I am sure that many of us have read the 1899 novel “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. It has also been adapted for screenplay.
The novel paints a very dark and savage picture of Africa, as seen through the eyes of British explorers who sailed down the Mighty Congo River.
By contrast, the movie Black Panther paints a very enlightened and progressive picture of a fictitious African country called Wakanda. The secret to the success of Wakanda is the imaginary element called vibranium, which has magical powers that enable the rulers of Wakanda to achieve greatness.
Apparently, vibranium landed in Wakanda centuries ago when a meteorite hit planet earth. Perhaps we should check whether the Hobas meteorite near Grootfontein also has vibranium!
Anyway, I like the idea behind Black Panther, to show positive storylines and images about black people. Initially, when I heard the name Black Panther, I thought that the movie was about the legendary political movement called the Black Panther Party in the USA, founded by Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966. It gave many of us a sense of pride when we were young aspiring revolutionaries.
The story of Wakanda gives many black people the world over a sense of pride. My only problem is that the success of Wakanda is attributable to an imaginary magical power, rather than the natural intelligence of its inhabitants.
My head has been spinning all these years trying to figure out a formula for Africa’s success. The natural and human resources are there, so what keeps us in bondage? What is the real life or even symbolic version of vibranium that we can use today in order to inspire our people to achieve extraordinary greatness?
Thus, instead of accepting being painted as the heart of darkness by White supremacists like Joseph Conrad, we should show that we are in fact the heart of light. Fortunately, archeology and other disciplines of research have established that Africans are the original humans, and that the great civilisations of Egypt were in fact Black (negroid) civilisations. To this day, scholars cannot believe that the great pyramids were conceptualised and constructed by human beings, let alone black people.
We must therefore continue to engage in activities that will help us to get rid of these shackles of inferiority that were inculcated by the Europeans. The movie Black Panther is thus a noble contribution towards this struggle for mental emancipation. Inside the movie theatre, one can feel and hear the sense of pride that this movie instills in black people. Even our ladies who usually adore Brazilian hair now want cheesekops like General Okoye in Black Panther (played by Danai Gurira)! Generally, the women of Wakanda are portrayed in a very positive light in the movie.
We must now come back to Mother Earth, after being hyped up by the heroics of Black Panther. Like I said earlier, we now need to grapple with the real challenges confronting Africa today, and develop several strategies that will help us achieve prosperity for all. I know that it is cathartic to build castles in the air and chase some pies in the skies, but, as Jimmy Cliff sings in “American Dream”, dreams only last while we sleep. So let us wake up and deal with the real world.
As Africans, we have a heart of light, which was misinterpreted by White supremacists as a heart of darkness. Let us not internalise these negative stereotypes, but rather chart a new positive path for our own liberation. The movie Black Panther gives us a glimpse of how to do that.
This letter has been edited for space and clarity - Ed