Wakanda Forever” or revenge of subordinates
This post dishonestly reveals the plot of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Also, feel free to watch the movie before you read it.
Almost five years ago, the film of the Marvel franchise was released Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler. I was lucky enough to be in Ibadan, Nigeria at the time, where I witnessed the film’s enthusiastic reception by the Nigerian public, similar to its reception elsewhere in the world and especially in Africa.
The interest of the first Black Panther above all, he lived in Wakanda, a majestic representation of an African nation that had never been colonized. Especially for this reason, this kingdom is presented as proud of its personality, socio-political structure, and unique architecture, and is equipped with the most advanced technologies in the world in terms of urban planning, healthcare, and even weaponry. , which no foreign power could get its hands on thanks to its vast reserves of vibranium.
For this second installment, director Ryan Coogler chose to deepen this alternative geopolitical proposition by combining it with an intensified indictment of European (neo)colonial companies and the exploitation of the resources of the South by the North.
A major American franchise and a seemingly original, even risky bet for the general public, like Marvel, actually repeats the classic practice of speculative fiction writers and authors who only aim to criticize their society’s past and/or present. alternative scenarios.
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As analyzed by authors Ursula K. Leguin or Nnedi Okorafor and researchers such as Donna Haraway and Isabelle Stengers or political scientist Yannick Rumpala, fiction is used as a laboratory to test other possibilities.
As historian Julian C. Chambliss notes about the film, Ryan Coogler and his team follow artists who contribute to advances in science and society, but who claim to be Afrofuturists, uncovering black knowledge and know-how. would be destroyed by slavery and colonialism:
“Due to this fascination with how black contributions are erased and suppressed, Afrofuturist productions often begin by exploring the past to create alternative visions of the future. [ma traduction] “.
An alternative geopolitical proposition
Originality Black Panther: Always Wakanda On the other hand, in the choice to justify an alternative geopolitical proposal, where the North no longer has all the resources and the greatest power in the world, it is not only to turn to an African kingdom that has never been colonized, but also to a hidden and aquatic people inspired by the myth of Atlantis and especially Mesoamerican history and pre-Columbian mythologies , Talokan. For five centuries, Namor has been “baptizing” the winged-ankle demigod, Ku’ku’lkán, or feathered serpent god in Mayan, or as a Catholic missionary, calling him “niño sin amor.” (child). Loveless). The latter emerged from the mind of American comic book writer Bill Everett in 1939, making him one of Marvel’s first superheroes.
Ryan Coogler and his collaborators, including Hanna Beacher and Ruth Carter, were honored for the beauty and richness of Wakanda’s landscapes and architecture, and for the costumes of the first festival, respectively. Black Panther, but preferred to work with Maya historians to favor Mesoamerican references and thereby distance themselves from the problematic reference to Atlantis. Drawing inspiration from existing pre-Columbian paintings and sculptures, as well as from Maya and Aztec myths that have been passed down to the present day, they envision a civilization they describe as “post-classic Yucatan.”
Some experts on Mesoamerican civilizations may regret the mix-up of references, associating, for example, Tlālōcān, the Aztec paradise ruled by the rain goddess Tlāloc, with Ku’ku’lkán, the feathered Mayan god of serpents.
recalling other great cinematographic works like Avatar By James Cameron (2009), based on the stereotypical Western imagination that considers Amerindian populations to be perfectly “guardians of the forest” in the mode of “ecological Indian myth” explored by anthropologist Shepard Krech or, more recently, historian. Thomas Grillot. There are as many flaws as we can fault in Wakanda’s representation of the “African” nation. Black Pantherit is prone to essentialism and folklorization.
The fact is, as Curley Tlapoyava, an archaeologist and ethnohistorian specializing in Mesoamerican civilizations, points out: “This is not a documentary. There are many other things that can be anchored in reality.” As for Tenoch Huerta, the Mexican actor who portrays Namor on screen, what’s important to him is that pre-Columbian cultures are represented in all their glory, as well as their languages, such as the Yucatecs spoken in Talocan, and their descendants. until now, in Hollywood cinema, he has often been limited to the roles of illegal immigrants or drug dealers.
Violent criticism of (neo)colonial companies
Ryan Coogler also chose to make his second film in addition to the screenplay of two powerful non-Western civilizations jealous of their independence. Black Panther Violent criticism of Western-led (neo)colonial enterprises against Africa and the Americas.
The conflict between Wakanda and Talokan really shouldn’t fool anyone, because it’s actually just one stage in the organization of the resistance of the South, which is threatened by the greed of the North. From the first Black Panther already, many did not avoid seeing in vibranium a so-called variant of the numerous mineral resources possessed by some African countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but desired and exploited by foreign powers at the cost of occupying entire regions, such as Kivu. with fire and blood.
From there, the film is strongly reminiscent of Frantz Fanon’s statement in his last book: The damned of the earth (1961):
“The last battle of the colonizer against the colonizer will often be the battle of the colonized among themselves.”
Even if it is recalled, even if Wakanda and Talokan were never colonized, both would go through conflict before agreeing on an alliance to protect each other from the predatory intentions of the West, thereby preserving their independence and their primary resource, vibranium.
A critical charge against France
From this point of view, moreover, one cannot help but admire the severity of the film’s accusation against France. It is especially evident in the scene played between the forward base in Wakanda, Mali, which is attacked by French mercenaries in search of vibranium, and the UN assembly in New York, where Queen Ramonda openly exposes the hypocrisy of French diplomacy.
But at the same time, he makes several “winks” at the history of the struggle against slavery in the French colonies and for independence in French-speaking Africa: thus, Lumumba, the daughter of Wakanda’s queen mother Lumumba, becomes the hero of his family name. the independence of the current Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was killed with the complicity of the former Belgian colonial power; Heir to King T’Challa and Nakia, a spy hidden from birth in Haiti, was christened in memory of Toussaint Louverture, who liberated the French colony of Saint-Domingue in 1804 and became Haiti’s first independent country. black republic. Therefore, at a time when anti-French sentiment is on the rise in a number of French-speaking African countries, one wonders how this aspect of the film is perceived depending on where it is viewed. a former colonial state, to the detriment of its own citizens.
However, apart from these references to France’s relations with its former colonies, as well as the violence of the Spanish conquest in South America and, more recently, the North American imperialism condemned in the film by the desperate efforts of the United States to find vibranium, little is ultimately said about the West.
An original echo of “Saltern” thought
“Provincializing” the North, foregrounding the two great nations of the South confronting each other and then coming together to protect themselves and continue to prosper in peace is truly one of the greatest strengths of this Hollywood blockbuster. Black Panther: Always Wakanda therefore, it seems decidedly ‘Southern Turn’ on behalf of this trend in urban studies that began in South Africa and claims to reverse the perspective of researchers in order to better derive urban theory from southern cities.
In the same sense, we can also consider the film as a translation for the general public of the proposals of ‘alternative studies’, which have been identified since the 1980s from South Asia, especially India, calling for the transformation of hierarchies of power and authority. knowledge between the “center” and “peripheries” (geopolitically North and South), but also between dominant classes and subordinates (depending on the context, working classes, peasants, peasants). slaves, migrants, etc.) to accept and make their opinions heard.
So it’s a real journey for the film team, limited by the cinematic genre, which always tends to value physical or technological power and heroize the dominant (for example, the billionaire Bruce Wayne becomes Batman), despite some great losing figures like Spider-Man.
This is also what limits the “sub” coverage of this second Black Pantheris certainly from the South, but depicts two civilizations ruled by hypercentralized political systems – a monarchy by divine right or a holy kingdom – Nnedi Okorafor, author of several issues of the comic, is unable to criticize. Black Panther. He also invokes an Igbo proverb from Nigeria, where his parents are from: “Igbo enwe eze” “The Igbos have no king.”
Hence the epic under its air of mass entertainment Black Panther it continues to shift perspectives by envisioning a world where power and innovation come from the South and where the North is always belatedly cast as a spectator.
_This article was published together with the blog of “Terrain” magazine.