Watching Marvel’s highly anticipated comic-book film adaptation, Black Panther, was no ordinary tried and tested cinematic experience. Much like the unapologetic showmanship, flamboyance and atmospheric idiosyncrasies of Sunday service black congregational worship, the cinema metamorphosised beyond its remnants of unswept popcorn kernels and sticky milkshake residue into an augmented space. It became a “mega-church” sanctuary of spiritual catharsis – with all the impassioned and melodic trimmings of Afro-Pentecostalism.
But, make no mistake, this was not the time nor place for solemn contemplation or confessing past transgressions – but an opportunity for continental Africans and diaspora to offload socially sanctioned climactic expressions of individual and collective excitement and expectations, as well as lip-bitten anxieties about a fictionalised Africa.
If this was an Afro-baptism in filmic spirit, I sought – and submitted to – full-bodied immersion.
Let’s be clear, the fervour over Black Panther among the Ankra-wearing, close-cropped Afro-crowned cinemagoers is incredibly warranted for several reasons. Not least for its reimagining, its re-presentation of Africa and communities therein – with magical realism – that makes it an intriguing anomaly among the slew of other questionable Western cinematic attempts to deliver “Africa” on screen.
Die-hard Marvel fans and those newly christened have waited with baited breath to secure a one-way ticket to Wakanda – the wondrous Afro-futuristic utopia and homeland of the titular character Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman). But this is by no means Hollywood’s first foray into fictionalised African kingdoms. Before Wakanda, there was the similarly named and seemingly “African-sounding” Zumunda in Eddie Murphy’s 1998 blockbuster Coming to America.
But Zumunda presented as nothing more than a visual repository of African clichés and normative assumptions, where wild animals, as domesticated pets, cohabit “as they do” nonchalantly with humans. So too, where royalty enrobe in lion’s fur.
As the Nigerian literary darling Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put it: “If all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, animals and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and Aids, unable to speak for themselves.”
If only I could speculate on what may have informed such a proclamation… dare I venture towards films such as The African Queen, Out of Africa, Hotel Rwanda, The Last King of Scotland, Blood Diamond, Beasts of No Nation – to name a handful.
Those cinematic offerings were the colonial-era myth-makers and extenders whose white lensed romanticisms have determined the space within which Africa is defined and knowable. It is also within this space that the complexities and pluralities of African representation have been lost in simplification and concealment.
Surely these films must have affixed the “Afro” in the unmistaken and riotous Afro-futurism of Black Panther. But its the “futurism” aspect that makes Black Panther stand head and shoulders above the rest. Showcasing an iteration of Africa that is more imaginatively radical than merely culturally palatable for audiences who are used to being spoon-fed – better yet, force-fed – microwavable doses of an Africa that is melancholic, benighted and savage, to satisfy their visually myopic cravings.
Unlike its predecessors, Black Panther’s Afro-futuristic elements challenge stereotypes by readjusting the barometer of African imagination. Where Africa and black-Africanness is equated with discourses of futurism, cybernetics, sci-fi fantasy and mysticism.
New African century
This is a far cry from previous film interpretations of Africa, and especially of Africa’s future – or lack thereof. It has too often been represented as provisional and ephemeral – or arbitrated by the technocratic and philanthropic efforts of white do-gooders. Instead, Black Panther provides a prophetic reimagining of Africa with its postmodern gravity-defying vehicles and supersonic technology that far exceed human comprehension.
This has important implications for how we see Africa, through films which have long anchored it in a “forever-more” state that is seemingly unenlightened, backward-leaning and perceived as a prolongation of the past.
So, too, the film speaks volumes about how young and old black African “selves” can infiltrate otherworldly spheres. Its Afro-futurism allows black folk to apply self-iterations and augment alternate realities that transcend the limitations of the “here and now” towards the “what ifs” and “could bes”, through their own melanin-infused, ethno-cultural lens.
Equally, with its vestiges of the past and nods to the future, Black Panther presents a certain “contemporary ordinariness” within Africa that is discernible in all its parts. Where streets of African cities, for example, are littered with mother-tongue speaking, iPhone-clutching youth, dressed in dashiki-patterned bomber jackets, skinny jeans and with basket-woven braided hairstyles.
Moreover, the portrayal of Wakanda as resource-rich, unsoiled by European colonialism and the paraphernalia of international development, challenges cinematic presumptions of an Africa that is deficient, agentless and lacking internal diplomacies for sovereignty.
This is further reinforced by the central staging and representation of steely-eyed, intelligent African women – as Beyoncé avows in her feminist-imbued record Upgrade U, if the men are “the block” the women are “the lights that the keep streets on”. We see this in the female Wakandans, the unyielding pillars of the film, who demystify allusions and illusions of Africa – through its female proxies – as infantilised, subordinate and devoid of individual articulation of unique intent.
As a Marvel trailblazer, Black Panther is stunning in its redefining of Africa’s aesthetic within the cultural zeitgeist of cinematic consciousness. It trades cinema’s historical blueprint for Africa, for its own set of black paws. Suffice to say, representation (in all its shades) matters. – Written by Edward Ademolu, PhD researcher, University of Manchester
This article was originally published on The Conversation.
HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E
Brought to you by Hugo Boss
HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.
Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.
HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.
In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.
Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.
“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.
The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.
The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.
Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.
Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.
Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.
“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.
Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.
“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”
Taking A Bite Out Of Africa
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