Black panther, a film portraying a black country (‘Wakanda’) that is one of the most self-sufficient, technologically advanced civilisations from the Marvel Comic Series, has hit our screens and has been explosive!
Dashikis were worn with pride as the movie hit the screens across the UK, US and other parts of the world. (There are no spoilers, you can breathe easy if you haven’t seen it!)
— Ryan Parker (@TheRyanParker) February 16, 2018
Now for some, it is a surprise as to why black panther has been so popular.
Let me explain.
The fact that the cast was predominantly black, with African culture being intertwined with modern themes, is something that is not often witnessed in the Western movie industry.
Wakanda is a fantasy depiction of Africa (without interference from external sources). The movie focused on the wealthy aspects of the continent and the rich culture and resources that exist within it, compared with the ‘starving African child’ theme that is often pervasive in the minds of those who are not familiar with African countries, even amongst the African diaspora.
Whilst poverty exists in African countries, we should not dispel the fact that Africa is a continent with abundant resources, hardworking, wealthy people and cultures that have existed for thousands of years. Black panther does justice to this whilst effortlessly incorporating tasteful humour.
The younger generation of black and ethnic minority children can now look and see a depiction of themselves in contemporary western culture, not as subservient stereotypes or criminals, but as protagonists with an accurate depiction of their own culture from their own perspectives.
It serves as a sense of achievement and pride within oneself. The fact that something that represents your culture without over-exaggeration or ridicule is successful on a global scale and can help boost the self-esteem of youth and encourage the younger generation to pursue that which resonates with their reality.
Furthermore, minority ethnic actors, directors and producers can be confident to engage in productions that showcase different cultures without the worry of it not garnering enough revenue. Black panther generated £137 million in the first weekend of its release, demonstrating that there can be successful films about other ethnic cultures in Western Film.
The movie took inspiration for costume designs from the Turkana tribe in Kenya, Himba tribe in Namibia, Suri tribe in Ethiopia, Zulu in South Africa and for names from Yoruba culture in Nigeria. This element was impressive in incorporating all parts of the continent in various ways and exploring topics that are relevant within the diaspora.
That said, the film did seem to have a romanticised Western view of Africa and somewhat exaggerated view of African countries. Even though it is fantasy, it would perhaps have been better to have both African-American and African actors playing parts in the main roles to highlight the true essence of African culture alongside the diaspora culture.
Black Panther, in all its brilliance, was a great movie and one that has caused waves in Hollywood. It is, however, at most the first step in a thousand-mile journey. Looking forward, it would be great to see actual black historical figures (both African and African-American) depicted as they naturally are in Hollywood blockbuster movies. This will help shed light on African and African-American history from a perspective other than, for example, Trans-Atlantic slavery, in the Western film industry.