God knows we all, and in particular Africans, need to be inspired to see the great potential that is Africa and Africans, but most of all to take courage to lead and to inspire other to bring about change. There are many who lament the greed and short-sightedness of African leaders, but do not have the courage to start a revolution. And its important to remember that a revolution does not start with guns BUT with ideas.
Who knows there may be one or even more of those who are reading your blog that may come to realise that they are that revolutionary of ideas, and be inspired to rally others to the cause…Long live Africa!!
Hey Charles! Thanks very much. Yes, revolutions are based on ideas but often brought about by force if there’s an oppressive regime in place. Sometimes we forget that even the USA was created by a bloody revolution.
I think the first step to any kind of progress is to alter the negative mental conditioning or programming of the black man, which has been in effect even before the Willie Lynch letter. Helping the black man rediscover himself, reclaim his mind and keep it, this is what this movie is doing. Cause though we look, and think we’re free, we’re really not. Cos freedom is nothing when a greater number of us are still in mental slavery.
This movie serves as a red pill to subconsciously unplug black children and our young people from the matrix that continuously oppress and make us feel racially inferior.
I believe that change is happening, and its inevitable. Change is happenig when young black people decide that it is time to start telling the world about ourselves, to redefine what it means to be black, and telling your own story by yoursel, because they understand the importance of stories and how stories have been used to marginalise, to steal, to kill and to keep us under oppression. They understand how stories shape the world, and make some people superior or even God over others when in fact they’re not.
I think we’re on the verge of something new and wonderful here Micheal, I think black people are starting to wake up from their sleep and asking questions, and demanding for more and for better.
The excitement and appreciation of Black Panther by every black person around the world goes a long way to show how much we all want to move away from the old narative, and embrace a new way of doing things. It’s been a long time coming.
It is my believe that we can make Africa great again, if we can change our image of ourselves by redefining who we are as a people, as this film is helping us do. That the black excellence we see in the fictional place called Wakanda will one day manifest itself in many areas of our lives, especially in the African body politic, if we begin to see ourselves as the great people that we really are, and not as sub-humans.
It all begins with the mind, and we’re just begining to taking back controlle over our minds.
Like they normally say at the end of some Nigerian films, “this is Just the beginning.”
Let me say big ups to you sir for this carefully crafted piece. Really engaginging and thought provoking stuff.
Hi Peter, it’s great to hear from you. This is a wonderful response to the effect of this movie – you’ve captured it beautifully. I’m really proud of the director, Ryan Coogler, for using this opportunity so wisely. I’m certain that this was not the movie expected by Disney or Marvel, as it goes beyond the standard of the franchise with its depth of messaging and imagery. Like you, I’m hoping that this will have a lasting impact on young, impressionable people who begin to see the greatness within them. You’re so right – it all begins in the mind. We become what we think about and only manifest the things we believe are possible. Blessings.
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Insightful and motivational for those of us in your very targeted demographic.
Keep it coming Michael!
Thanks Tosin. You are one of those that has come back to make your contribution.