Current Affairs

A Wakanda rooted in reality

A Wakanda rooted in reality
  • PublishedMay 1, 2018

The film Black Panther presents an enticing fantasy of a utopian kingdom based on African values; but why are we neglecting the reality of the most incredible heritage in the world that Africa possesses?

What unique ideas will Africans project to shape the next century when we are half the world’s population?   

Strangely, people think the successful Marvel film Black Panther (see New African, April 2018) might provide answers through Wakanda, a mythical kingdom that possesses vibranium, a unique ore that provides energy and weapons to power and defend its civilisation that promotes the pursuit of happiness, gender equality, learning and technological advance – all underscored by strict adherence to the rule of law, which in turn engenders peaceful harmony. 

Wakanda could easily rule the world but chooses instead to hide the full extent of its technological and economic supremacy – until a member of the Wakandan diaspora decides to challenge these values, with a desire to conquer the world in revenge for slavery and racism.

The film is essentially a battle between these two ideas of Africa.  From the box office takings and the discussions that have been triggered as a result, the film has caught the imagination of Africans globally. Many have been empowered not just by the discourse about pan-Africanism, but the fact that Wakanda reflects the clothing, culture and languages of many African societies.   

But why have Africans been so excited by fantasy when the reality is so much more exciting? Perhaps it is because the reality, like the hidden kingdom, is currently the best-kept secret, abjectly neglected by many of us, including our continental institution, the AU.

The AU’s 2063 Agenda contains seven aspirations: 1) A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development; 2) An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s renaissance; 3) An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law; 4) A peaceful and secure Africa;  5) An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics; 6)An Africa where its development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth; and 7) – Africa as a strong united and influential global player and partner.

These need not just be aspirations for the future. The AU sits atop arguably the most incredible heritage in the world, but nowhere in its reference or current practice do you get reverberations of any of this great heritage. And this is not an issue of money, because it wouldn’t cost much to enact what is being proposed. Instead it’s an issue of being willing to claim and really live the heritage that it posits as an aspiration. 

Acknowledging the naissance

The AU mentions a common heritage but nowhere on its grounds do we see that the human story began on this continent. No statue to the African Eve, Dinkinesh/Lucy? It talks about a renaissance but a renaissance is not possible without first acknowledging a naissance. 

So where is this naissance?  The naissance is surely the Egyptian civilisation, which gave Africa and the world its first historical state.  So where is Narmer, the great unifier alongside the current statue of the other unifier, Nkrumah? 

The AU speaks about justice – so where is Maat, history’s first great figure/concept of justice? The AU mentions peace, security, rule of law – but where is the Shabaka Stone (currently in the British Library…) with its story of the great Ennead/council bringing about the first peace treaty between warring political factions through an amazing legal judgement. 

On the empowerment of women, where are the statues of the world’s first female rulers (such as Meryt-Neith, who ruled Egypt over 5,000 years ago, or Hatshepsut, or in the modern era, Nzinga? Is there anything we can learn from them?

Then there is the talk of values and ethics. At a time when so many of our young are fleeing, seeking refuge elsewhere, is it not worth remembering that there was a time when the founders of two world religions sought refuge in Africa for themselves or their followers, and Africa was a byword for safety?

With a good curator, the AU can draw from the amazing historical and cultural heritage and create in its system of reference a Wakanda rooted in reality. We await the recovery of the real African naissance/s beyond the AU so our children are inspired by the lives and lessons of their ancestors rather than the fantasy of a Marvel comic. NA                                

Written By
Onyekachi Wambu

Onyekachi was educated at the University of Essex and completed his M.Phil in International Relations at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He worked extensively as a journalist and television documentary. He edited The Voice Newspaper at the end of the 1980s and has made documentaries and programmes for the BBC, Channel 4 and PBS.

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