If you have ever watched or read King Solomon’s Mines, you begin to see why it’s important to watch Black Panther as a detox for all the poison that British and American films and books have sown in our minds.
For a long time, the image of Africa and Africans that have been painted in the minds of the world has been that of the savage and barbaric, cannibals and all.
It’s not strange for some Europeans, Americans and Asians to ask questions like, do you live in houses? Do you wear clothes? How did you become so dark? Why do you wear buba and sokoto?
For many of them that have never been to Africa, these impressions were formed through stories like King Solomon’s Mines, Tarzan, etc.
Chinua Achebe read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as a young man and saw the need to counter that terrible narrative with Things Fall Apart, a story about an African system of life that was ended with the coming of the Europeans.
If all you have been exposed to is an image of the African and the Diaspora Black as less than, Black Panther engages you to rethink this.
And to counter the argument that it is only fictional, I wonder why the world thinks The King Solomon’s Mines and Tarzan are any more factual than a work of the writers’ imagination.
If you believe that there was an Africa as expressed in those stories, then you better start believing that there is also an Africa that exists in Wakanda.
In essence, the power of stories are there to make us imagine new and diverse possibilities. If we have been subjugated to the bottom of the world’s racial hierarchy through such terrible stories, it’s time we started to use new stories to rescue ourselves.
I am happy that my daughter has an alternative to watch. While it was the King Solomon’s Mines that shaped my mind about Africa as a child, I am glad that Black Panther would be the film that my daughter’s generation gets to hold as a template for their continent.
There can be no denying the fact that one of us has a better head start and self belief. And if they realize that Wakanda is not real, they have a burden to bring it to reality because it now exists in their subconscious. The stories that you feed to people will either elevate them or subjugate them.
As I see Africans in all countries of the world rise up to see a new form of representation of themselves on the big screen, it goes without saying that it’s time to start engaging one another on a new level.
Black people in America and Brazil and Argentina and Ecuador and the Caribbean who have never seen strong black men and women ruling countries on TV are experiencing joy from seeing the movie. Black kids in Brazil that have only ever seen people like them on TV as gangsters and drug dealers, whose key heroes have been whitewashed are seeing new versions of themselves.
We need to find a way to reconnect with all our Diaspora in this period. We need leadership that will chart the path for an African Renaissance, an Africa that shows the light for its citizens all over the world.
We need to start investing in more stories that change the narrative about us, not just for us but for our Diaspora and our children’s future.
For too long we have been fed with bad narratives about ourselves, it certainly feels good to be able to see a different perspective. And you never have to look odd in a dashiki or gele ever again because they have now become cool to wear.
African stories matter.