Over the past few weeks, Black Panther has smashed box-office records and also sparked a cultural movement across the world. Just as the euphoria and excitement around the epic movie was reaching an alarming crescendo, I decided to take a break from my nagging and busy schedule for a moment of pleasure and entertainment. Little did I know that my decision to go watch this much talked about movie in Ventura Cinema Hall, somewhere in Ibadan, Nigeria, will be an eye opening adventure.
As I took my seat to watch and savor this much talked about epic movie, something tells me it is not just going to be a moment of entertainment for me but more of a message for Africa. I hardly touched my pack of popcorn as I was in my reflective mode throughout the length of the movie. Black Panther is not just an epic movie, it is studded with life changing messages. Was I entertained? Sure! But there are depths in this movie that only a diagnostic eye can see. It is actually an eye opening movie for a continent that has been plagued by identity crisis, leadership failure, and bastardization of mineral/natural resources. The way Africans are treated in the world is actually a reflection of our own failure to project ourselves in a positive light. Fela Durotoye, a dynamic leadership coach and public speaker once said, “Ordinary citizens of a great nation will forever be treated better than successful citizens of a failed country”.
The movie exudes a lot about the African heritage: Our culture, courage, strength, resilience and tenacity, unlike morally deficit shows like Big Brother Nigeria and Africa. Many critical observers have opined that the movie projects an imaginary and impossible black nation, but history made us believe that modern civilization started in Africa (Egypt to be specific), the first form of writing called Hieroglyphics emanated from Africa; the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt is such an architectural masterpiece that has become one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The art of medicine in Egypt can be vividly seen in how they embalm their dead in a way that is still awe-inspiring to the modern medical world. Africa was once at the helm of civilization, but gradually we began to degenerate spirally in a manner that is unprecedented in the fall of civilizations.
T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake. Starring Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, Michael B. Jordan as the vengeful Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o as the adorable Nakia, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, Letitia Wright as the technology whiz kid Shuri, Winston Duke as M’Baku, Sterling K. Brown as N’Jobu, Forest Whitaker as Zuri, Andy Serkis as the dreadful Ulysses Klaue, Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross, and Florence Kasumba as Ayo.
One of the things that fascinates me most about the Black Panther is the emphasis on character-based leadership, something that has become a relic of the past in the present Africa. In a continent where there is a dearth of character-based leadership, it has become imperative that we renew the need for leaders that are not only competent but have character. When leadership is compromised, the result is always the emergence of a dilapidated and failed state. There are a lot of lessons in this article not just only for Africa but also for personal development.
1. WHAT WE NEED IS NOT OUT THERE, IT IS IN US: Helen Keller once said, “What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.” Though Wakanda may be a fictional African nation but the truth is that: There is always a ‘Wakanda’ in all of us! We must believe totally that we carry within us a special form of currency that cannot be devalued. The ability to look inward and discover the treasure within is the most liberating force any one can ever possess. Wakanda’s vibranium bears a great resemblance to many of the mineral and natural resources that abound in Africa. Instead of harmonizing our resources to fuel development in Africa, they are instead used to fuel and lubricate the engines of corruption.
2. NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE AFRICA, WE ARE OUR OWN RESCUE: Barrack Obama once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Our major problem in Africa is that we are always looking to the wrong places for help. The greatest threat to the African continent is the belief that someone else will save it. Africans must take ownership of their future. United Nations cannot save Africa; UNICEF must not be the hope of the African child. European Union will not save Africa. IMF and World Bank cannot take Africa out of poverty. We must stop acting in manners and ways in which the world continues to see us as liabilities and beggars. We must stop believing in the illusion and delusion of an external elixir. Western aids and interventions will not rescue Africa because most of our problems are indigenous problems that can only be solved by Africans. We are our own rescue!
3. THE ONLY THING THAT IS KEEPING THE WORLD SKEPTICAL ABOUT US IS OUR LACK OF BELIEF IN OURSELVES: If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? It is impossible for the world to believe in us when we don’t even believe in ourselves. We don’t believe in our black skin and that is why we bleach it. We don’t believe in our own indigenous products, and this has over the years stifled our local industries. The African continent has been bullied into believing that it is several years back in fashion, culture and tradition. The problem of the African continent is that we seldom celebrate what we have. Acupuncture has been part of the Chinese culture for decades, and it has never lost relevance. There are many ‘Elixirs’ that we often hide in Africa because of our inferiority complex. The Chinese Acupuncture has suffered many western battering but they refuse to give up on this unique cultural way of healing. The revolution in the Japanese economy was initiated by strong belief of the citizens in their local goods and their belief in the superiority of their local content.
4. THE MAN WHO HAS NO INNER SECURITY IS A SLAVE OF HIS SURROUNDINGS: Seeking validation from others invalidates you; don’t be addicted to people’s approval of you. Roberts Liardson said, “An internal security always produce an outward stability”. You must learn how to search for validation from within yourself. Why do Africans keep seeking validation from the world? Why do we need to believe that our own ‘cure’ must be validated by the western world? We have listless numbers of traditional cure for cancer in Africa but we simply are not too secured in them because the world has not validated them. Africa’s traditional medicine may just be the Wakanda’s vibranium that the whole world is waiting for!
5. TELL YOUR OWN STORY: There is nobody that can tell your story better than you! The world seldom preaches about empowering messages on Africa. When you tune in to CNN or Aljazeera, all we see is Africa being synonymous with disease, poverty, war and corruption. Chimamanda Adichie, one of Africa’s great writers and voice enumerated in one of her TED talk titled, ‘The danger of a single story’, how we have allowed and believed in a single story told by the western world just because we refuse to tell ours in Africa. I have observed over the years that the messages that damage us the most are those ones we preach about ourselves.
6. YOUR DREAMS ARE VALID: Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present. Dreaming that Africa will one day become great is not just a lofty dream, it is possible. Black Panther epitomizes the fact that our dreams are valid. We must never allow our doubts to betray our dreams. Lupita Nyong’o won the Oscar for best supporting actress at the 86th Academy Awards some years back for her harrowing role as Patsy in Steve McQueen’s “12 years a slave’’. Lupita concluded her speech by saying; “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid”.
7. YOU ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER: Africa is blessed with innumerable natural resources, but it is a pity, the resources that are meant to enrich the continent are now being used by our leaders to fuel sophisticated corruption. There is no poverty in Africa; it is the greed of the leaders that has brought us to where we are today. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”. No one is empty! No continent is empty! There is something unique that God has given us all to bless the world with. Everybody has a chunk of Wakanda’s vibranium in them! We are all naturally endowed.
8. THAT SOMETHING WORKS DOESN’T MEAN IT CAN’T BE IMPROVED UPON: One of the statements that caught my attention early in this epic film is this: “Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved”. I have always believed that life is simply a series of adjustments and improvements. The Japanese economy was revolutionized after the devastating Second World War by the Japanese culture called ‘Kaizen’. Kaizen is a culture of continuous and consistent improvement of processes. The never-ending task of self-improvement is the panacea to mediocrity, and it is a culture that has suffered the most in the African continent.
9. AFRICANS IN DIASPORA MUST RETURN TO DEVELOP THE CONTINENT: The king’s sister has much of western education, but she returned home to use it to bless Wakanda. Princess Shuri was a central force in Wakanda’s evolution as a tech-advanced nation. People that don’t know their roots normally return back home as invaders and wasters. Africans must educate their children and grandchildren in foreign land about their roots and duty. Most Africans have nationalized themselves in foreign lands-which is not actually the problem- and forgotten completely about their roots and heritage. An African proverb says, “A river that forgets about its source will end up drying up”. We are in dire need of Africans in diaspora that will help change the situation in the continent. We must all come back to rebuild Africa. This not a plea; it is a duty!
10. YOU CAN’T INFLUENCE THE WORLD BY LIVING IN ISOLATION: We are living in a global world. Africa cannot develop in isolation. If Africa will still be relevant in the future, then our target should be to streamline our local and indigenous goals to align with global standards. Globalization is not just a tool for socializing with the world but also a veritable way of transforming it.
11. DON’T BE DEFINED BY THE MISTAKES OF YOUR ANCESTORS: Bruce Lee once said, “Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them”. One of the major turning points in the movie was when the beautiful Nakia encouraged the young king not to be defined by the mistakes of his father. It is in no doubt that Africa is where it is today because of the mistakes of past leaders, but we must not allow their mistakes to determine our future. King T’Challa’s father made a very big mistake by trying to conceal the death of his brother by his own hand, this singular act led to a chain reaction that later sent the vengeful Erik Killmonger(T’Challa’s cousin) on a destructive mission. The overambitious Prince Erik later became Wakanda’s nemesis and nightmare. Mistakes are evidence that we are human; it is actually in denying and concealing them that we become victims.
12. STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics): STEM is central to technology advancement in any nation. The more we trivialize STEM, the farther we will be from becoming an industrial hub and technology haven. Many countries have actually used STEM to step up! Countries like Japan, China, Canada, UAE are rising astronomically on the wings of STEM. If Africa will stop being appendages to foreign nations, then our leaders must invest immensely in STEM. African leaders must come together to see how STEM can be used to turn Africa into one of the world’s most technologically advanced continent.
13. NEVER NEGLECT PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES: In a deep conversation between king T’Challa and the spirit of his dead father in a place that seems like the spirit world, his father asked a deep question that every parent must answer, “A man that has not prepared his own children for his death has failed as a father. Have I ever failed you?” Dereliction of parental duties can lead to the failure of a generation. The task before parents is not just nurturing our children but preparing the next generation.
14. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR TRADITION AND TECHNOLOGY TO CO-EXIST: One of the things that has encroached so much on our sanity and culture in Africa is the gross abuse of technology. Technology is not meant to substitute tradition; it is actually meant to complement it. Wakanda’s technology advancement did not encroach on their culture and tradition-food, dressing and even age long rites. There must always be a healthy blend between tradition and technology in order to preserve our heritage. It is appalling to know that many blacks have sacrificed tradition on the altar of technology.
15. WOMEN ARE CENTRAL TO AFRICA’S DEVELOPMENT: Black Panther conveys the power of Black women in nation-building. The role of women in nation building must never be trivialized and underplayed. I have observed that wherever women are relegated, the nation will also be impoverished. Strong women make a stronger society. A nation will only find a firm footing when women are given their rightful places. Three women took up strategic roles in fighting for the redemption of Wakanda’s land: Nakia(Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye(Danai Gurira) and the tech-savvy Whiz kid Shuri(Letitia Wright).
There are many questions to raise: How are we using our natural resources? What image of Africa is being projected by Africans? What do we have that can save the world that we are still hiding because of fear? Cancer has defied orthodox interventions but Africa’s traditional medicine can come handy. Like that little boy’s voice in Black Panther asked, “Do we still hide papa”? Africa must arise from the doldrums of being an underling; we are black panthers!
Oh, about my pack of popcorn, I gave it to a preying eyed kid sitting next to me!
QUOTES OF THE WEEK: “Ordinary citizens of a great nation will forever be treated better than successful citizens of a failed country”-Fela Durotoye
Originally published on LinkedIn
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