Sunday was here and that call came through saying “Hey let’s go watch Black Panther”. Having just come from a Black Panther-themed birthday party dressed up in my best warrior regalia and face, I answered “Sure why not?” The queue at Accra mall all the way down to the lift was a sight to see.
What was it about this movie that had everyone pushing, shoving, sweating and clicking tongues? Why were we all rushing to see a movie whose trailer wasn’t really pushed and marketed to your face? I thought, “let me go in and wait for the answer”.
Grabbed our popcorn on the much fought for seats and sat ourselves down glued to the screen. My first nod was for my countrywoman Lupita Nyongo gracing the screen in her natural accent (by the way, for the Tanzanias who have tried to make them hers – sorry, she continues to remain a Kenyan).
I continued to look around and see all those giant men on screen and realised they represented us Africans (I am not saying Afro-American) pretty well. Tall, dark, ferocious and well-built; African for sure.
The women on the other hand were demure; queens in their own right, fighters and creators – a perfect description of our royal ancestors.
We had a place depicted as progressive and not colonised. Every person in Wakanda was powerful and not playing down another (a message for many of us in Africa, especially in terms of how we market our political scene).
We had a place where men and women were both strong, co-existed and were important in governance (another aspect we should be able to learn and market well).
From a marketing perspective, the timing was perfect considering it was (one) launched during Black history month, and (two) getting all dressed up to show solidarity for the African hood was the coolest thing ever.
This movie has been a great success from a conversational standpoint. Everyone has spoken of it – be it good or wary – in a multi-conversational way and hit every social media with pride for Wakanda.
The movie has done a great job in giving the consumers (the viewers) a brand (Wakanda is now more like home), a brand story, context, culture, community building – and, more importantly, an engagement with a history known to some and unknown to others.
This movie touched on aspects that we can relate to: from the dress code, the sighting spirit, to the richness of our land, to the unity we must have to succeed – and more so that women are not only meant for the kitchen.
In subtle ways it embodied the spirit of Africa, and the vision of rising and becoming as great as any other continent if we let ourselves become fulfilled.
That said, while there is all the positive hype about it, there are a few eyebrow-raising areas for me in particular as an African and mover within the continent. I came out feeling like there was still more to tell. Something was missing. An aspect that I felt could have been addressed better is the real Africa and Africans.
Picking a dialect/accent from South Africa showed the myopic view of the producer. He needed to visit other parts of Africa, too, to give it a more holistic feel other than the various people standing atop the mountains dressed in various African regalia and representing different people of the continent.
Another area was the opportunity to story tell and market Africa as it truly is. A few scenes here and there of women lifting water on their heads, skyscrapers near the national park, kids pushing a tyre with a stick etc. could perhaps have helped tell a story to those who have never seen Africa.
Scenes of fighting corruption, Africa and industrialisation plus Africa and farmlands would have been a great sight in comparison to the dry-treed savannah look-alike land of Wakanda. Africa has many other stories to be told, resources and greatness that can be marketed.
All is not lost though! With such a great hit and success, it is evident that Africa is ready for its story. The question is, who is going to tell that story? Others, or us from the continent?
An opportunity faces us to market Africa in storytelling: be it a fictional Wakanda, the current dark continent or Africa Rising, there is something for us to turn into a reality!