The movie Black Panther is being termed as “ground breaking success” for African culture. In addition to more than 500 million dollars the movie had grossed since its release, the beautiful portrayal of African tribal culture by its talented cast is awe-inspiring. Many would dispute the significance of a superhero movie in the matters of international importance. However, it can be argued that awareness is critical in order to bring change. Professionals such as Journalists, photographers and social workers have been trying to shine light on the problems faced by people in Africa for decades, exhibiting the hunger, poverty and diseases faced by them. Even though they succeeded in gathering resources and sympathy of the developed world, they achieved little triumph in changing the mind-set of the developed world about the African people. Thereby making the achievement of Black Panther crucial in changing the attitude of the people all around the world even though the movie itself is restricted to pop culture.
Africa, to the ill-informed consists of ‘shit-hole’ countries (according to the present US president) and as a continent full of post-colonial mess to the informed. Further, these people may blame Africans themselves for tearing their countries apart. Barring many exceptions such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Egypt etc., this may really seem the case for central and West African countries after a shallow observation, mainly due to presence of rebel militia existing in countries such as Liberia, Central African Republic, DR Congo and Rwanda, responsible for destabilizing the region and looting the precious natural resources of the region. Decades old reports originating out of Africa claim the use of child soldiers and mass murder by these rebel militias of Liberia and Congo. Conflict of a similar cost for the society is currently going on in south Sudan, the newly born African country.
There being several specific reasons for civil wars in each of these nations. Mainly, greed of corrupt political leaders and generals is perceived as the common denominator in each of these wars. This may be true as many of these countries have the largest share of their population comprising of young people. Lack of education and resources can makes them vulnerable to political influence and “visions” of their leaders, moreover some may just follow them to survive, making themselves proverbially unconscious of their present situation.
It was observed that anyone capable of yielding even mild influence over people in terms of arms and other resources such as food could have their own country inside a country. While the young may think that they are fighting for their freedom; most of the time the main agenda of these generals is to loot the precious natural resources that are left unclaimed or to wield political or religious influence over a region. The existence and the claimed brutality of these militias lead us to believe the worst about the people and distract us from the reason of their very existence.
Despite the glaring poverty, Africa is rich. Its enormous natural wealth attracted colonists in 19th and 20th century. Like any colony, resources were heavily drained, hampering development of host countries. However, the region is still held back during the post-colonial era due to corporations and previous colonisers who exercise their influence over the natural resources of the African countries. Poverty and ambition of local as well as national leaders is used to gain control over the natural resources. Arms and ammunitions are supplied to the rebel factions who use them to exercise control over local regions and undermine the government in exchange for minerals. The problem intensifies, when corporations buy entire governments. For instance, ongoing civil war in South Sudan has led to direct benefits for Chinese national oil companies and other major oil corporations that control the oil fields leaving little to the locals.
People are displaced whenever a major oil site is found. Sometimes these discoveries even lead to atrocities such as mass murder of entire communities and civil rights abuse. And despite this fact, this civil war is depicted in mainstream media as war between two government factions. South Sudan is not the sole example of the country rendered helpless due to its own resources. Democratic republic of Congo suffers a similar fate due to its vast natural resources. In spite of having such rich lands, people suffer. Water is scarce, diseases are rampant and poverty prevails. To put it blatantly as possible, people die whenever a new natural resource is discovered in unstable African countries.
The same people who suffer, get blamed when they fight this atrocious influence over their natural resources, thereby renewing the cycle of degradation and abuse. Wars are blamed on tribal and ethnic differences. While these differences do become tipping points in some of these wars, it is the ‘parasitic’ influence that helps escalate these tensions and undermine political authority.
So when Black Panther portrayed a country with typical African culture that grew into the most developed country in the world due to a lack of foreign influence, it made me think- what if Africa was allowed to grow without any destructive influence. Sure, it would have required help for some of its needs, but a lack of unfair policies, hijacking and undermining of its political organization would only have led to a result that is much better than the plagued land we now see.