By Rhea Mathur
In 1996, Black Panther debuted in a Fantastic Four comic. It was originally created as a character for black readers to identify with. Now, its movie has become an international sensation, scoring more pre-sale tickets than any Marvel movie. The movie, which was released on Thursday in the United States, earned an estimated 25 million dollars on its first day. This is almost double of the last Marvel movie Deadpool’s first-day revenue. The film now scores a position below Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which at 27 million dollars is the only film between Black Panther and the record of the highest earning opening night of a Marvel movie. The question is will Black Panther be able to beat Marvel’s Avengers and earn more in its next first four days? The success of the movie does establish that moving away from the stereotypical perspective of Africa has helped it find its place on the record list.
The fearless land of Wakanda
The land of Wakanda was designed to perfection; keeping in mind every inch of it- the technology as well as the craft of the nation. The source of Wakanda’s science is shown to be vibranium which helps the people create a magnificent life. Hence, it became important for the depiction of the people to also coincide with the story the land told. Douriean Fletcher, the jewellery designer, acquired her role for her Afro-centric inspiration that reflects greatly in her work. It was important for the creators to also emphasise the African heritage: the traditional outfits, the vivid colours, the fabrics and the face paint, all found their way into the movie for this reason. They are symbols of the African identity that remains regardless of the technological advancements of the land. Ruth E. Carter, the Academy Award-nominated costume designer put across this message by stating that, “It was about showing pride in one’s culture: the afro and the use African patterns, combining them with modern design… to be political and to be radical, but also to be current.”
The importance of this mystical land
The land of Wakanda is hence, a celebration of the African heritage, but it is also a representation of the post-colonial Africa. For centuries, movies have included Africa for the treachery of the past, emphasising on it further. The reason for the sensation around Black Panther is that it steps away from the stereotypical image of Africa to show a thriving nature of the future. The movie is a step forward, towards development and flourishing of Africa as a nation that is symbolised through the various futuristic and high technology elements.
Motsoko Pheko, a South African lawyer, at the AZAPO commemoration of Africa Liberation Day put forward this question of Africa’s depiction as a Third World country, “The First Renaissance on this planet was the African Renaissance. Africa was “the first world” economically and technologically NOT the “third world” of paupers robbed of their lands and riches.” Pheko brings forward Prof. Walter Rodney’s question: “What would have been Britain’s level of development had millions of her people been put to work as slaves out of their country over a period of four centuries?”
Thus, the movie struck a chord with those who dream and fight for Africa to become the post-colonial Wakanda that it can. This also refutes the depiction of Africa as Third World country on screen by America while it retains its own image as a First World country.
Wakanda may be a fictional land, but the idea it supplements is real for all Africans. They work each day to help their nation propel to the heights it had once attained.
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