Remembering Black Panther

Two and a half years ago, on a cold February evening in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I put on my kitenge long-sleeved dress, leggings, hat, winter jacket, and gloves and went out to the movies. It was a Friday, and I saw kente, ankara, dashiki and kikoi on display – never in the history of moviegoing has the audience looked so fine, so festive, so triumphant. On that evening it didn’t matter if the film we were going to watch had the standard predictability of a Marvel superhero movie. It didn’t matter that some of the plotlines were contrived and the dialogue a little wooden. I even gave the awkward African accents a pass – this a big deal for me. What I reveled in that evening, what we all reveled in, was this moment. It was as if just for a few hours, the weight of being Black in this world had dissolved into a shimmer of joy and pride. It was a major blockbuster movie that we could really claim as our own. It certainly broke box office records.

In the days, weeks and months to come there were reams of think pieces written on Black Panther, which I won’t get into now – suffice it to say that much of the critique was valid. For all its shortcomings, what I will always remember about Black Panther was how it made me feel, in the middle of that brutal, lonely winter. It expanded the scope of our dreaming, even if just for a short time, and we have it forever.

This week I’ve been mourning Chadwick Boseman, who worked so hard in the last few years of his life even as his body became increasingly frail. In the words of Black Panther’s director Ryan Coogler, “He lived a beautiful life. And he made great art. Day after day, year after year. That was who he was. He was an epic firework display. I will tell stories about being there for some of the brilliant sparks ’till the end of my days. What an incredible mark he’s left for us.”

Here’s to more dreaming, more great art, more brilliant sparks, more colour, more possibilities for visibility, more beginnings, and more life.

As always, I remain yours in solidarity.

Christine Mungai

Curator | Baraza Media Lab

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