A short while ago I went to watch Black Panther with my family. I need to begin by noting that the amount of money I spent on one single evening for a movie which included purchasing the tickets, one large popcorn, because my brother did not want them, and three sodas including the 3D glasses cost me R421 (about US$36) which is R20 short of being the total amount of money that South Africans living in extreme poverty utilise a month. According to Statistics South Africa, in 2015, 13.8 million South Africans lived on R441 per month while the whole of Africa (excluding the north) is home to the second largest hungry population in the world (see World Hunger Facts) [www.freedomfromhunger.org/world-hunger-facts].
The numerous advertisements that screened in between the trailers of other upcoming movies for over 30 minutes before the movie began were a great reminder of how my time is used to pay for the new cinema that Vaal Mall (a large shopping centre in Vanderbijilpark, Gauteng, South Africa) recently built. There is a bombardment of advertisements meant to satisfy our commodity fetish. But the Black Panther movie is a different "cinefetish." It is true that the monetary dividends of the movie will not be benefiting the Black community globally. It is also not far from the truth that the movie responded to the gap in the "woke" community and capitalised on that growing consciousness among Black people through the commodification of that consciousness.
Although it is true that out of the hundreds of millions that were made in one week by Marvel [for instance according to Consumer News and Business Channel, the international market (minus Africa) spent US$304 million on the movie, and the opening night in South Africa raised R16.8 million (over US$1.4 million], the Black community will not materially benefit. On the other hand, what we cannot measure monetarily are the long-term by-product benefits of the role of the Black Panther movie in the struggle against the inferiority complex that many Black people globally experience. Representation cannot be downplayed but it is important to be critical in our perception and analysis of representation. On a different note, to a certain extent the movie seemed like a prophetic endeavour to prepare Africa for its future position as a leading continent in the rebirth of the world. Then, there is the remarkable relationship between traditions, technological advancement, Afro-modernity and spirituality notable in the movie signalling emerging themes in the African renaissance.
The political economy of the African renaissance should be subject to debate especially if our measurement of growth is still devoid of the human face as is the economic integration of Africa and the Cape-to-Cairo vision coming to fruition for commodities and peoples subject to meeting economic criteria. Another taken for granted aspect of the African renaissance, which Tebogo Bantu brought to my attention, is the proliferation of African people who are getting in touch with their spiritual roots. The initiation of the South African middle class into ancestral healing, which comes in different forms for our wounding as African people in the globe, is an aspect that we cannot overlook in the quest for rebuilding the lives of African people globally. The responsibility of healing and the signification of ancestral connections means that the understanding of how ancestors work, especially the belief that one's positive deeds committed in the world while alive is their ticket to the world of the ancestors, would inspire those with a closer connection to the healing mission of the ancestors to work harder at aligning their service to humanity through the restoration of the brutalised and broken black body collective at the physical (sic-material poverty) and ontological (including consciousness) levels.
African spirituality marks African identity in ways that calls us to diversify our understanding of knowledge and ways of knowing, including being and ways of being, coupled with...