So, yesterday I was invited to an advance press screening of the Ryan Coogler-directed film Black Panther, based on the comic Marvel. Practically, the entire time that I had my eyes on the screen, my mouth was agape. This movie is just so magnificent…from the dazzling costumes, to the startingly original screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole (drawing on the foundations by Marvel comics creator Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) to the acting. Even grand actors in small roles were in magnificent (Angela Bassett as the Queen Mother Ramonda, and Forest Whittaker as Zuri, the kingdom griot and judge).
As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Wakanda was a metaphor for Haiti. There were so many similarities and parallels, you didn’t need to mentally squint to see them either. Here are the ones I noticed…
Wakanda is an isolated kingdom. Though having valuable natural resources (in Wakanda’s case Vibramium) It’s referred to by outsiders as a third world country, and one of the poorest countries in the world. Sounds familiar?
In Wakanda, white men don’t have a say. There’s a scene where a CIA operative (played by Martin Freeman) is bullied into silence by Wakanda’s women. Oh my goodness. Sounds like the time Haiti leader made it illegal for whites to own land in Haiti.
There’s even a scene where W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) takes a conch shell to signal war in Wakanda. Haven’t most of all read about the symbolism of the conch shells in the Haitian Revolution and in the Slave Uprising in Haiti, then known as Saint-Domingue?
The word Tchaka is actually a word in Creole. It’s the name of a dish. Have you ever seen it, or eaten it? It’s made up of corn and beans, and pumpkin is added too. And T’Challa is, coincidentally, a word in Haitian Creole. It’s a book of dreams.
T’Challa, the heir to Wakanda is called back to Wakanda after his father T’Chaka (John Kani) passes. He returns to set things straight and to contribute to the stability of Wakanda. King T’Challa’s return is a symbol of the return of the children of the boat people and the contributions of the Haitian Dyaspora to Haiti (who contribute more than 52% of Haiti’s Annual Gross Income, according to statistics available by world agencies). How often are people of Haitian descent called back to Haiti to help, whether by way of their physical self or through the millions of dollars they contribute to Haiti!
King T’Challa’s army is made up entirely of women (Florence Kasumba, Sydelle Noel, Janeshia Adams-Ginyard, Jenel Stevens, Marie Mouroum, Marija Juliette Abney, Maria Hyppolite) headed by Okoye (Danai Gurira). This makes one recall women warriors like Jeanne Lamartiniere, Cecile Fatima, Suzanne “Sanite” Belair, the women who were the backbone of the Haitian Revolution. And it’s been pointed time after time by economists who’ve studied the Haitian economy, how vital Haiti’s market women are to its economy and sustainability. The character of Okoye is so vital in the Kingdom of Wakanda. Though she acts with the humility of a bystander, she’s a true and key player in the operations of Wakanda. If you’re in her corner, she displays faultless loyalty. As she says at one point, “I am loyal to whomever is sitting on the throne”.
This concludes PART I of my thoughts on the Black Panther movie and the similarities with Wakanda. Want to continue reading my review of the Black Panther movie? CLICK HERE!
Kreyolicious is the author of Haiti History 101: The Definitive Guide to Haitian History. CLICK HERE to get it from Amazon.