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Wakanda casts a spell without farofa1

"Black Panther" and Multi-Perspective Blackness
Bernardo Oliveira
Traduction de Henry Schroy


Based on an analysis of the African diaspora representations in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018), this article argues how the complexities of diasporic blackness and the multiplicities of life experiences in the African Continent were historically reduced and caricatured to acclimate to some pan-Africanist models proposed by intellectuals such as Crummell, Blyden and Du Bois. What blackness is Black Panther talking about? In a dialogue with Kwame Anthony Appiah thoughts, the text discusses issues such as the relationship between tradition/modernity, temporality and ancestry, pointing to a US hegemonic and liberal capitalist logic in the formulation of the pan-Africanist premises enacted in the movie.

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What blackness does Black Panther refer to?

  • 1 Farofa (from quimbundo, “falofa”) is manioc flour, usually toasted in fat or butter, with numerous (...)

1Black Panther's point of view is that of a diasporic model which, according to general consensus, has better adapted itself to global capitalism and to Modernity — despite tireless attempts to give consistency to the term. A specific typology that never ceases to serve as a reference to other diasporic populations of the world, with its characteristic costumes, omnipresent music, models of political resistance, and even eating habits. It can be said that the film's background reflects currents of thought linked to an exclusively Anglo-Saxon perspective of the problem. In the midst of America's post-Obama hangover, and trailing in the wake of disillusionment over Trump's election, the film fits into a set of trends. Hatching from the Black Lives Matter movement and the whole arc of the fight against police brutality, for rights and for representation. It is, finally, to the American Negro, as well as to all the populations around the globe who keep this model as reference, that this film is addressed.

2It is fair to ask if this model would not be strategically more interesting as an example than the usual one-way street of white, adult, male heroes that pervades superhero culture. I agree, but insist: the perception of an asymmetry between the different formations of diasporic black populations in the Americas can cause us Brazilians to watch the film with different eyes. Free from a vision of the diaspora that is limited to certain cultures and population concentrations to the detriment of others, we can become sympathetic to the Negro struggle in North America without being confused with it. For if it is true that in the Americas there is a strong sense of racial self-consciousness throughout diverse segments, it would not be less true that different minority tendencies persist in various contexts, despite the supremacy imposed by the African American perspective.

3I am not against mixtures or even the maligned “cultural appropriations”. I take as an example Brazilian rap itself, which appropriated concepts from American rap while proving itself capable of being its own powerful language, almost independent of its original reference. My quest is not to preserve the identity of the "national", but, given the abundance of possibilities, to maintain a certain degree of indeterminacy around the meanings of the "being black", and even more so towards the diasporic "black being".

  • 2 See Lopes, 1988.

4In the game of representations proposed by Black Panther, the majority perspective massacres the minority. There is no celebratory drumming or dancing circle as can be observed in various Afro-diasporic religious manifestations, since all the music used is ritualistic, whether for war or religion. There is no Eshu, nor Elegbara (“the owner of the force” of Bantu ontology, present in Umbanda and Quimbanda), much less elements derived from nations such as Jeje-Nagô or Jêje Mahin cultural complex. The griots characteristic of Mali and Ghana were dispensed with, there is no reference to any knowledge transmitted by oral communication, as orality was also interdicted. Just as there are no Babalawos (“the father of the mysteries"), the readers of the sacred Ifa Oracle were replaced by a priest who does not smile (Zuri, as played by Forrest Whitaker), whose hard countenance is characteristic of Christian secret societies. The fundamental traits and possible influences of Bantus in the Americas are not discernible nor the decisive contributions of Bakongos, Ambundus and Ovimbundus, among other groups derived from the "central Bantus" (as referred to by Nei Lopes2). There is no religious diversity, only a univocal and merely allusive religiosity, gradually synthesized by the abstract representation of "science", a blind and brutal force dominating the entire space-time of the film. There is no sharing of food or ritual of communion, as every rite of passage is mediated by the violent battle and the logic of the victor. In short, all the activities of the film revolve around the binomial security (protection of the state) and conservation, for the territorial and cultural purity of Wakanda. The value of ancestry is measured according to a temporality rigorously calculated within Western causality, barring any possibility of recovering other Afro-descendant temporalities — as, for example, that which the Yoruba saying conveys to us: "Eshu killed a bird yesterday with a stone he threw today". The very notion of "Afrofuturism" is also “progressive”, compromised by the controversial mythification of a unified Africa, and by a corporate and neoliberal conception of technique. In Black Panther's depiction of blackness, there is no room for the Bantu contribution, nor for Afro-Antillean or Afro-Latino population concentrations. Strictly speaking, Wakanda casts a spell without farofa.

5Faced with this suppression of more complex notions and representations of diasporic negritude, Achille Mbembe's short essay on the film surprises: 

  • 3 Mbembe, 2018.

For those who know how to read between images, who know how to listen to the rhythms and walk with the pulse of history, the son is there, the manifesto, throughout one sequence or another, pass a thousand shadows and a thousand currents of thought — from Marcus Garvey to Cheikh Anta Diop, from negritude to Afrocentrism, from Afropolitanism to Afrofuturism. This film, undoubtedly the first of its kind, is above all an intellectual feat that transforms into image and spectacle the great ideas and currents of thought that accompany our efforts towards ‘Escaping the Long Night’.3

6Although this article is not intended as a critique of Mbembe's article (whose daring Critique of Black Reason I admire), the passage quoted repeats Black Panther's strategy, vesting with authority the limitations of its cutout — a  reductionist construction of the African diaspora's rhizomatic effects. Even with this seductive form, in the words of Mbembe, of a new "black humanity", this amalgam of "a thousand currents of thought" hampers itself not only by excluding minority aspects of diasporic expressions (aspects that could, for example, uproot them from the foundational liberal aspirations of Afrofuturism and Afropolitanism), but also by ignoring the example of population concentrations that have remained subaltern to the prevailing hegemonic religious and political powers. This facet is evident when Mbembe himself writes about Afropolitanism in 2015:

  • 4 Mbembe, 2015: 71.

"However, the center par excellence of Afropolitanism today is Johannesburg, South Africa. In this metropolis forged by the iron of a brutal history, an unprecedented figure of African modernity is developing. It is a modernity that has little to do with what was known until now. It feeds on a fountain of multiple racial inheritances, of a vibrant economy, a liberal democracy, a consumer culture that participates directly in the flows of globalization. Here an ethic of tolerance is being created, capable of reviving African aesthetic and cultural creativity in the same way that Harlem or New Orleans did in the United States."4

7It is necessary to recognize that with this operation, the diasporic populations were able to extract forces that would sustain some degree of communal construction, an important element in the forms of organization that ensured black survival in the Americas. However, a subtle gradation must be claimed among its various modulations, identifying those that have carried, although in a very modified way, fragmented substrates of non-Christianized and non-Westernized symbols, values and practices.

Tradition and Modernity

  • 5

8It is noted, for example, that Black Panther operates its sense of Tradition and Modernity under a conceptual framework severely positioned in terms of a polarity. The vastness of the Diaspora is replaced by a univocal view, and here begins much of the strategic misunderstanding of the film. For, as Appiah states, "neither of us will understand what modernity is until we understand each other"5. We are, therefore, entering a territory in which the crystallization of the tradition-modernity binomial and its respective caricatures is no longer enough to build a proper understanding of the problem. Nor is the apparent solution that the film presents to this question, that is, the search for reconciliation in the plane of an enlightened religiosity, as was preached by Christian Positivism at the turn of the last century.

  • 6

9Appiah observes that the actual practices of religions of such traditional societies introduce nuances that destabilize the stable logical forces of definition: "If modernization is conceived of, in part, as the acceptance of science, we have to decide whether we think the evidence obliges us to give up the invisible ontology"6 he notes, adding that according to various documents on religious practice throughout Africa, scientific theories do not have enough strength to replace the influence of traditional religions. Parting from a critical reflection on traditional rationalism as described by Karl Popper, Appiah points out similarities between the attitude of the scientist and that of the Babalawo (Yoruba diviner and healer), for they both appreciate and interpret tradition in order to alter it, adapting to the results and consequences effectively provoked by the ritual. Modern science, as well as traditional African religion, operates within the criteria of explication, prevision, and control. For Appiah, ethnologists have confused the assumptions of Christian-based religions with what in fact seems to guide African traditional religious rituals: not only the ritualistic handling of symbolic elements, but the practical application of material elements in the course of the process — the materiality, sometimes organic and bloody, of what is offered to entities. Everyone who professes faith in Afro-Brazilian religion knows in practical terms how its entities, like modern science, "prefer" matter. Practitioners hold a strong expectation of the power of ritual and of the entities invoked, so as to reflect it not only from the point of view of an irrational obedience, but as an attitude taken towards solving a practical problem. The ritual offering called Ebó is offered as a respectful attempt to communicate with the entities, and it persists above all because it seems effective to practitioners. Appiah, by comparing effective, practical, belief systems, following this interpretive key, brings the traditional African religion closer not to Western Christian ("symbolic") religious belief, but to modern Western scientific theory ("material"). That is, there is room in many of these so-called "traditional" rituals for a "critical" correction, as is claimed in relation to the "scientific spirit". On the other hand, it is possible to observe in modern science, and particularly in contemporary science, a mimetic and computerized reproduction of current scientific models. Critical-inventive aspects of tradition (because one has to use imagination during processes) and automated science: associations that go against the immobility expressed by the most common conceptions of "tradition" and "modernity".

10Just to illustrate how this operation is elaborated and executed, it can be observed that Black Panther renders invisible the nuances present in each of the processes, as well as their particularities and eventual juxtapositions, similarities and differences. Implicit in Wakanda's social and political organization, traditional religion would be related to an irrational belief in a higher plane inhabited by Ancients, beings whose venerable past populate people's minds. This past, however, is susceptible to being questioned and even surpassed, such that there is room for a "critical" dimension — as in the scene where T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to the ancestral plane to explicate, before the spirits, his disagreements with the decisions his father had made in the past. It is, however, a moral disapproval — in order to do right, to correct the past — and not extra-moral — a practical rectification ("what to do now?"). Science, on the other hand, would be represented as a reactionary political and gnoseological force, composing within the rigid dictates of "security", a highly rationalized formula that guarantees Wakanda's isolation. These models are reproduced in the form of a seemingly balanced synthesis between "traditional" and "modern" aspects, which, however, maintains stagnant this formal polarity. How could it be any different?

  • 7 Mbembe, 2017.

11A particular example in the field of Brazilian music may help us to perceive the tensions between Tradition and Modernity in a different way, quite differently from what was presented by the film. In his famous writing on popular music in Brazil, published in 1928, Modernist writer and researcher Mário de Andrade outlined a categorical parallel on art in the country, which the following decades would disavow. For him, there would be a determinative relationship between the social status and the aesthetic state of art: the political and social conditions of the country would therefore determine a "primitive" and "interested" art. By using the concept of "interest", Mário de Andrade borrows the vocabulary of Kant's aesthetics to characterize the social outlook of all "primitive" art, generally geared toward religious, pagan, collective feasts and rituals. In a country where everything was lacking for the poor, miserable and hungry, there would be no modern, elaborate and sophisticated popular music capable of assimilating the most diverse ethnic, cultural and technical trends and producing a robust repertoire, nor a phonographic industry and broadcasting system largely sustained by the inventiveness of black music. Supreme irony: it was just the absence of everything that did not leave the Brazilian Negro another option if not to launch into the most radical of experiences. To invent all that he lacked, to create an atmosphere capable of connecting him with the present, to constitute a ground of his own to let rise some self-esteem. They thus invented a proper time and space of their own (or improper, given what was offered by the whites). They erected the walls, the streets, the roads and cities through which the whites would pass; while improvising their own houses in which they still today sing their jongos, sambas and funks, cooking their foods and tidbits and washing them down with drinks that induce delirium. As Mbembe states, “there has therefore never been anything traditional in this art, if only because it has always been charged with exposing the extraordinary fragility of the social order."7 This "vanguard of life", which takes poverty by the reins (samba, funk, favela, quilombo, terreiro) in relation to the continuity/discontinuity of the techno-scientific despotic machine aimed at producing larger and larger areas of conservation. Marked always by experimentation and a more radical avant-garde activity than would be expected by folklorists and modernists, interacting even with the latest available technology and through an eminently urban activity, the action of black populations in the Americas has always been rooted in the demiurgic necessities of the deterritorialized Negro.

Africa as Unification Myth

12Black Panther builds its totalitarian delusion from a theoretical and ideological subtext that guides Black, Native, and immigrant thought in the United States. Its backbone is the Pan-Africanism constructed by Crummell, Blyden, Du Bois, and so many other theorists exiled from their "racial homeland". Oscillating between a combat weapon and a statement of principles, this myth of a unification of Africa was consolidated in the imagination of the North American Negro, in spite of the complex formations inherent not only to the Old Continent, but also to the diaspora. It is still common in the intellectual context of the United States to observe a tendency to seek answers to the present with a retroactive beacon in hand, even if one perceives, while observing other regions and populations, a range of variations around senses of the past, present and future. Shining towards this idealized Africa, however, the American lighthouse does not merely illuminate the conditions that allowed for slavery and the situation of the Negro in the Americas, but also, and above all, seems to be occupied with the production of a double assertion: blacks are undoubtedly "human" (according to Crummell, it was enough to observe the ability to dominate English and profess the Christian faith to attest this truth); and that Africa has concentrated very advanced civilizations over diverse times and regions (such as the Kingdom of the Congo, formed in the 14th century). Blacks exiled by slavery should therefore take them as inspiration and source of knowledge. It is evident that this dominant reductionist logic feeds the heat of the polemic and marks the birth of Pan-Africanism, but neither does the possession of the Anglo-Saxon tongue verify "Humanity", nor can Africa be necessarily reduced to an ideal homeland, a model of the "Promised Land", to inspire the wretched of the earth, distributed through wherever there was black slavery.

13It was precisely from this, mythical composition forming the image of an African High Renaissance, that the North American negro found the strength to develop, amongst the white and indigenous legacies of material and symbolic structures, the most diverse activities: an Africa conceived as an immense territory unified by the color of the skin, nourished by an antiquity that justified and sometimes suppressed, all the pathological imaginary produced by the abundance of conflicts, disagreements and discontinuities that marked its long history. Within the moral illusionism that Black Panther intends to convey through Wakanda, Africa exists as a unit. This illusion served the colonizer, but also the exiled of the whole world, to produce a generalization by reduction. What Africa do we speak about when we use the adjective "African"? Why don't we feel obliged to specify what "Africa" is at stake, since Africa is very different in Nigeria and Niger, Mozambique and Mali, Angola, Mauritania, Tanzania? This occurs to me every time we refer to this universe as a unity. There are many accounts that have tried to explain how the label "Africa" should represent, in the form of a generalization, so many peoples, cultures and times, so many forces that traced commercial routes and formed dance steps, singing songs of war and longing, erecting sanctuaries, building armies, dwellings and plantations all over the old continent.

14Stigmatized throughout the last century for having transformed itself into a weapon of combat, this revived Pan-Africanism assumes as a horizon the establishment of a conflict mediated between opposing forces, in search of an effective solution between divergent perspectives — not only between "races", but also between historical, political and cultural models: magical thinking versus science, reason versus emotion, empire versus republic, and so on. Located amid these dichotomies, Black Panther shows itself to be a binary film in the American fashion, that is, it operates by an average, by a reduction of the representations adapted to liberalism. A binary view that, especially since the postwar period, when the black population's self-awareness expands, always operates on the border between a "we, successful North Americans" and the other "blacks" of the world, the losers, the resentful, the needy. This follows from the debate between the nationalists and internationalists of Wakanda, based on an ethical question: should we mobilize the country's technological apparatus in order to lend a hand to other black peoples of the world? At its limit, Wakanda, converted into reference, becomes a mirror of the US, while the US becomes a mirror of the Third World.

15These issues and conversions between the traditional and the modern lay bare a limit: at one point, when Pan-Africanism had to be rescued by those who would form the resistance movements within triumphal post-war America, it became necessary to rethink racism outside the US, that is, racial oppression as a broader issue. The documents and texts pertaining to this transition can be found in the legacy of the Black Panther party, in which Huey Newton identifies, in addition to nationalism and internationalism, "Reactionary Intercommunalism" — the interconnection of global communities under global capitalism - and "Revolutionary Intercommunalism" — as a mode of resistance beyond any forms of nationalism or internationalism, since nations could no longer exist independently of imperialist economic processes. But within the film's allegedly harmless logic of "entertainment" aimed at a black public (also identified with other recent expressions such as "Dear White People" and "Insecure", among others), one notices an effort to keep the dichotomies in view of the strengthening of a condition: for the claim of "equality" to remain valid, it would be necessary to claim values to be shared and assimilated by blacks and whites. Although conciliatory, this equation does not involve the participation of immigrants, keeping intact the abyss between "white" and "black" that scientific racism took care to deepen. Despite its pretension of being ideologically in tune with the thinking of the Black Panther party, the logic of this entertainment is the same as that of self-help: the struggle for affirmation, rights, and "happiness" is confused with the reification of a well-developed experimental transition as decolonization. If, as Fanon affirms in The Wretched of the Earth, "decolonization is truly the creation of new men", one observes that there is a fine line between tendencies of conciliation with inherited and consolidated cultural models (more associated with continuity than renewal) and tendencies to create space for new subjectivities and ways of life. This can be seen in the practice of artists such as Lee “Scratch” Perry, who always operates at the limit of languages and techniques to counteract the notion of "traditional" culture associated with the diaspora. For by inventing new ways of recording and producing music, Perry, among so many other diasporic blacks, has proliferated decolonizational dynamics, that is, a way of transforming life through a creative reuse of sound, technique, time and space.

Diaspora and Caricature

16At the dawn of Pan-Africanism, the Rev. Alexander Crummell considered the dominion of the Anglo-Saxon language and the cultivation of the Christian faith as a gift for the black populations. The creed to which Appiah draws attention lies in the current and naturalized use of universal categories attached to Christianity, as a subtext through which an idealized image of Africa would form. There was no consensus among the various intellectuals who postulated the foundations of Pan-Africanism, but an idea was accepted by all: Africa as the homeland of the "black race" which, precisely for this reason, would serve as a reference, as raw material for peoples exiled worldwide. Even Crummell considered English a "superior language" to African dialects for best expressing the "Revealed Truth", keeping himself safely beneath this immense categorical umbrella. For an attentive philosopher like Appiah, the birth of Pan-Africanism is traversed by an "intrinsic racism", which takes racial difference from an ontological point of view, subsuming the historical and cosmological differences under a mythified "Africa", constructed as a broad and generous, albeit rarefied, category.

17The problem lies in the fact that the "exiled", at least those who had the conditions and resources to "speak", were separated from some deep realities of this abundant "Mother Africa", little known even to a descendant of Ghanaians such as Du Bois. They also did not know the enslaved populations who, when freed, transformed the cities which they had already inhabited for 150 or 200 years. And while these processes were constituted in an asymmetrical way, and there is no way of stating categorically the lack of a cultural connection to Africa in the formation of the United States, there is also no justification to the thesis that there was "cultural abandonment" of Africans roots, even though, from an early age, black people there considered themselves "natives". It is observed in the United States that American Negroes had to adapt fully to the linguistic, cosmological, and religious structures that were already found in the Protestant base of populations inhabiting North America. Hence the counterexample: the Jeje-Nagô complex formed in Bahia de Todos os Santos ("Bay of All Saints"), meets the Bantu populations who already considered themselves native. Not having forgotten Zambi, Dandalunda and Catendê, nor the religious and recreational uses of drums, they maintained another dynamic of transmission, influence and synthesis, quite different from North America.

  • 8 As Marlon Riggs points out in his article "Black Macho Revisited: Reflections of a SNAP!": “Agains (...)

18There is also a murky relationship between the forms of mythical representation of a unified Africa, perceptible in North American cultural manifestations and caricatures of the continent that will populate American cinema. The case that most calls my attention - and that relates directly to Black Panther — is that of Eddie Murphy. His films ridiculed Eastern habits (The Golden Child, Michael Ritchie, 1986) and Africans (Coming to America, John Landis, 1988) from the populist perspective of a misconceived average American Negro: stripped-down trickery, creative candor in language, a way of seeing things typical to this typology of the American black macho.8 It should be remembered that in the 1980s, Murphy's films nurtured a certain image of this typology, working with characters built from a mixture of self-irony and community pride. Bolstered by the music of the "King of Pop", then universalized by a white-run corporate machine, expressions of black pride ran through other black manifestations, from Living in America (black version of Born in the USA) to even USA for Africa. On the level of representations, Wakanda's "African" ceremonial attire and dance are not even a bit less offensive than the caricatures in Coming to America.

Wakanda as Chimera

19Take the visual construction of the city of Wakanda. We must really lament the absence of any mention of its urban life and local people, with the film merely limiting itself to describing, in practically all its totality, the rituals, dialogues and conflicts among the palaces and fields of war. The visual representation and mise-en-scène of the sequences in the city indicate some stereotypes with which the film works, which keeps it very close to the caricatures represented in Eddie Murphy's films. The visual representation of the city is not based on New York or Oakland, but perhaps Jamaica, by its proximity to the fundamental question of language. We glimpse that the solution given by the film is a kind of gentrified Trenchtown, which supports in "sustainable" form, its humble houses with the rural aspect of a Jamaican favela. On the other hand, in the technological aspect, the few precarious adaptations (such as the "digital lip plate") do not hide the supremacy of an eminently Anglo-Saxon and Hollywoodian visual school, with its choice of spacecraft models and in the contours of its palaces, chambers and centers of technology. As with the Afro-Brazilian religions, the ritual field alludes to the waterfall, with representatives from the different nations making up Wakanda dancing at its edges. But this is a ritual of passage organized within a logic in which dance is associated with war or religion. Incidentally, Black Panther's Pan-Africanism does not dance and does not sing for joy, amusement, lasciviousness, for pagan feast or celebration, nor does it play musical instruments. It does not wiggle the waist, it does not even pronounce the undulating rhythmic contours of the word bunda ("butt"). In fact, the butt in Wakanda is a non-existent, repressed element: the buttock does not move sideways, neither the pelvis nor the hips. Wakanda interdicts any intoxicating or hallucinogenic chemical devices, propellants of the wiggle: noone drinks any type of spirit in Wakanda; noone smokes any psychoactive herbs in Wakanda. In the fashion of a Protestant stronghold, Wakanda interdicted the farofa and the spell, but also the festive and pagan batucada, the non-martial bodily reveries, the delirium of the body (the butt, the chest, the thighs), the contemplative, corporeal joy, the heat of the circle and the drum. Everything there contributes to the strengthening of its goal: to conserve, to protect. Wakanda is no less paranoid around security than its mirror, model and oppressor, the United States.

20The consensus that there are only "strong women" in the film can be relativized if we look more closely at the role that each one performs not only in the plot, but in Wakanda's overall symbolic economy. Okoye (Danai Gurira), for example, is a general, representing the weaponry and bearing the artificiality of an expression of few friends. Ramonda (Angela Bassett) is the matriarch without matriarchy, representing the values of the Family and ensuring its procedures and rituals — which, in any case, also derive from a cultural average quite close to the Celtic synthesis. Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) is the charicatural politicized social worker, committed to reducing inequality in poor African countries, mirroring a type of opportunistic activism, common practice among members of the Hollywood star system. Finally, Shuri (Letitia Wright) represents the jumping joviality of the scientific ideal, but with no mention, for example, of the relations between race and science in the nineteenth century. Would it not be important to wonder to what extent the strength of these characters would not be associated with the representations of values predetermined by white men and their institutions?

21(For those wondering why would a Marvel movie dwell on this aspect of history, please also ask yourself why show Magneto fighting Nazis in X-Men: First Class (2011)? Or what about the prejudiced depiction of a kidnapping by Afghan "terrorists" of the playboy scientist — this playboy who, according to the story, intends to produce social justice while hidden behind a technological armor (Iron Man, 2008)?)

22In the end, Wakanda is a Pan-Africanist chimera built strictly in the light of North American "white" values. This does not mean that there is a consensus between these "whites" and the modes with which they reproduce their mechanisms of violence and control, but skin color is a mark that persists as a criterion in the way this control is produced. This is evident from all sides, but especially when we ask ourselves, while still in the movie theater, if Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) wasn't actually seeing things clearer than the film would wish to show. And that T'Challa, this sentimental prince, idealized in the backlight of Machiavelli's The Prince, didn't correspond strangely to the twentieth-century African elites, bloodthirsty and surrendering, completely alienated from the harsh reality of his people. And, finally, they uncritically assume values that, in one way or another, constituted the moral justification of slavery. When he returns to the United States to retrace his uncle's footsteps, T'Challa speaks with Nakia about his desire to build a cultural center in his neighbourhood in America (Oakland, I’m not sure...). Nothing more devoided of purpose and meaning than an apology for gentrification, the same gentrification that pushes back black populations away from the waterfront and commercial areas, replacing them with massive buildings and cellphone shops.

23Wakanda as a chimera can be read with another key: like Africa, it does not exist properly, it is more a strategic myth, reiterated by privileged intellectuals of the academic jet set and administered by an empire of entertainment that uses the tensions of the moment to spread its exaltation of the forces of war, bureaucracy, and science propelled by corporate capitalism. By comparison with another warrior unit, the Quilombo of Palmares, Wakanda does not stand as a model of resistance and life management. Palmares, despite its warlike formation, which rejected more than 30 Portuguese and Dutch incursions, constituted itself as an authentic Bantu formation, whose cultural characteristic was a combination of a syncretic preservation of its habits, practices and beliefs, while tolerating a conviviality with Indigenous people and even whites, all running to the Quilombo because of its abundance of production — according to Nei Lopes "in times of peace, the palmarinos came to sell the surplus of their production" to neighboring villages. A warrior unit, but carved with ethical bases different from those of Wakanda, because there was not even a doubt about the benefits of coexistence and being a good neighbor. Both the existential logic and the political imagination of Palmares supported the coexistence between different worlds.

24In Brazil, Black Panther was celebrated as a victory, and even before watching the film, many colleagues were already anticipating the promising effects that a black Marvel hero would be able to elicit among children and adolescents, who were mostly lacking in idols appearing similar to their friends and family. But Wakanda is also the expression of an image that these children do not exactly lack: a need to imprison and quantify the work force, its creative power, physical and sexual disposition, intelligence, speed, gaze, beauty, and rhythm; these in Wakanda, are dammed. The Wakanda Elite-Blockade lacks security. It is no wonder that the Wakanda Republicans willingly accept the CIA's aid in order to hunt down South African terrorists, as this is yet another component of the plot’s overall economy, justifying a robust intervention into the art of subsuming differences and producing majorities. It is a low opportunism about which we have to say loud and clear: Get Out!

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Lopes, Nei. Bantos, Malês e identidade negra. Rio de Janeiro: Forense Universitária,


Mbembe, Achille. “Afropolitanismo”. Áskesis, 4 (2) (2015): 68-71.

Mbembe, Achille. Critique of Black Reason. Translated by Laurent Dubois. Durham and

London: Duke University Press, 2017.

Mbembe, Achille. ‘“Black Panther”: une ‘nation nègre’ debout”, 2018. Retrieved from:

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1 Farofa (from quimbundo, “falofa”) is manioc flour, usually toasted in fat or butter, with numerous other ingredients added, such as roasted bacon, fried sausage, egg and meat. Farofa is widely used as an offering in rituals of Afro-Brazilian religions, particularly by the Umbanda of Rio de Janeiro. The title of this article refers to an old song "Feitiço da Vila", composed in 1934 by composer Noel Rosa of Rio, addressing a controversy concerning another composer of the time, Wilson Batista. Noel, a white middle class guy from Vila Isabel, praised his neighborhood over Batista’s, who was a black composer associated with the bohemian neighborhood of Lapa, Downtown. The lyric “feitiço sem farofa” seems to affirm that the "spell" of Vila Isabel dispenses with the black aspects of Umbanda, which aroused the deep sensation that it was a racist observation.

2 See Lopes, 1988.

3 Mbembe, 2018.

4 Mbembe, 2015: 71.



7 Mbembe, 2017.

8 As Marlon Riggs points out in his article "Black Macho Revisited: Reflections of a SNAP!": “Against this historical backdrop consider the highly popular comedy routines of Eddie Murphy, which unite Negro faggotry, "Herpes Simplex 10" — and AIDS — into an indivisible modern icon of sexual terrorism. Rap artists and music videos resonate this perception, fomenting a social psychology that blames the victim for his degradation and death.” IN: HEMPHILL, Essex. Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men. Boston: Alyson Publications, Inc., 1991: 256.

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Bernardo Oliveira, « Wakanda casts a spell without farofa »Amerika [En ligne], 23 | 2021, mis en ligne le 10 décembre 2021, consulté le 23 mai 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Bernardo Oliveira

Professeur adjoint à la Faculté des Sciences de L'Éducation dans L'Université Federale du Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Collaborateur du GEM — Groupement Éducatif Multimédia (Littérature/UFRJ), du LISE — Laboratoire d'Imaginaire Social et d'Éducation (Éducation/UFRJ — et du NFC — Noyau des philosophies de la différence (Philosophie/UFRJ —

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