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BLACK PANTHER: AN AFROFUTURIST REVIEW

Black Panther is groundbreaking for four reasons. It reintroduces the world to Afrofuturism on a grand scale. Black women are centered in unprecedented fashion. Socially relevant themes outline the plot. It proves beyond doubt that Hollywood can't present Eurocentrism as the only valid representation, and whiteness is not the default for successful actors or filmgoers. Reminder: This is not an endorsement. Reviews provide context if you want to watch yourself.


AFROFUTURISM IN VISUAL FORMAT

Black Panther tells a tale about racist white Christian stereotypes used against colonizers. They accepted the false narrative to protect themselves. Wakanda showcases an anti-imperialist, isolationist and technologically advanced society. The nation has never been conquered. What if colonialism never held back an African country?

 

Black Panther's aesthetic also weaves traditional African cultures expertly into one pan-African portrait. Enter a timeless environment that fuses ancestral past with present. Each region's people appear via costume throughout the film.

Wakanda's main characters wear Dogon skirts. They are shown in Sesotho shawls and Nigerian tunics. T'Challa's Black Panther suit features an Okavango triangle design, which is spotted from Botswana to Mali. Queen Ramonda's silk hat resembles a married Zulu woman's headdress. Wakanda officially speaks Xhosa, a language that millions of South Africans do too. Ruth Carter researched painstakingly for the broad costume catalogue. Her efforts paid off. Africa's megacities, Black Panther and leading tech in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria make the case: this future is now.


Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi's main street

 

AFRICAN WOMEN IN CONTROL

We also see that African women truly are trailblazers. Beninese Dahomey vanguards birthed the Dora Milaje, the royal Wakandan elite all-woman fighting team. The original tradition was feared from Africa to Asia.

Their guard role was brutal, not entirely an admirable process. A warrior could not marry anyone or have relations unless with her fellow vanguard. And they are Africa's top most contender for fiercest fighter. Spiritual protection accompanied their duty.

Black Panther gains criticism for its patriarchal perspective by equating women's strength to men's protection. It also removed one Dora Milaje member's (Ayo) relationship with another (Aneka). Earlier film versions alluded to this. Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), Okoye (Danaia Gurira) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) shine brightly as strong, young African woman onscreen.

Okoye occupies the grey area between protecting someone's destiny and defining your own. She heads the Dora Milaje. T'Challa treats her as a respected, trustworthy equal. Internal conflict comes when Ulysses Klaue infiltrates Wakanda a second time.

Shuri is the world's smartest and Wakanda's best, a 16-year-old princess whose genius creates weapons that the main antagonists want. Her design includes the Black Panther suit and energy gauntlets shown here.

Nakia is a spy mastermind who's well-traveled and very adaptive. She is T'Challa's former lover with twice the ferocity.

Nakia subverts Wakanda's approach toward monarchal social justice to rescue West African girls in a very thought-provoking scene. She comes to liberate them, but have she and other Wakandans adopted a less prominent savior complex since they are in that position?

SOCIAL THEMES

Killmonger's character takes it even further. Wakanda is a hub of wealth and power that doesn't engage past formal political events with the world.

He enters an African art exhibit in another powerful moment, echoing John Hendrik Clarke and so many Black voices for reclamation.

"Now tell me about this one."

"Also from Benin, 7th century, Fula tribe."

"Nah. It was taken by British soldiers in Benin but it's from Wakanda. How do you think your ancestors got these? You think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it like they took everything else?"


British punitive expedition, the theft of Benin

 

He captures well the double consciousness that W.E.B. DuBois lamented in his writings-to know where you should be, hating who you currently stand as a Black person outside your homeland.

Michael B. Jordan is neither a hero or a villain, when you consider how difficult life without a clear ancestry must be. Environmental warnings reemerge along the way, i.e. vibranium extraction. The valuable, infinite energy-producing metal draws parallels in actual resource mining. Cobalt, diamonds, gold, ivory and rubber are booming markets to this day. Many sites employ child laborers. Africa has seen both Africa-descended and European venture capitalists ally for trade access.

 

RECORD-BREAKING RESPONSE

Coogler's immersive Black superhero film shows that African culture and technology indeed change the world. Black Panther is the most acclaimed superhero film to date. We have reached a special turning point.

Primeval Africa and futuristic Africa has captivated people on theater screens worldwide. Generations will note this first foray into Afro-diasporic art, possibly politics. Hope remains alive for future endeavors exclusively by Black artists and audiences. Black Panther has not so slyly thrown liberation in its various forms back into the mainstream consciousness. As springs of fate rebound, heritage and revolutionary art propel Africa forward. A new era dawns over the continent.

Wakanda forever.