Wakanda Forever: Part 9 – Mastering Your Craft
I think the core of Black Panther is about mastery: the mastery of self, one’s community and the world at large. By mastery, I am not talking about having the freedom to independently run one’s life in isolation. Erik had that freedom and we see how that ended for him. But I mean to learn to build one’s life within the supportive confines of community. Mastery is defined as, “a comprehensive knowledge of a skill or subject matter.”
We see this definition wonderfully represented, visually, in the Kingdom of Wakanda itself. The nation of Wakanda is an example of what can happen when a group of people learn how to humble themselves before each other. They do so in order to serve the greater good of the whole, while propelling each person to be the best they can be.
This is not only felt in the sweeping landscapes of Wakanda, but also in its people’s technological innovation. Wakanda, though fictional, speaks to potential and possibility. And though there may not currently be a nation on the continent of Africa (or the world for that matter) with such advanced technology, what there is are African nations full of some of the most creative people on earth!
WITH MY OWN EYES
I have visited villages with no electricity in parts of West, Africa where the children have had no electronics to play with. Do you know what they do? They take everyday items and some trash left by foreign visitors (like a soda can) and use their innovative minds to create models of different vehicles and other things they see in their environment.
I have seen grown men and women, take a piece of wood or an empty canvas and over the course of two weeks transform that raw material into a sculpture or a painting you’d expect to see in a museum. I have visited the village where Kente Cloth was originally created and watched families work elaborate machines of their own making to weave together wondrously colored threads with meaningful symbols to make this clothing which is known across the world.
Across 7 countries spanning from West to Central Africa, time and time again, creativity of staggering proportions has greeted me as people pioneer new artistry and innovations in their communities. And with that creativity has come a sense of mastery. Creativity greets us here in America as well, as we rediscover all of the inventions that black men and women have developed down through the years (many of which are still used in our society today). Creativity, technology and innovation run in our African blood. And although the technology of Wakanda may indeed be “make believe,” the notions of advancement and mastery come from very real places on the continent.
BOTH SIDES OF THE SCREEN
Black Panther’s visual representation of mastery is seen both in front of and behind the big screen! Science, technology, engineering, arts and math are celebrated throughout. If you can dream it, then you can create it if you have the right materials, the right team and the right discipline! We marvel at “Wakanda fictional” while simultaneously marveling (either consciously or unconsciously) at the “very real Wakanda” which had to be created in order for us to experience it: written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Cooler, acted by a host of known and newly known actors and actresses, and built by a crew of mostly black women and men from all over the world.
A technologically advanced city, electromagnetic levitation trains, sonic cannons, bullet-proof clothing, communication systems, ships, cloaking devices and a host of other things were created on screen. Hi-tech cameras, sound capturing equipment, CGI and editing computers, green screen, wardrobes, props, a symphony and a host of other technology and artistry were used behind the screen. Once given this opportunity, cast and crew blazed through the movie-making process with a fierce excellence.
What we see on screen was, in a very REAL sense, built right before our eyes! And it was created by people who are determined to master their craft. Are you determined to do what it takes to master your craft? Are you ready to discover your gifts and talents and build a solid foundation on which you can stand in this world?
A BOLD DECLARATION
Black Panther declares to every viewer (especially those who are African and African American) that you have power and ability waiting to be unleashed:
One aspect of that power is S.T.E.A.M.! You can be like Shuri who not only creates innovations as the head of Wakanda’s technology development, but also improves on them even before the need arises. So, apply your mind and your imagination to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics and get to work learning and creating the world you want to see!
You also have Linguistic Power! You can be like T’Challa, Nakia and Okoye. You can learn whatever language you desire – whether it be people-based, computer-based or app-based. If you want to learn it, speak it and use it, then you are capable enough to do so if you apply yourself!
Most importantly, you have the power to live by love, respect, honor, wisdom and compassion. Because your talents might propel you to great heights, but it is the quality of your character which keeps you there and helps open the door to even greater achievements.
Black Panther also declares to people of African descent everywhere that our story does not begin at slavery. We hail from nations of kings and queens! We hail from those who are not only farmers and textile workers, but also linguists, mathematicians, architects, artists, musicians, astronomers, warriors and a host of other professions. Yet, colonization by foreign powers has managed to stunt Africa’s rise. Imagine what would be if the people’s of Africa had equal access to their own resources in order to master their own fates.
A creative people have been stifled for far too long. And yet, even if we, the people of Africa and the diaspora have been pushed to the back of the global race for advancement, we can find a way – together – to run to the front of the line! That has been our legacy through countless generations and it can be our legacy again today! And this legacy comes when we learn to master both our craft and our life. For nothing can be fully learned and implemented without discipline.
THE POWER OF VISION
When I was a growing up, I watched Star Wars and Star Trek. The technology in those movies seemed worlds away. But here we are now, with cell phones, taser guns, iPads and multilingual translation apps. Many of these innovations came from the minds of those inspired by the vision of the films previously mentioned.
In a very real way, Wakanda stands as a focal point for a new vision: a future where africans and those of African descent are no longer on the periphery of society, but very much at the heart of growth and development for communities home and abroad. It seems that a new day has dawned…
What innovations and ideals will be birthed from the minds of those who have been inspired by this movie called, Black Panther?