Wakanda as Ethiopia and T’Challa as Menelik II, Black Panther’s Copyright Issues?



Everyone is so infatuated and busy watching and talking about the new superman movie, by Marvel Studios, Black Panther released just few weeks ago. It is one of the most successful screens showing in modern Hollywood history focused on African stories.

Wakanda: The official website describes Wakanda as a fictional East African nation in Black Panther Movie and the New York Times also wrote last week saying ““Black Panther” is a Hollywood movie, and Wakanda is a fictional nation.” The word Wakanda may be a new term created for the movie but there is a Wakanada like country in Africa. It is not fictional unless they want to plagiarize the facts and call it fictional, the story-line and the characters in the movie do happen to copy an existing country in East Africa: Ethiopia.  Ethiopia is a nation in East Africa, which has never been colonized, it defeated colonial Italy in 1896 at the Battle of Adwa. Perhaps to make it a product of his own creativity, the producer places Wakanda as country located between Uganda and Kenya but Ethiopia is a bit far from Uganda and doesn’t share borders.

Another explanation of the fact that the Black Panthers producers are actually depending on Ethiopian history is the use of a character, “the elder of one of the largest tribes in Wakanda” wearing a green suit and a clay disc on his lower lip/lip plating. In the lower Omo Valleys of South Western Ethiopia, girls of the marrying age still cut the lower lip plate a disc shaped clay in it. It is a sign of beauty. The men do not do this but Black Panther has used it for a man.

The movie makers do need to duly acknowledge this and recognize.

Black Panther heavily dwells on Ethiopia in the case of another character too.

An online source describes Wakanda’s government as ” evolved out of Africa’s pre-colonial, tribal councils. The centralised monarchical position of the Black Panther remained largely uncontested by a single dynasty, which has ruled Wakanda since its birth as a civilization. The neighboring tribes each have a seat at the tribal council, in which the Black Panther’s rule is always final.” This description directly is a copy of Ethiopia’s Solomic Daynasty which has ruled with 200 plus successive kings until Emperor Haileselassie was deposed in 1974. The history of pre-colonial of Ethiopia, the isolation and civilization as well as the multi-ethnicity of the country and the representation of these ethnic groups in the centralized monarchy or the army is also probably a copy of Ethiopia’s history until 1974.

The meteoric ore, the Vibranium, an extraterrestrial metal capable of absorbing all sonic vibrations and was worshiped by the Wakandans seems to be an adaption of the Ark of the Covenant, which is believed to be found only in Ethiopia in one location, in Axum, Northern Ethiopia. The replica of it has been taken to battles and especially in 1896 when Ethiopia fought colonialism.

Wakanda is bordered by hills and mountains as Ethiopia is and is isolated as most Western writers often described Ethiopian as an isolated island.

King T’Challa (the “Black Panther” himself): The other character in Black Panther seemingly an adaptation of the history of an Ethiopian king is T’Challa.

Marvel.com describes T’Challa as “a brilliant tactician, strategist, scientist, tracker and a master of all forms of unarmed combat whose unique hybrid fighting style incorporates … T’Challa being a royal descendent of a warrior race is also a master of armed combat, able to use a variety of weapons but prefers unarmed combat. He is a master planner who always thinks several steps ahead and will go to extreme measures to achieve his goals and protect the kingdom of Wakanda.”

There are many aspects and plots of Black Panther’s T’Challa that sound direct adaptations of an Ethiopian King that T’Challa was abduct as a young boy and that he defeated European invaders protecting his country from colonialism. This Emperor is Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II (1844-1913), who was abducted by Emperor Tewodros when he was 11 years old and also is the sole African Emperor, who defeated a European invader at a major colonial battle, Adwa.

Thanks to T’Challa, Wakanda is technologically advanced. In deed, Emperor Menelik II was the first Ethiopian and African King who introduced and adopted the most advanced technologies of the late 19th century to his people and country. Electricity, telegraph, printing press, train, hotel, cinema, schools, hospital and telecommunication, Menelik II technologized Ethiopia even when most African countries did not even have any of them. The first to cycle and drive a car and the most techno-savvy Emperor. Not today’s Ethiopia! T’Challa’s characters are very much of Menelik II’s.

This article by the Voice UK asks who Black Panther is and responds with a bit of an analysis, it is Ethiopian Emperor HaileSelassie.

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?