This film makes significant references to events that have happened concerning African countries such as the girls seized by Boko H. Erik Kilmonger is the physical embodiment of the African American sentiment regarding belonging to Africa and slavery which is reflected by Killmonger. Through his life and his personal drive through all the destruction and lives he took, it reflects the feeling of abandonment by a kingdom that he was entitled to by blood and history. When he was immersed in the red sands as is the ritual when becoming the black panther, he had a conversation with his father in terms of never having been home and whether the people would accept him. His father took a more passive and lenient approach, stating that he wished he had taken his son back to see the beauty of his country. His son, an angrier more unapologetic mould of him, claimed that maybe the people were the lost ones if they were not to embrace a lost child. This basically coined his drive which was to CLAIM his birthright.
When Tchalla found about who Killmonger was and thought about his behaviour as well as the history behind who he was, he made the statement that he was the monster that they had created and they were responsible for him since they chose to hide knowledge of their country’s existence. He felt remorseful that they had not brought the abandoned and fatherless child home. He realised that through the fear of not wanting to be discovered and wanting to remain in a pristine state, perhaps fearing the inevitable change that comes with being exposed to the rest of the world, they had committed a far graver sign which was to abandon one of their own and essentially create a monster, the destructive mercenary known as Erik Killmonger. The film speaks of the responsibility that Africans or African Americans feel that Africa has towards them. Even if Africans critique the behaviour of African Americans, the ethos is that, however African Americans are in terms of behaviour, cultural ambitions and what have you, they are that way because of being abandoned by Mother Africa.
The fight scene at the beginning when Black Panther went to save those girls in Nigeria where Nakia (his ex girlfriend) was disguised as one of them to try and infiltrate the groups also sent a message. It could speak towards the responsibility that other African countries have towards their own when mischief is afoot. The incident with the kidnapped girls actually happened in real life.
The scene when Erik Killmonger burnt down the orchards in the private black panther cave to prevent anyone else from becoming the black panther was another one. It was a destructive act but also one to prevent anyone from taking away his birthright. The scene at the end when Erik was suffering from the fatal blow delivered by the stab to his gut and he watched the beautiful Wakandan sunset. The dialogue as he acknowledged its beauty and declined the offer to being healed from his mortal wound. He said he would prefer to be buried in the ocean like his ancestors rather than live in bondage. This referred to a chapter described in Roots when he said the Igbo people of Nigeria had the tendency to jump off of the ship, fully chained and singing in Igbo rather than go and live somewhere where they would be coerced against their will to do something.
There are some groups who don’t understand the big celebration over the film and the dressing up. Why make such a big noise about something based on fantasy, they say. Why dress up over something fictional? I think these groups are underplaying or unaware of the importance of symbolism. I completely understand the fact that it’s just fiction from a comic book world but the symbolic aspects cannot just be overlooked. If it’s just fiction and no big deal then a film depicting blacks as negative should incite no more resistance than one with positive depictions i.e the Black Panther. A film, music or any form of art portraying black people as mindless animals, criminals and the other forms of society’s dirges should only be seen as art and ‘no big deal’. To expound a little further, when the ‘it’s just fiction’ people talk about the big fanfare involved regarding the film, I would ask these same people if they went to see any modern slave films such as 12 years as a slave, Django or ‘The Birth of a Nation’. When they went to see one of these slave films or if they even stopped while channel surfing to watch one of these films, was it the first time that they had ever heard of slavery or were they just attracted by the drama with the tragedy? If so, that’s fine but if one can watch tragedy, which essentially is what every slave film is then what’s the harm in watching a film that is designed to portray black people in a positive light? Even with the argument that it is fiction, the slave films are fiction too as they always show one side of the coin. We can study European history and make a film out of the defeats but that is never how those particular films go. There is always a ‘satisfying conclusion’ to their films. The Black Panther film thus falls into the same category as watching a slave film as there are some truths behind the film. These truths are that there are some amazing technologies and minerals in some African countries.
WOW MOMENTS FOR ME
- The sound that Okoye’s combat staff made when she started waving it. It sounded like some sort of call to action akin to drumming certain tribes will do to infuse their warriors with energy and courage to do combat.
- During the intra-tribal war, the army of W’kabi used the shawls (which I previously thought was justpart of a nice looking outfit) to emit an electronic barrier.
- Tchalla’s black panther suit created by his sister could absorb kinetic energy from impact and blows and redirect it at the wearer’s will..
- I loved the drum playing and the overall look of the ceremony, colours, dances, drums when the kingdom of Wakanda were welcoming Tchalla to become officially crowned as their king king of Wakanda. It was like an African allstar film how they blended different yet prominent African cultures all in one. I noticed a significant South African influence in some of the names and also the speaking rhythm and style of most of the people Wakanda seemed to emanate from East or South Africa. At a certain point in the film, Xhosa was being spoken which is a clicking language from South Africa. It is also spoken in some parts of Zimbabawe. The only guy from Wakunda who had a West African tonality in his speaking was Mbaku, leader of the tribe in the mountains (who I thought was actually sending loaded cues that he was really a Nigerian). The silver look from Tchalla’s mother’s dreadlocks at night as they Basset) which contrasted with the white of the snow at night when they went to Mbaku’s kingdom was fantastic. There were many strong contrasts in terms of colour was breathtaking to me.
- The sound when the Wakandans spoke English, inflected deliberately and without apology from their indigenous African language and the calming effect from it. They never seemed overly angry. I recall when someone at the conference made a sneering comment about what could Wakanda, a third world country replete with farmers offer a modern world. There was a slight half smile from T’challa which he had used several times during the film.
- Another colour contrast that leapt out at me was when they immersed Tchalla (and Killmonger later on) in the red sand of the cultural cave.
- The purple hue from the flower petals in the same cave were also impressive These flowers are Vibranium from which the petals are crushed in a bowl to a liquid state and poured into the mouth of the chosen one to drink which gives him heightened strength, speed and senses as the Black Panther.
- The silver look from Ramonda’s dreadlocks (Ramonda was the mother of the Black Panther) which contrasted with the white of the snow at night when they went to Mbaku’s kingdom was fantastic. There were many strong contrasts in terms of colour was breathtaking to me. The contrast of the silver of Ramonda’s dreadlocks against her dark skin (which was accentuated by Nakia (Tchalla’s ex girlfriend)’s own dark skintone and the snow in that environment struck a beautiful visual chord. We got the opportunity to see her with her head exposed as it was normally covered with a headwrap customary to the Wakandan outfits for women, especially those of royal blood.
The women in that film were completely empowered. There was none of that damsel in distress nonsense that sometimes portrays them as a liability in the films. Wakunda had two armies headed by a man and a woman. The woman was fiery and her name was Okoye. She had a staff that gave off an amazing sound akin to a tribal call or announcement for battle. We first heard this in the casino when one of the guys discovered her identity (she was undercover). Even though she had loyalties, she was willing to die for her kingdom which showed a rational pragmatism to her behaviour. Great empowerment.
The sole leader of the tech department was Tchalla’s sister who had created and was creating simply blinding technology. All these developments and gadgets set her as a pure asset for combat. She was in charge of healing what would seem like mortally wounded people as well as creating innovative inventions for combat. In any missions undertook, if the women of Wakanda were left out it wasn’t because of the liability of them coming along but because it would be too much of a liability to lose them on such missions. There was a poignant moment at the end when W’Kabi (rhino leader) knelt in submission before General Okoye who warned him that she would kill him. This was symbolic of a king submitting before his queen (W’Kabi was a ferocious warrior but so was his girlfriend Okoye) in her every right.