Nduduzo Makhathini’sThoughts after viewing the film Black Panther

So finally me and my daughter Nailah went to watch Black Panther this evening and she enjoyed it, we loved how it portrays women power. I must also say that the idea of a black superhero is an idea that I’m fascinated by. As a child, some of what created my personal ‘allergy’ towards the screens was my questions around the notions of Western depictions of super beings, which the Black Panther attempts though doesn’t fully resolve? Over the years I have also observed my children beginning to ask similar questions and do we have concrete answers yet?

Colleagues and friends all around the world have written substantive reviews on the movie, so I doubt that I could have anything new to say except that I noticed a couple of additions to what has been said. People that know me well, would agree that I am quite passionate about the ‘ancestry realm’, what it looks like, what it stands for, and ways of communicating to this very integral part of our existence.

Firstly I strongly believe that all Africans whether in the continent or in the diaspora have the same ancestors, at least that’s what history tells us. I also believe that the spirits of our ancestors resides in the continent – linked to our symbolism to land and perhaps our notions around ‘origin’. Africans believe in the ‘underworlds’ (abaphansi). This leads me to my point or rather my concerns around how the African ancestor was presented differently between Africans in the diaspora and those in the continent, I personally feel that this separation is problematic especially towards a Pan-Africanist idea that our forefathers believed so much in. Since ancestry is such a significant component in African thinking I would have hoped that Black Panther utilizes that space as a place where all people of African descendant reunite/reconnect. Perhaps people such as Bab’uCredo Mutwa, Ben Okri and others could have been referenced in the construction of the imaginary of an ancestor and it’s realm.

Wakanda is a great thought, but then again I wonder if some of our thinkers in the continent were referenced enough in terms of how we think about and imagine ‘civilization’ in our context. Are we not perhaps falling into a trap of trying to borrow Western meanings/symbols to describe what ‘civilization’ is? Do we not have potent evidence of our pre-colonial technologies and inventions in the continent?

Another thought that came up as I watched was language and the music which are perhaps some of Africa’s greatest ‘vibranium’. Somehow, when I picked the ‘Nguni’ bits there and there I was reminded of the 1986 Shaka Zulu film, that challenged me quite a bit with its use of the English language and some short passages of iSiZulu every now and again. I think language could have played a significant role in portraying Wakanda as a country greatly untouched by colonial influence, though I do not know what language would have suited better. The oldest? Or perhaps an invention of a new one?

Yes, I can’t not talk about the music. I think some new/ancient music would have been great, even deep chants as this is another important tool in bridging the two realms, the world and the underworlds?

I could go on about rituals too, but don’t want to take away from such great work that the Black Panther is. Go see it yourself

Nduduzo Makhathini

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