The Black Panther Phenomenon by Tireni Odubiyi

“Black Panther was with all due respect is a Western movie. A Western movie with African influences,” states panelist Kolawole Olanrewaju.

The Marvel Film Black Panther has been one of the highest grossing films in 2018 thus far and is rooted in Afrofuturism. However, it is based in a fictional African country which was never colonised. Reflecting on this, panelist Role Okupe says, “To me it is seeing the fictional nation of Wakanda as something we (African nations) can aspire to be.” He notes that alongside Black Panther, it is important to have real African cities represented in the media.

Author Nnedi Okorafor opines that Black Panther is simply the beginning of creating diversity of voices in mainstream media. There is a difference in opinion between panelist Kolawole Olanrewaju and the other panelists as to what approach is needed in order to share our African stories. Kolawole states that it is currently our responsibility to educate the world about our stories, possibly by presenting our culture in a way that will make it more acceptable in Western spaces.

Nnedi Okorafor disagrees, stating that we should use the ‘power of storytelling’ to reach all audiences. As a creator, she believes that there is no need to make her content palatable to Western audiences.

Overall, the panel draws attention to the success of Black Panther in starting a conversation about diversity in comics, films and animation. Nevertheless, more work is needed for greater representation in these forms of media.