It should come as no surprise that the Afro-futuristic superhero phenomenon known as Black Panther opened to rave reviews in Africa, with many rejoicing in its much exalted and unapologetic celebration of the continent through the fictional nation of Wakanda.
Ethiopians in particular though seem extra proud of the film, feeling that their own country inspired Wakanda, a hidden mountain kingdom that had remained uncolonized in spite of Europeans occupying various nations throughout Africa.
To be fair – they are factually correct about that key similarity.
According to Wikipedia, “Ethiopia was never colonized by a European power, but was occupied by Italians in 1936…however, several colonial powers had interests and designs on Ethiopia in the context of the 19th century “Scramble for Africa.”
Italy twice attempted to take control of Ethiopia, first in 1896 during the Battle of Adwa, whose anniversary the nation celebrates March 1. During that conflict, Emperor Menelik II fended off troops conscripted from neighboring Eritrea. The second time, in 1935, fascist dictator Benito Mussolini attacked the Ethiopians with mustard gas, occupying the nation until 1941 when rebels, along with British troops freed the 2,000 year old monarchy.
While there is no precious metal like the fictitious vibranium to be found in Ethiopia, gold tantalum, phosphorus and iron are crucial to its expanding mining industry, according to its government.
Now a number of Ethiopians have taken to social media to point out the similarities between Wakanda and their homeland. Amongst them is Addis Standard, editor Tsedale Lemma, who flatly stated that Ethiopia is definitely the real life Wakanda, “minus the techno-utopia.”
— Tsedale Lemma (@tselemma) February 18, 2018
It’s been reported that Ethiopian capitol Addis Ababa’s one cinema that shows foreign films has had sold-out screenings since the film premiered there more than a week ago, with theater manager Elias Abraha expecting it to stick around for weeks to come.
“People really liked it because it has connections to the way of life here, and the characters are somewhat related to tribes in Africa; it touches everyone,” he told the Washington Post. “It cannot be compared to any other franchise movie we have ever exhibited here,”
Ethiopian blogging group De Birhan even wrote a lengthy post analyzing the Ethiopian influences on the movie.
“Black Panther is an amalgamation and modification of Ethiopian and other African kingdoms, history, culture and places. It does raise questions about due acknowledgement of histories as well as copyrights,” the site said.