Several weeks ago, ‘Black Panther’ opened in cinemas across Nairobi and people flooded auditoriums. We called it “the first epic black superhero film”. One that “finally represented our Africa positively…”. Days later, some of us even went back to the cinemas a second time. We dressed in our traditional African fashion, painted our faces as if Marvel had finally given us a license to feel pride in ourselves.
It’s sad that this past month, Kenya’s own super-hero film titled ‘Super Modo’ opened in cinemas and only about 20 people watched it with me this past weekend.
I’m not going to debate which movie is better, that’s up to perspective and taste. But the one thing we cannot deny is that ‘Super Modo’ is blatantly and wholeheartedly KENYAN… it has the one thing that Black Panther does not. And that is CONTEXT. Whilst the miracle land of Wakanda is far, far, far away from our current reality here in Nairobi, the village of Super Modo is where most of us grew up. Whilst the people of Wakanda are poorly adapting accents of African tribes, the actors in Super Modo are purely Kenyan; they speak our language, they look like us, they are not acting, nor pretending, they are depicting a story which we can all relate to.
That begs the question why? Why are we packing cinemas to watch a film that is not ‘ours’ — and does not truly represent us — whilst forsaking the beautiful films which are made in our image? What has happened to us that we would lack so much pride ourselves and what we produce? Why do we put our faith so strongly in that which comes from outside ourselves and not that which is within?
But maybe this is only one facet of a more serious problem. What pillaged us so heavily of our self-love and patriotism that we find solace and comfort in the ideas and stories of the western world and forsake our own?
Why do we hate ourselves?!
But I suppose one could use this premise to question many things that happen in this country, like;
Why are the Chinese building our roads for us… don’t we have engineers here in Kenya?
Why are our youth listening to American Trap Music?
Why are the best schools in the country the ‘white schools’?
Colonialism was bad. But to think it is over and that we are an independent country is just as delusional as believing that Wakanda actually exists. We need to empower ourselves. We need to see pride in who we are. We can’t wait on some fictional Black Panther to show us that we are actually special, powerful, strong and that we have always been superheroes…
Just consider, Black Panther is not the first time ‘We’ — as Africans — have been represented well, it’s just the first time most of us have noticed. We have Kenyan actors giving their lives to tell our stories here at home… it’s time we put our faith and pride in them. Go and watch Super Modo. Trust me.
–Yours Truly (Kimathi Kaumbutho) is a Spoken Word/Poetry writer/performer, and a Hip-Hop artist from Nairobi, Kenya.