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Wakanda Forever: What do Rwandans have to say about the movie?

Don’t worry if you have not watched it. No spoilers here.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered in Kigali on Friday 11th November 2022, and Kigalians showed up and showed out. Some men and women understood the assignment and dressed in African attire.

The cinema was full to capacity. During the 6pm viewing, people had to sit on the floor- Talk about a fun movie night. The 9 pm was no different.

There was some pushing and shoving, and some people tried to get around the line by claiming they needed to use the restroom. “So are we, hold it!” one was told.

What we learned from Black Panther 1

Back in 2018, when we were first introduced to Black Panther. The internet went ablaze. It grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide and broke numerous box office records, becoming the highest-grossing film directed by a Black filmmaker,

The movie is about a man called T’challa. T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda after his father’s death to take his rightful place as king. T’Challa’s mettle as king – and as Black Panther – is put to the test when he is drawn into a conflict that threatens the fate of Wakanda and the entire world.

Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and unleash the full power of Black Panther to defeat his enemies and ensure his people’s safety.

Finally, Africans had the majority cast in marvel films. It is said that Black Panther opened doors for other shows such as Crazy Rich Asians and Woman King.

They showed the Hollywood community that it is possible to have a minority-lead cast and break records.

As they say representation matters, in a society obsessed with light complexion, it is worth noting that the movie supplies a sumptuous parade of gleaming, mahogany skin with the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Danai Guriran just to name a few as the whole Dora Milaje was melanin blessed.

The costume designer, Ruth Carter became the first black person to win the best costume design during the Oscars 2019.

Ruth did her research and the different costumes representing different tribes were a sight to see.

Is Wakanda far-fetched?

The African scholar Binyavanga Wainaina once wrote an essay titled ‘How to write about Africa’

In that essay he mentioned “Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’”

Binyavanga, I believe, would argue that Wakandans are stereotyped in this film, including “music and rhythm deep in their souls” and characters such as “loyal servants, diviners, and seers.”

It’s almost as if they are a people without a history, similar to the marginalized groups who bore the brunt of colonial history’s subjugating and demeaning processes.

The music and the rhythm of Wakanda

In Wakanda Forever, African artists were given a front seat.

The artists featured include Nigeria’s Rema, Ckay, Tems, Fireboy and Burna Boy, and South Africa’s DBN Gogo, Sino Msolo, Kamo Mphela, Young Stunna and Busiswa. Other acts of African heritage on the album include British-Ghanaian rapper Stormzy and Nigerian-American hip hop act Tobe Nwigwe.

How does Black Panther advance the African Narrative?

Black Panther, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in the 1960s, is part of a bigger Marvel universe, is a story written by a white man about a black superhero living in america.
Expecting it to be the solution to the African narrative is problematic.

Expecting a movie from an industry where the African history has been reworked to a and retold in such a way that the line between fact and fiction is close to none, is far fetched.

As of the story of the Black Panther, the director Ryan Coogler, himself a black American man, there’s only so much he can change from the original plotline.

What he could do, with the costume and the music, he did his best and delivered to a certain degree. This is not putting into consideration the accents of the cast (speaking Xhosa with an nigerian accent)

As Africans, our narrative can not and should not be written from the American perspective.

We cannot expect miracles from one movie, yes it can open doors and a seat at the table where decisions are made, but solutions lie within us. They are within the African daughters and sons.

What say you? Do you think Black Panther can advance the African narrative?

What did “Africans” have to say about the movie?

Many of the young people who attended the premiere thought the film was interesting.

“It’s refreshing to see Africans who aren’t portrayed as weak and disgraceful. The film is empowering for both Africans and women.” one stated

Many people praised the fantastic editing that distinguishes Marvel films from others. Many people enjoyed the story and the way it was told.

However, we also have to look at both sides of the coin. When you really plunge into the film and scrutinize the narrative that surrounds it, you may have a few questions.

Is this the Africa that everyone knows? Is this an accurate depiction of the continent? Is it fair to use these terms to describe the entire continent? Who owns or chooses to use these stories? What do ‘Africans’ think about this story? How much influence do ‘Africans’ have over this narrative?

Stella, a young Rwandan project manager and lifer who attended the premiere, stated that despite good representation, she does not believe the film is about African history.

“Excellent research on the various tribes and their clothing,” she stated.

“Excellent African music. Would I use it to educate others as an African…No way!” she stressed

Her point is valid to some extent when you consider that nothing on screen told the African story (historically), which is different from other Marvel movies.

For example, Captain America is set during World War II and depicts a piece of American history. Not only that, but Black Widow is also highlighted during the Cold War. These are clear representations of what Americans have been through and hints at their history.

However, when it comes to Black Panther, all of the dynamics and beauty of African culture were used; the hair, the costumes, the geographical setting, but nothing in its entirety resembles Africa.

Overall, Black Panther is a good film, but it teaches us to shape Africa and the narrative surrounding it in the way that we, as children of the continent, want. At the end of the day, we are the ones who will build the Africa we desire.

The movie premiered in Kigali as many awaited with eagerness

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