• Black Panther, history and rectification

    first_imgAnyone who thought comic books were not important should consider the seismic impact the movie on the comic book character “Black Panther” has had on people of African origin across the globe. It has sparked nothing short of a mass revival of African cultural identity. As the African-American intellectual Ta Nehesi Coates – who wrote an eleven-issue series for Marvel on the character, the heroes in the comics defined the horizons of most youths but what was missing from them were heroes of African origin who he could identify on a level of his own identity.And if “Black Panther” is about anything, it is about identity. The entire colonial enterprise was based not just on the exploitation of the resources of the worlds Europe “discovered”, but the categorisation of the people in those worlds as resources for exploitation. “Racism” was invented as an ideology to “justify” the exploitation of people of African origin as slaves, and that has left the unfortunate scars that still haunt their descendants to this day. On the exploitation of the economic resources, Walter Rodney wrote the paradigmatic account in his <<<<>>>>.“Black Panther”, the movie, at its most fundamental level is about an Africa that was not “underdeveloped” by Europe and its people not the object of Europe’s project of racism. Wakanda, the mythical Kingdom ruled by “T’Challa, is an African-futurist vision of what could have been – but at the same time of maybe what can be. The unique resource of Wakanda, the sound absorbing “strongest metal in the world”, vibranium was utilised by the Wakandans to develop their country to surpass the civilisational/technological level of any in the present “First World”.One can only hope that not only in Africa, but in other Third World nations such as Guyana, their resources can be deployed for their own development and not that of the countries that underdeveloped them in the first place. Not so incidentally, Wakanda does not accept any foreign aid. The hero, T’Challa, who is the alter-ego for the Black Panther, is a prince who succeeds his father in ruling the Kingdom in the day and fighting evil at night.The power of popular culture to shape the mind of societies has long been studied by the “Cultural Studies” school and “Black Panther” might just be the fillip to reinvigorate the discussion on “national culture” to re-present all the various cultures that exist in every multicultural country. Cultural Studies demonstrated the myriad “ways in which “culture” creates and transforms individual experiences, everyday life, social relations and power.”That people of African-origin from all classes and strata could spontaneously come out in their numbers to the cinemas dressed in “traditional” African Garb from Trinidad to Zimbabwe also tells about how their story needed to be told at the popular level. It is rather ironic that in in Guyana and Trinidad which are both governed by parties with majority support in the African-descended communities, there have been persistent complaints from other groups of being peripheralised from the expressions of popular culture and so oppressed at that level.The African in the Diaspora is brought in the person of the antagonist Erik Killmonger who is of Wakandan ancestry but grew up in Oakland. It is not a coincidence that the Black Panther debuted in 1966 in the Fantastic Four comic at the same time that the Black Panthers of Oakland were launching their frontal attack on the racist structures in the US. Killmonger brings to the fore all the contradictions in the person of African origin who was forced to the margins for centuries.What is also ironic is that all in all, the celebration of the success of “Black Panther”, there has not been much comment that it took what is still a white conceived Marvel Comics owned by Disney Pictures to offer a product to validate our “worth”. We still have a ways to go.last_img

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