PK Note: I forgot I wrote this, but it’s included in Captain America and Whiteness: The Dilemma of the Superhero , published in August of 2011. It discusses Wakanda and the Black Panther, long before the dream of a film on the African King had come to fruition.
Even though Stephen Hawking can’t find a Black Albert Einstein living in Africa; even though 98 of the 108 patents granted in all of Africa came from white people living in South Africa; even though not one invention of significant importance can be attributed to an African; even though immense resources have been mined by European, American, and Chinese companies, where the indigenous Africans can’t conceive of usages for them; even though all of the aforementioned is true, Marvel Comics decided that the nation with the most advanced technology would set in the mythical African nation of Wakanda, protected by the Black Panther.
Though the only Nobel Awards given to those of African descent have come in either peace or literature, Marvel expects us to believe that the most advanced technological society on earth is in Africa.
Wikipedia tells us:
Wakanda is a fictional nation in the Marvel Universe. It is the most prominent of several fictional African nations in the Marvel Universe. Wakanda is located in Northeastern Africa, although its exact location has varied throughout the nation’s publication history: some sources place Wakanda in East Africa, just north of Tanzania, while others such as Marvel Atlas #2 – show it bordering Lake Turkana, near Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia (as well as fictional countries like Azania, Canaan and Narobia). Wakanda first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966), and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The name is evocative of the Wakamba tribe of Kenya.
Marvel would have us believe that a continent, where the overwhelmingly majority of innovation is originating from white South African s, could produce an ancient land called Wakanda that harbors one of the most advanced civilizations in the world.
At this point it would be wise to reproduce an article from a 2002 issue of National Geographic that discusses the breadth of African innovation. That article showed a bunch of Africans standing on a dilapidated bridge built by Europeans for the famous Ethiopian Emperor Fasilides more than 300 years prior. Influenced by this picture Ken Frantz, a white Virginian who was in the construction and building industry, decided to found Bridges to Prosperity to help rebuild this collapsed European bridge in the heart of Africa; a task that Africans were incapable of doing.
Here is that article which discusses Ken’s inspiration to found the group:
Ken Frantz decided to fix an Ethiopian bridge because, he says, “I’m a boy, and boys love bridges.”Happily, this “boy” owns a construction company.
Ken, 52, was waiting for mechanics to service a truck in his hometown of Gloucester, Virginia, when he picked up the December 2000 Geographic. He saw a photo of Ethiopians being hauled on a rope across the Blue Nile- a 360-year-old bridge that had been destroyed during the Italian occupation of 1935-1941. “I looked at the photo once, twice, three times,” Ken recalls, “and it came to me: What I want to do is repair that bridge.”
Ken helped launch Bridge to Prosperity, dedicated to building bridges to help create wealth in developing nations. The group surveyed the site, won backing from tribal elders, and chose a lightweight steel design. Donkeys toted in 25,000 pounds of supplies, and Ken, his crew, and Ethiopian volunteers rebuilt the bride in ten days at a cost of $108,000, largely donated by the organization’s founders.
“Half a million people live near the bridge,” he says. “Now they can trade, get to hospitals and schools on the other side, and see family they haven’t seen for years.” Ken’s group has also built cableways in Nepal, a suspension bridge in Indonesia, and a second Ethiopian bridge.”
Why did it take a white guy in America, galvanized by a desire to help those less fortunate, to help build a rebuild a destroyed bridge? Frantz explained further:
“It was built in 1640, approximately, by a very famous emperor, Fasil. And he was just a building maniac.”
Emperor Fasil’s bridge spurred a flourishing trade route. But as people chopped down trees in this area, erosion increased – and so did flooding. Increased flooding undermined the bridge.
“So it was constantly being washed out. Until it got the name the Sebara Dildiy. Sebara Dildiy in Amharic means broken bridge.”
In 1936, Ethiopian nationalists destroyed the Sebara Dildiy on purpose, to slow Mussolini’s invasion during World War II. Makeshift repairs using logs held the bridge together until the mid-1950s.
After that, travelers and their livestock could only cross the river on a tattered rope, pulled by ten men on either side of the river.Nine years ago, Ken Frantz saw a photograph of this precarious scene in National Geographic and decided to fix the broken bridge. He assembled a team to repair Sebara Dildiy in 2002 using steel beams that were painstakingly carried down and assembled on site. But THAT bridge didn’t last. A flood destroyed it in 2006. That’s why Frantz and his team have returned to Ethiopia – to try again.This time, they’ve taken on a more ambitious project: A new, cable suspension bridge, much longer and higher off the river. But not everything would go as planned.
“All right, tell everyone, higher one is coming from the inside…”
Bridges to Prosperity’s director of operations Avery Bang supervised final preparations. She found a few surprises. Her group had trained a young Ethiopian engineer to oversee construction of steel and concrete anchors on opposite walls of the canyon.
These would secure the cables. But the location of the anchors was different from what the plans had called for.
“The excavation was supposed to be further back and deeper. What are you going to do? You have to redesign.”
So the team revamped the way the cables would be cemented into the anchors. The pace of work picked up after all six cables had been hauled into place. On one side of the river, workers began winching the cables tight.
The cables slowly rose in a gently drooping arch between the canyon walls. On the other side, workers sawed wooden planks for the walkway. Ken Frantz and two of his brothers nailed the planks in place.
They were halfway across the span, 80 feet above the river, when calamity struck. A stone pillar that anchored one of the handrails rocked, then tipped, then tumbled down the steep hillside. Ken Frantz’s brother Forrest later recalled the tense moment.
“We looked up, looked out across the river, and it’s pretty far away – it’s hard to see the details, what’s going across the river – but you could see the tower collapse. The cable dropped, hit the ground, and a cloud of dust came up. The next thing we heard was horrifying. And that was the sound of things dropping into the river. We could not see through the dust. We didn’t know what was falling into the river. We did not know if it was rocks or if it was people.”
Why didn’t the Wakandians build the bridge for them? You see, in the real world, American engineers motivated by altruism – such as Ken Frantz – build Africa’s infrastructure for them; or Chinese companies – motivated by profit, expansion and cultivating resources the African population can’t cultivate on their own – perform this task.
Sadly the best aviators and airplanes aren’t built in Wakanda either:
Deaths on commercial aircraft worldwide rose 15 percent last year while the overall accident rate involving Western-built jets fell to an all-time low.
Those figures were released Wednesday by the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for the world’s airlines.
The group said 786 people died in 23 separate accidents last year, up from 685 deaths in 18 fatal crashes in 2009. The figures include all kinds of jets and turboprops operated on commercial flights but don’t include private or military aircraft.
There were no fatalities involving U.S. airlines last year. The most recent fatal accident involving a U.S. airline was the February 2009 crash of a Continental Connection flight near Buffalo, N.Y., in which 50 people died.
Accident rates were lowest in the former Soviet republics and North America, followed by North Asia and Europe. Rates were higher than the world average in the Asia-Pacific region, Middle East-North Africa and Latin America-Caribbean.
The highest rate was in Africa. IATA said African airlines accounted for 2 percent of worldwide passenger traffic but 23 percent of serious accidents.
Regrettably, Wakanda (or for that any of Africa, save white South Africa) can be seen illuminated from the vantage of space. Consult these NASA images available at ( http://geology.com/articles/satellite-photo-earth-at-night.shtml ).
While the United States and all of Europe, with parts of Russia, Asia, Australia, and South America, can be seen to have beings of intelligence capable of producing electricity, the heart of Africa is dark from space.
Why isn’t Wakanda illuminated?
Probably because, like it’s protector the Black Panther, the nation is a figment of Marvel writer’s imaginations. Yes, the leader of Wakanda is named the Black Panther, and in the comics he routinely battles members of the KKK, radical white Afrikaners, and other assorted white supremacists and international enemies attempting to steal Wakanda’s technological secrets.
In the early 1990s, popular movie franchises like Superman (four movies starring Christopher Reeve) had already been made; two Tim Burton Batman films (starting Michael Keaton); and three hilariously bad Marvel films (1989’s Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren, 1990’s Captain America , and a Fantastic Four movie that never saw a theater or VHS release); not to mention a live-action Dick Tracy , The Shadow , and The Phantom films – all staring white guys – were on the verge of being released.
Wesley Snipes, who would portray the Black vampire Blade in three films, wanted to bring Wakanda and its protector, The Black Panther, to life. He told the St. Petersburg Times in 2010 :
Snipes said in August 1993, “We have a wide-open field for comic book characters on the big screen and we’ve yet to have a major black comic book hero on the screen. Especially the Black Panther, which is such a rich, interesting life. It’s a dream come true to originate something that nobody’s ever seen before.”
As of yet, tales of Wakandian lore have yet to reach the cinema, but such an event can only be around the corner. Marvel is trying to option all of their major or minor heroes into films – to generate more and more revenue – and the tales of the Black Panther fighting for the honor of the technological advanced citizens of Wakanda will make a great addition to the stories of Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, and Captain America.
Even though Stephen Hawking can’t find a black Einstein in Africa, Marvel Comics can help draw up some historically inaccurate self-esteem for the few black readers of comics by creating Wakanda.