Black Panther, Afrofuturism & Pushing African Ideologies
I have made no secrets of my detest of the Black Panther movie from the very first day I watched it. Those connected to me on social media will know that every time and again, I will go into a literal rant and say every possible bad thing there is to say about it. My biggest(and admittedly unjustifiable) objection to the movie was the false sense of empowerment that we as Africans got from it. But believe me when I say my view has kind of changed, as this article will show.
I argued with myself while writing this, if i should even get into the details of why I dislike the movie, and eventually made the decision to leave if for another article – believe me, I have that many objections. What did stand out though, and what I am going to make mention to here was the misrepresentation of African peoples and culture, from the extremely heavy Africanized accents, dare I say the butchering of isiXhosa, a language I have personally come to love, the boiling down of our unique cultures into a massive, common melting pot, and the fact that we still choose our leaders in a literal battle to the death – like really guy? At the end of it, I thought the movie oversimplifies us as a people, does not represent us well, and the fact that it grossed over US$200 million in Africa alone does the movie no favors in my opinion. However, after watching and re-watching the movie several times and seeing a certain impact of it, I have a slight new found respect for it.
Afrofuturism and the entertainment industry.
Recently, I read an article on Afrika Is Woke in which the author draws parallels in the differences between Killmonger and T’chala’s approach to the African revolutionary struggle(read the article here). The author compares the difference in ideologies between the two main characters, to the Malcom vs Martin approach to emancipation, where one is pro action, via a by-any-means-possible approach and the other wants to explore the more “peaceful” options. But this is not the discussion I wish to have now. In the article I met a very interesting word which, as pro African as I am, had never heard myself, AFROFUTURISM.
Afrofuturism as a term is only a generation old, having been coined by Mark Dery in 1992. Dery, an author and culture critique, defines Afrofuturism as the “reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens” in his essay Black To The Future he wrote in 1994. A brief history of the phenomenon takes you back to the moment of coincidence between the Funk Era of the 70’s, with a lot of the entertainment and arts of the time mixing with the fight for civil(read black) rights in the United States.
Slavery, colonialism and 'The Gap'
399 years after the first slave was officially sold, the world has varying opinions on the effects of the trade. The argument that I tend to side with in a lot of these discussions is the one that states that Africa was robbed of centuries of development and progress, when our natural resources, and our people, strongest, fastest, smartest, prettiest were taken by force to develop the lands of others. Past the slave trade, the eastern and western world embarked on massive mechanical, technological and scientific advancement that left Africa in the ‘Gap’. While Africa was left to recover from centuries of plundering, the western world intensified funding for almost futuristic technologies, with the space programs being one of these advancements. The bulk of these advancements have happened only in the last 50 – 100 years, a time hardest for Africa, which essentially has to play catch up. There is no denying how movies like Stanley Kubriks 2001: A Space Oddysey inspired space travel.
Or don't... just use it better...
Another argument I often have is how terrible TV is to African people, being a tool of the elite to enslave the minds of the unknowing. (For those still wondering, yes, I am a bit of a conspiracy nut). I am strongly of the opinion that the non African countries have used TV to push agendas for centuries, but only to their benefit and quite often the detriment of the watcher. But it can’t all be bad right? There has to be some good to it. Pros and cons to everything.
Afrofuturism and the Black Panther movie...
I am strongly of the opinion that TV in the west helped move the agenda of both technological and cultural advancement forward. The long list of sci-fi movies that came out post world war are credited by some sources as one of the inspirations of technological and scientific advancement and as having encouraged investment in the field of science and research.
The Black panther movie to me has certainly had a similar effect to a lot of Africans and this can be seen in the many Afrocentric events and happenings being themed by Black panther. One would argue that there is a certain level of ‘bandwagoning’ that has happened, with Africans capitalizing on the popularity of the movie to move whatever agendas they may want to. However, I have certainly seen a new found hope and belief that has come from a TV movie portraying Africans as powerful, progressive, advanced and pivotal to the development and progress of the rest of the world. This element of the movie has certainly made many Africans believe in the power that they have, especially since in movies we have often been denied, and relegated to the the role of employee or slave, or the guy who dies first.
Notable events that have been inspired by this Black Panther Effect include the Wakanda Market in Jo’burg that promotes African Culture and business, and the fund raiser event that was hosted by FLY Tutors to raise money for their cause. FUN Learning for Youth is a volunteer organization that does math tutoring and life coaching in Cape Town’s and Jo’burg’s less privileged neighborhoods to, according to them “empower the youth to shake off the impact of the country’s challenging past”.
FLY raised R1.7 million at their charity event to further their cause and at this rate, FLY could possibly be building and sponsoring schools in the next 5 years.
With Afrofuturism becoming less of a concept and more of a reality, I am left to wonder if taking charge of our own media to spread the ideas and ideologies that will benefit us as Africans, if there is a possibility of inspiring our own people to lead into the next era new age pan-Africanism? Has Africa finally grown enough to be weened off the teat of our former masters? Granted we are still very much behind technologically and scientifically, but all the technologies have already been invented and now we just need to purchase them. The next chapter to emancipation then becomes economic.
And that’s what has somewhat salvaged the movie for me. Whether the movie aimed to inspire or not will remain a mystery but from my point of view it has in a sense done just that. I do not feel it has redeemed itself and I promise to hold no punches in the bash article I plan to write soon. But I will take the good with the bad on this one.
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The Uhuru Reporter
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