Understanding Wakanda and the Traumas of Colonialism in Africa

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The upcoming Black Panther movie is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. In the Black Panther comics Wakanda is the only African nation to have never been colonized by the European imperialists. Unlike other African nations, Wakanda escaped the brutality and destructive nature of European colonial rule. This, along with Wakanda’s rich natural resources, allowed Wakanda to become the most advanced nation in the world. Wakanda is an interesting look at where African nations could have been had it not been for colonialism, but the reality is that every African nation has been impacted by the negative legacy of colonial domination and this has hindered Africa’s development ever since. The only two African nations to not be colonized were Ethiopia and Liberia, although the Italians were able to conquer and occupy Ethiopia from 1936 until 1941. Liberia was never officially colonized, but Liberia was effectively an American colony.

The period of colonization was a very brutal and destructive one. In the first place, colonial rule was often established through warfare. Throughout the continent Africans fought valiantly, but were ultimately unable to overcome the technological power of the European invaders. Africans were also unprepared for the brutal nature of the European colonizers. In South Africa, for example, the Xhosa people traditionally fought set-piece battles which rarely resulted in massive causalities and were fought away from civilian populations. When the British engaged in combat with the Xhosa people one of the tactics that they engaged in was to attack Xhosa villages, burning kraals and crops. Richard Meinertzhagen, a decorated British soldier, attacked a village in Kenya and “gave orders that every living thing except children should be killed without mercy.” In 2012 three Kenyans were granted the ability to sue the British government over the tortures that they suffered during the colonial period. The tortures that they experienced included beatings, sexual assault, and even castration. In Namibia, which was known at the time as German Southwest Africa, the German colonialists carried out a horrific genocide that took the lives of about 100,000 people. The estimates of those killed in the Belgian dominated Congo range as high as 15 million. And these few examples do not even begin to describe the brutality of European rule.

The traumas that were inflicted by colonial violence continued to adversely impact Africa decades after the end of colonial rule. We see, for example, the dictatorship in Togo still carrying out the torture methods that were handed down by the French colonizers. In Rwanda the German and Belgian colonizers implemented divide and rule tactics that treated the Tutsi as a superior race to the Hutu. The oppressed Hutu population eventually came to resent the Tutsis. This resentment would later result in the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. Nigeria also experienced tribal massacres that would result in a civil war that lasted from 1967 to 1970. Much like Rwanda, this conflict was largely the product of colonial divide and rule policies which favored certain ethnic groups over others.

The thing to be aware about is that Wakanda, being a fictional African nation that never experienced colonialism, is also a nation that has never experienced the traumas of colonial rule, such as the wanton violence and the tortures. In the Black Panther comics one of the reasons why Wakanda is so developed is due to Wakanda’s stability. Colonialism deliberately destabilized Africa and carved Africa up in such a way that many African nations are still struggling to regain their stability long after colonial rule has ended.

Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook.

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