Wakanda: Will African nations rise to a new challenge?

Black Panther, a Marvel creation most of the black populace, and generally everyone, has been waiting for, has racked in crazy reviews with stars showing up to the premiers brandishing all sorts of African attire to see the new movie which features the first black superhero and an almost ninety percent cast of black people.

For years, the African narrative has revolved around juju practices, politics, poverty, hunger, violent histories, so this was a breath of fresh air to many. Afro-futurism is rarely ever delved into, the imagination of what we could be as opposed to just pointing out what is wrong ever far from our minds.

 

Black Panther, Wakanda, Marvel,
Image courtesy of Marvel Studios

Enter Wakanda: a fictional African nation created in the Marvel universe. Wakanda is located in East Africa and although its exact location has varied throughout its publication history, it seems to be located at a fictional point directly in the middle of the African nations of Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, its major languages Wakandan, and Yoruba.

Ryan Coogler, the director, is said to have brought in experts on African history and politics to help set up and establish Wakanda and add legitimacy to the nation leading to the creation of Wakanda as an amalgamation of real African nations, economies, and cultures, including Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and the Congo.

The nation’s economy revolves around the mining of a rare mineral, Valarium, which was said to have crashed out of space, after which the Wakandas took care to let no outsider know its exact location for fear of theft. After Wakanda closed its borders to outside nations, Wakanda developed its own superior technology that’s nearly impossible to hack, becoming a super technologically advanced nation.

Many African nations open themselves in a way that benefits the outside world without benefiting its own people. The real version of the closing of the Wakandan borders would be the closing of African nations to entrapping foreign aid and the removal of white lust from the eyes of its citizens by investing and developing those same citizens.

As far as the rest of the world knows, getting your hands on a small Vibranium rock is a miracle on its own. Such was their strategy that even some thought that Wakanda was just a third world country while it could prove to be the most financially sound country in the entire world.

All of the manufacturing done by Wakanda’s Design Group was strictly for domestic consumption. This helps the country have completely free education, universal healthcare, and metropolitan areas.

Image courtesy of Marvel Studios

Chadwick Boseman who plays T’Challa, the Black Panther, which is the rank given to the king of Wakanda, became educated in the universities abroad, then returned to Wakanda to assume leadership of the tribe. His newfound business and scientific expertise enabling the Wakandans to further use the Vibranium deposit into even greater wealth while protecting itself from outside forces with ulterior motives.

This narrative sounds all too familiar except for the enrichment of African nations from its own resources. Countries like the Congo dealing in rich amounts of coltan, Nigeria’s oil, Ghana’s gold, the diamonds of the Central African republic and many more African nations rich in resources but still experiencing even worse conditions before the advent of those resources.

With regards to the Black Panther’s leadership abilities, he has to train for years before taking up the mantle. The reigning king, T’Challa, also a scientist, possesses superhuman senses, agility, speed, and strength. In addition, He has a PhD in physics from Oxford University and is considered to be one of the eight smartest people in the entire Marvel universe.

Many Africans are industrious individuals striving to achieve both physically and mentally, some going ahead to further their education, with the difference that only a handful prefer to come back to contribute/develop their countries. And even when they do, the path to leadership is more often than not, strung with corruption of the process making those who would be more qualified to deliver shy away from those areas.

wakanda, african, black panther
Image courtesy of Marvel Studios

The presence of female warriors who serve as bodyguards protecting the king of Wakanda is a great highlight. The Dora Milaje, also known as the Adored Ones, are an all-female group of Warriors that help protect Wakanda and look after the King. This, in contrast to the perceived and often demanded subversive nature of the African woman. The Dora Milaje show similarities to the Iyalodes of Yoruba kingdoms, the Umuadas of Igbo land who could met out punishment on any man found wanting and even Queens like the Queen Nandi of Zulu kingdom and Queen Aminatu of Hausa land.

The claim of this movie is that this is an imagination of how most African nations would have been without the interruption of colonisation, but many African nations have a plethora of languages even within a subset of community. It certainly helps that they are all Wakandans and speak one language and while colonialism brought with it all the disruption it could muster, it brought the ability for most Africans to think in the same space as their colonial countries whilst keeping their local languages although this has been a challenge similar to the conflicts between the college professors and traditional witches summoned for advice in the Wakandan council.

The Westerners have perfected the art of telling their future through stories told through film making. Then there’s the Japanese who did not look only to Marvel, but went ahead to form their version of movies, creating the Anime and Manga universe bringing about questions of Africans failing to create and exert agency on their own diverse content and whether this lack fuels the expectations from foreign media.

With the representation and the delving of media into African stories, it’s left for African nations to step up to the challenge of futures imagined by creating powerful nations apt in controlling narratives media and resources for its own benefit.