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How I marvelled at Black Panther’s reimagining of Africa

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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.

Africa’s burden

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.

Africa upgraded

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.

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Colors For Mandela

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The world of comic books is dominated by stories from the West. Two South African brothers are helping reshape that narrative with a central character inspired by the iconic hero.

Nelson Mandela had his own following at the recent Comic Con Africa convention at the end of September in Johannesburg.

At the center of all the organized chaos at the event at the Gallagher Convention Centre attended by 71,000 visitors over four days was a comic book bearing the late South African president’s name created by brothers Phemelo, 28, and Omphile Dibodu, 25.

The comic book, Young Nelson, features an African superhero, for readers in the continent and beyond.

Co-founders of Rainbow Nations Comics, a black-owned comic book and publishing company established in 2018, the Dibodu brothers were born and bred in Rustenburg, known as ‘platinum city’, in South Africa’s North West province.

Far from their hometown, the duo were in the big city for the event, showcasing their creations to an adept audience – people dressed as superheroes, cyborgs and zombies – who crowded around their stand and were as colorful as the comic books they were thumbing through.

READ MORE: Marvel Money: How Six Avengers Made $340 Million Last Year

“Wow, that looks cool, who is Young Nelson?” asked a curious bystander.

Phemelo was ready with his answers even as his brother assisted with more queries. 

“Young Nelson is a proudly South African black comic book inspired by the late Nelson Mandela,” responded Phemelo.

In front of him, on the table, a large poster of Young Nelson, featuring a young black male with the South African flag over his shoulders and a gold-colored map of Africa emblazoned on his shirt.

This day saw the launch of the very first issue of Young Nelson titled An Act of Kindness, for R20 ($1.3) a copy.

Phemelo, the writer, and Omphile, the illustrator, say they were inspired by Mandela and some of their own life experiences growing up.

“I think I wanted to pay tribute to the old man in a way that it would hopefully inspire others to look at him in the way that many South Africans see him,” says Phemelo to FORBES AFRICA.

In the story, ‘Young Nelson’ gets his nickname when he volunteers at a local boxing gym. The people watching him witness his skills and ability to solve problems, so they equate him to the young Mandela, who was famously a boxer in his youth.

“[The lead character] doesn’t like the nickname at first but once he sees the significance of it and his heroics, how they are taken up by the community to represent who they are, he takes the name and rolls with it and that’s his superhero name going forward with the series,” Phemelo explains.

READ MORE: How Disney’s Investment In Entertainment Brands Like Marvel and Star Wars Will Power The Launch Of Its New Streaming Service

Young Nelson’s real name in the comic is actually ‘Thabo Mo Afrika’, inspired by South African president Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela.

“ ‘Mo Afrika’ is a generic surname [which] translated into English is ‘an African’. So I wanted to see every African seeing themselves in Young Nelson,” Phemelo adds.

The young writer’s plan is to take his product to bigger markets, but for now, the African comic industry is a tough market to capture for lack of any funding.

“Imagine getting paid for what you are doing. That would [make a] big difference. Once people realize that their art can be compensated, more of us will actually start creating content the world would want to start reading,” he says.

Bill Masuku, a speaker at the Comic Con event and who is also a digital artist, shares the same sentiments.

“In Zimbabwe, where I am from, it is pretty grassroots. Everyone is self-publishing and if you don’t really have a passion for it, the book won’t come out,” says Masuku, who has been a part of the African comic industry for over three years. He is the founder of Enigma Comix Africa, and creator of Razor-Man and Captain South Africa.

“As much as new creatives are coming out every day, what really makes the comic book industry is distribution. And seeing that [Young Nelson] has such widespread potential really makes me hopeful for where we are going,” says Masuku.

For comic books to thrive on the continent, they need a big financial push from publishers, distributors or investors, unlike any other medium.

The Dibodu brothers were fortunate to have been sponsored by the Rustenburg Herald, a weekly local newspaper in Rustenburg.

“The problem with creating by yourself is that you can only create at a certain rate and you do burn out. So you find people who have been making comics who have three or four issues out and it’s easy to forget about them as a consumer,” he adds.

Globally, platforms like Weekly Shōnen Jump in Japan make it easy for Japanese creatives to publish their work as the comic book and manga industry is thriving there, making it one of the best-selling magazines. Weekly Shōnen Jump has sold over 7.5 billion copies since 1968.

But the African comic industry has a long way to go.

Kugali, a digital platform founded by three entrepreneurs and friends from Nigeria and Uganda, is designed to help people find and share the best African narratives and comics. It is an entertainment company that focuses on telling stories inspired by Africans, offering much-needed exposure to young creatives such as Masuku and the Dibodu brothers. For now, the reception the Dibodus are receiving give them some hope.

“It’s been awesome and inspirational. I didn’t know people felt the same way as me. It’s amazing when people are [reading] the story of the character and people are saying ‘you know what, that’s what we need’,” says Phemelo. At the end of Comic Con, they managed to sell over 300 copies of Young Nelson.

“People are catching onto the culture. I think it might even grow bigger than the American industry only because I think we are a very artistic community… Whether you look at the hieroglyphics in Egypt or the cave paintings by the bushmen in South Africa, we draw,” he says.

He also plans to sell his comics to local book stores in the country.

The team is currently working on their next creation – a black African female superhero called Imbokodo.

“We are looking for new creators we can partner with and create our own justice league, our own Avengers, to actually have young kids in South Africa look at their heroes the same way Americans look at their heroes in the Comic Cons to come.”

Young Nelson is a refreshing reminder that not all heroes wear capes.

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Conscious Fashion: ‘So Much More You Can Do With Discarded Clothes’

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Fashion is about creating beauty, but its ugly side is the carbon emissions. Designers are now looking to play it safe, even if it means going to dangerous lengths for the sake of greener fashion.


In South Africa, the fashion industry is now starting to do its bit to negate the effects of climate change, with some designers going green, in interesting, creative and even lucrative ways.

Ayanda Nhlapo, a stylist and entrepreneur, is one of them.

She hosted and co-produced her own TV fashion show, Ayanda’s Fashion House, where she explored the work of some of South Africa’s most prolific designers and creatives in the fashion industry. The fashion aesthete says the influence of the industry is far-reaching, and therefore, must be more responsible about the environment and preservation of resources.

READ MORE: No Christmas cheer for fashion firms in never-ending sales

“I’ve always had a knack for creating, whether I’m creating from scratch or recreating something that already exists,” says Nhlapo. So, upcycling, or repurposing, is what she is into.

“However, recreating or upcycling has always given me much more excitement and a deeper sense of purpose.

“Upcycling can be challenging but rewarding in the sense that it’s not just about the creativity but it’s more so about contributing to solving the effects of fast fashion on the environment and the economy. It is very important that we preserve our culture, identity and resources,” she says.

READ MORE: IN PICTURES| The Business Of African Fashion: Nigeria Takes A Slice Of The Pie

Fascinated about culture as well as traditional wear, some of her design ideas are fairly unconventional, such as Zulu sandals made of tyres. Besides clothes, she also designs accessories, such as earrings and key-holders. One of her designs is earrings shaped like water droplets to highlight the importance of saving water, whilst also bringing forth the beauty and importance of recycling and upcycling.

Her market is largely young women, but the brand is also for those who love and consume fashion consciously. Nhlapo uses fashion as a tool to influence people and encourage them to think carefully about how they use it.

“Fortunately, through traditional media and social media, I am able to reach thousands and thousands of people, not just in South Africa but across the world. If we consume fashion correctly and consciously, we have the power to reverse certain cycles and change the direction of our future,” says Nhlapo.

 She goes on to say that the fashion industry is among the highest polluters  in the world, however, thankfully, it is gradually moving towards a more responsible way of operating.

“In fact, green fashion is the next big thing. Designers and consumers are finally becoming more and more aware of the damages and negative, rippling effects of fashion and are now beginning to take such issues seriously. We are starting to see more sustainable fabrics on the runway and more eco-friendly brands launching into the market, while well-established brands are also moving in the direction of going green. Before we know it, green fashion will be the only thing we know.”

READ MORE: Fashion, Fame and Finances With SA Designer, David Tlale

South African designer JJ Schoeman elaborates on ‘fast fashion’ and ‘green fashion’.

“I think we need to still go on a robust campaign on the implications of fast fashion, where we create more awareness around its consumption, as I feel that most consumers are still a little blasé about their purchase.

“There was a call for green fashion, because of the wasteful nature of production lines within our industry. This call was made to encourage designers like myself to use environmentally-friendly fabrics and methods in the production line.”

One of the ways he implements this in his production line is to cut material in a way there is less wastage.

“Over and above this, I also found ways in which to ‘get rid’ of the waste we accumulated over a season – these included donating to the trade, for reuse. I also try my absolute best to use fabrics that are more environment-friendly, but of course, I always need to take into consideration what the client wants.”

Schoeman opines the green fashion trend is growing.

“Absolutely, if we just take into consideration the amount of international names that have agreed to not using real fur in their collections. Recently, I read about the #G7Biarritz movement, which saw the Prada Group, Ralph Lauren and 30 other fashion industry brands sign the pact. The Fashion Pact is going to change the game in sustainable fashion all over the world.”

Yet another trend is ‘thrifting fashion’ that has become the cornerstone of shopping trends popular among the youth.

Vathiswa Yiba is an employee at a vintage thrift store in the lively Braamfontein area of Johannesburg. She has immersed herself in the culture of thrifting.

The store is one of several thrift stores in the city, and among the popular ones at the thrift market not far from Africa’s largest railway station, the Johannesburg Park Station.

“Thrifting is buying clothes that people think are not good enough anymore and those that they have discarded,” says 22-year-old Yiba.

“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things”

– Vathiswa Yiba

The lower prices also offer financial reprieve and more options for the buyer.

Yiba has been thrifting since her high school days when she started with her own clothes. 

“I don’t step into retail stores unless I am buying shoes,” she says.

“My first thrift was buying from people who sold from their bags, then from their car boots, then I leveled up and started going to the biggest market in the  Johannesburg Central Business District; MTN Taxi Rank, known for its pavement crimes, despite the danger in that part of town, they have the best clothes.”

The street-savvy Yiba offers advice to those who are novices in the industry. 

“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things, and here is a tip when you are going thrifting – make sure you have loose change and put it in safe pockets, away from pick-pocketers. That way you will be able to shop safely. However, you can find good-looking items but it’s not in your size; which is where the community comes in.

“We have tailors to alter the garments for you and it will be exclusive because it’s thrifted, no one has the same clothes. There is so much more you can do with discarded clothes. With the littlest things, you can make an amazing thing and you’ll be the only one who has it.”

Of course, there is a tinge of stigma associated with thrifting. Yiba says people think the clothes could also have belonged to those who have passed away, but she’s of the view that thrifting creates other opportunities.

“The [thrift clothing] may look messy and seem dusty, but once cleaned or altered, they will look retail. So it’s not just the connotations, it can be something perfect and the next person wouldn’t even know.”

These are sentiments also echoed by Leago Nhlapo, a content creator for fashion brands like Adidas, Sportscene and Skechers, who began his journey as thrifter.

“It started with thrifting because it makes you unique; there is no similar garment, every single garment is different from the next. So, I jumped from really cheap clothes [recycled clothes] to really expensive clothes,” he says.

However, Leago encourages green fashion because he says the fast fashion industry is the second-highest contributor to carbon emissions. 

“The more people buy clothes, the more we contribute to global warming and we all know the global crisis, so if we recycle clothes, there will not be a need to make clothes, there are enough clothes for everyone existing. I am proof that second-hand clothes are cool and look better than people paying tons of cash.”

Seventy kilometers south of Johannesburg’s Central Business District is Nokwakha Qobo, who was born in the squatter camps of Phuma Zibethane in Sharpeville. And in the garbage dumps of these camps, the fashion designer in her emerged.

Qobo currently has a clothing line with an international reach. She fashions garments out of wastepaper she collects from rubbish dumps. 

“I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything

– Nokwakha Qobo

As a young girl, Qobo had to walk to school, and through the course of her journey home, she would pass a garbage site where old fashion magazines and newspapers were discarded.

It is often said that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. This adage was not lost on her because she took inspiration from the articles in those magazines and now creates pieces that are sought after.

“That’s where I learned about fashion trends, that’s where I learned about different colors for different seasons, that’s where I learned about the body structure of a woman, actually, I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything,” she says.

Inadvertently, she too is contributing towards a shift in culture based on conscious consumption.

Perhaps, with the benefit of time, green fashion will be the norm as many believe we already have all we need.

Motlabana Monnakgotla

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HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E

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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.


Alejandro Agag (Formula E CEO) and Mark Langer (HUGO BOSS CEO)

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.


Porsche x BOSS: introducing a new collaboration | BOSS

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.


Hugo Boss x Porsche  

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.”

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