For A Senegalese Girl, The Importance of “Black Panther”

By Zahra Sow


As a Senegalese girl, seeing “Black Panther” was an emotional journey filled with pride and astonishment. I could relate to many of the moments in the film–especially those which were inspired by African culture.

“Black Panther” comprehensively celebrates African culture on the big-screen with almost all of the continent’s 54 countries represented in the film. The film recognizes the whole African continent from a new and fresh perspective by creating a fictional country called Wakanda. The costumes that represented different nations, the music inspired by the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal and the breath-taking scenery portrayed honored the one prominent and vibrant theme throughout the movie: Africa.

A scene that stuck with me is when T’Challa, the main character and the king of Wakanda, saves a group of girls from being kidnapped by a group of terrorists–presumed to represent Boko Haram. This scene was not only powerful because it directly addressed the #BringBackOurGirls movement, but it also elevated “Black Panther.” When the movie acknowledges the topic of terrorism, the movie became more than just a superhero movie. Terrorism is an issue not only relevant to Nigeria, but to the whole world. I also believe it was a way to show that the 200 Chibok girls will always be remembered.

While most movies set in Africa show a continent that is poor, uncivilized, violent and uneducated, “Black Panther” does the complete opposite. As I watched “Black Panther,” it was amazing to see a more warm, welcoming and developed vision of my continent. I believe that is what Africa is all about.

The strong female representation seen through the Dora Milaje, the female-led special forces team in Wakanda, challenges the patriarchy I have experienced in African culture. I noticed right away that the Dora Milaje women were inspired from the Dahomey Amazons–a female military regiment from Benin during the 19th century. It was inspiring to finally see women being the protectors, and not the ones needing protection.

The connection I felt to the strong female characters and the representation of the African continent made “Black Panther” one of my all time favorite movies. This film has become the perfect platform to show the rest of the world the positive aspects of the continent that I grew up in and love.