The Importance of Black Panther

The name “Black Panther” stands as strong as the movie itself. The stellar performances of a leading, black cast with the likes of Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o, this film implores you to think about the jewels of Africa, the implications of colonialism and the prevalent fight against neo-imperialism. The film is profound in its manner, steering through its primary premise of Marvel Comics, but never missing a chance on its social commentary and African authenticity. Critics and audiences alike have hailed it to be one of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s finest movies and box office returns have proved it to be one of the highest grossing movies of all time. Furthermore, what perhaps hits closest to home is that our very own South African actors, such as John Kani and Atandwa Kani, make meaningful appearances to drive home true diversity and inclusivity.

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There is a certain victory attached to the Black Panther movie. The victory of a vivid portrayal of Wakanda awakens an African’s pride through being well represented and justly dignified. Wakanda, the nation state in question, symbolizes Africa’s wealth in history, heritage, land and demographics, yet, it is misted with the Western World’s perception over its supposed “poverty” and “internal conflict”. The intelligent critique of the draining of natural resources and the fight for ownership is a sharp take on the realities of colonialism.  It is a significant contrast from the usual inaccurate portrayal of Africa as impoverished, war-torn, and driven by a psychotic dictator. Given that the modern world nearly sits on a global crisis of racial politics, it is essential to have truthful and just representations of geo-political surroundings, given that the modern world nearly sits on a global crisis of racial politics.

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Black Panther also stands strong on the ground of artistic justice. The aesthetic quality in the movie transports you back to movies such as The Lion King, a film equally emphasising quality, emotion, and action. The movie is an ode to the African continent who prides in armouring itself against insecurities and global perception. The tiny nation state of Wakanda is a symbol of national content and resilience to any form of modern colonialism. The isiXhosa dialogues and conversations between the characters in the native tongue proves the power of linguistic empowerment and the actual motive of decolonizing a narrative.

 

What perhaps is one of the most defining features of the movie is the female characters: the warriors, the brilliant technological mind or even the female spy, and the queen mother. The exuberant, elegant, and equal portrayal of female characters defies the typical patriarchal-centric superhero movies, with the exception of Wonder Woman. There was a need for an appropriate and diverse representation of women in strong avatars. The women in Black Panther symbolize women of colour on a daily basis: with a strengthened and assertive spirit, but softened heart.

Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia embodies a bold African woman who has superlative physical and intellectual ability to maintain her role as a spy for the Wakandan government. Letitia Wright, as the princess of Wakanda, proves to be the backbone of the Information and Technology Industry of Wakanda. Shuri is presented as a young role model for black girls who want to pursue intellectual prowess and are not shy from the brilliance of their work.  One of the most striking female characters is portrayed by Zimbabwean actress, Danai Guriya’s, the fierce, headstrong, and independent Warrior Okoye. She symbolizes the super heroine women of colour were waiting for: someone who stands for who she is and what she believes in, without fail and question.

 

Black Panther, albeit being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s franchise, is perhaps one of the most important movies we need to see. We needed a face to the resistance that our continent fights, we needed to be heard and we needed to tell our stories. Black Panther is a culturally significant movie with infinite depth and told in a unique manner; the film reflects our own thoughts, times, and tribulations.

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