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Feb 16, 2018

Black Panther is HERE!

I am a huge Marvel fan,
As an 80s baby, I loved the thunder cats, TMNT, Dragon Ball Z, and X-Men.
I devoured those comics again and again,
So, my excitement was at its peak when I heard Black Panther was being made.

I watched the trailers and read about the film and something inside me burst with excitement.
I can’t really think of any film that portrays an Africa that is mine,
that celebrates our music, tone of voice, fabrics, traditions and most importantly our diversity.

But let me give you some context.

I studied Social Anthropology and Ancient History at one of the best universities in the UK.
My university is ranked 7th in the QS World University Rankings and throughout my entire 3 year degree the only time I came across people of African origin, they were slaves or tribal people in remote villages.
When I tried to write my dissertation on African culture and challenge the status quo I was told it might be best to change university as they would not have the staff, expertise nor resources to support my research.
With incredible determination, all on my own I completed my thesis, got and unfair grade and closed that chapter.
Since then I’ve done a 2nd degree and I am now doing my PhD so there!

‘All this to say that I have been waiting for Black Panther my entire life.
Let me beak down the bits that were spectacular for me.

First the different tribes,

It was so beautiful to see different African people which reflected reality so clearly.
We are so often lumped together, so it was exquisite to see the tribes from Wakanda which were based on real African tribes on the main screen for popular consumption.
In my tiny Gambia of 1.7million people we have 8 tribes, each with their own fabrics, language, richness and norms.
Other African countries have even more.

The NAMES! If you have an African came, you know the struggle of being mispronounced, teased, or bullied.
Our heroes in the film had strong clicks and African intonations and I can’t help but think, thanks to this movie people across the world will be pronouncing or learning to pronounce Tchalla, Nakia, Okoye ...the list goes on.

The music,
oh the music.
I am from west Africa and my soul loves the beat of the drum.
there is one little drum we call the ‘tama’ which was used over and over in the film...
instead of using strings to heighten the tension as is normally done in films,
the drums were beaten to the required rhythm.
It felt natural,
it felt like familiar,
it felt exciting!

The world of Wakanda felt to me like Narnia, but one that was mine if I could imagine it myself.
It allows us to peek through a window of ‘what if’ colonization didn’t happen..
what if we were allowed to develop uninterrupted,
What if our resources were not pillaged and exploited.

Wakanda maybe be fiction but it strikes a chord of truth that resonates to perhaps a future which could be.

The tensions between African American and African people was also portrayed in several scenes especially with Killmonger..
he is the villain but we find ourselves sympathizing with his cause,
with his desire for Africans to reach over and support their brothers
..to reach over and claim our people..

The film also delivers the lines that WE all feel..
commenting on colonization,
on slavery,
on stolen art,
on wigs..
across the board, cleaverly entwined in dialogue.
I found myself thanking the script for saying what I could not say out loud in a world that is not Wakanda,
at least not without stigma or reprisal

Women, I cannot leave them out
with their natural hair in a multitude of styles and arrangements.
Black Panther serves us the empowered African woman..
smart,
wise,
caring,
brave..like I personally have never seen on such a scale..
Watch it, you’ll see..

The family dynamics..
there is so much..

Leaving the film I felt like every joke, every nuance, every tone of voice , side eye and reference made complete sense to me because it came from a world from which I belong..
Imagine after all these years, all these films, this is the first time I truly saw myself reflect on film.

Since moving to Sweden I have been very involved with an organization called Cinemafrica who curate a yearly film festival from the African diaspora. The festival opens on the 26th February in Stockholm and if black panther left you wanting more you definitely have to check it out www.cinemafrica.se

For my part I can’t wait to show my daughter the Black Panther when its out on Netflix
I can’t wait to point out her grandmothers language in the songs,
Our cousins tribal marks
Our west African fabrics
Royalty wearing dreadlocks like mine
Strong black women saving the day again and again.
I simply cannot wait..

Oh and Marvel, please start working on a series, a sequel, and a theme park, preferably on our continent.
Thank you.