By Julia Taliesin
Last weekend, people queued in long lines across the African continent to witness Black Panther shatter box office records.
In East and West Africa, the Marvel film had the biggest industry opening of all time. Kenyan actor Lupita Nyong’o and Zimbabwean actor Danai Gurira attended the premiere event in South Africa, where the film marked the country’s third-biggest opening in history.
Just as the cast made headlines for dressing in traditional African dress for the U.S. premier, in Nigeria, most fans arrived dressed in traditional Nigerian gowns and robes.
The Daily Nation reported that Black Panther was one of the biggest movies to premiere in Kenya. “We have never seen such a reception in this country,” said IMAX Marketing Manager Flora Njagi, “In Kisumu [Nyongo’s home city], it was all pomp as people celebrated one of their own.”
In a brief film review Martha Mukaiwa wrote for The Namibian, she mentioned seeing a video of young African men praising a Black Panther poster and saying “something along the lines of ‘is this how white people feel every day?’” She then added: “Watching grown-a** black men marvel over a superhero poster, buoyed by the pure joy of seeing what is without a doubt a formidable and almost all-black cast standing stately in one of the biggest cinematic universes in the world is some heady stuff.”
One Kenyan reporter with the Daily Nation underlined the significance of director Ryan Coogler doing his homework, especially when it came to costumes and representation of African cultures. Coogler’s vision for Wakanda specifically came from a thought experiment on what would happen if a resource-rich area like the Congo had not been colonized and occupied: a reality in which the Congolese people would capitalize on their resources for themselves.
“We asked ourselves, did the vibranium make Wakandans special, or were Wakandans already something special and made something of vibranium?” Ryan Coogler said in a 2017 interview. “We decided it was the Wakandans.”
Huffington Post contributor Dwayne Wong (Omowale) wrote a piece in January on colonialization in relation to Wakanda:
“Unlike other African nations, Wakanda escaped the brutality and destructive nature of European colonial rule. This, along with Wakanda’s rich natural resources, allowed Wakanda to become the most advanced nation in the world. Wakanda is an interesting look at where African nations could have been had it not been for colonialism, but the reality is that every African nation has been impacted by the negative legacy of colonial domination and this has hindered Africa’s development ever since.”
Without a doubt, Black Panther made history around the world on opening weekend.