Legends of Africa and Comic Books
By Brian Samuel Opati
It's been a minute since Black Panther made his debut on the big screen and now (recently) met his untimely demise in IW (sorry if you haven't watched Infinity War by now I can't help you). But even with the hype and accolade that accompanied the long awaited black stand-alone live action superhero flick, there're a few things my fellow African brethren will either like or wrestle with about the character. But here we are, and if you're ready for it, read on!
So many of you must have noticed, while watching the film, our protagonist, his story and much of the narrative put forward sounds awfully familiar with some African figures of history. There are three primary clues; the first is in the choice of language of/for Wakanda natives, the second is the naming of our characters and last (but surely not the least) is the plot.
If anyone reading this is familiar with the take of Shaka Zulu, then you must be in the know insofar as this 'discovery' is concerned. Shaka, a significant, mighty historical figure wore the 'tooth-necklace', was known as T'Chaka/ T'Shaka and was sometimes known as T'Challa/T'Shalla and he was a notable figure from the Zulu tribe and its line of leaders. One way to look at Black Panther as a character directly inspired by Shaka is by looking at the two sides of Shaka... dominance (a side Eric Killmonger embodies; which, like Shaka, came about due to abandonment issues by his own people of Wakanda) and secondly unity/harmony (the side embodies by T'Chaka and T'Challa both rulers of Wakanda and which they protected fiercely, even killing those who threatened it).
The point of this post is simple, creating a "work of art" is possible through acknowledgement of previous works. In this I hope that future literary and creative works both off and on-screen shall be faithful to do. Because it's for this reason that the public domain is the hotcake of all writers in the comic, literary and film industries--popular stories can be retold freely without any legal harassment.
And herein is the crux of my observation about Black Panther, my fellow African writers, it seems we are clearly sitting on a mental "vibranium mine" that's being exploited as we watch. We have a wealth of heritage and lore that we could use and my people, I'm confident we can do it better. This is the goldmine of the upcoming comicbook writer/filmmaker in Africa and it's my hope that this realization helps spur you out there to go out and tell tales... remember, it's not the quantity of the narratives that we create but the quality. THAT and only that sells.
Until next time my people...
By NAICCON on May 21, 2018