Maybe you’ve been chained at the centre of the earth and the mole-people have been jamming your wifi since you got there, and that’s why you don’t know about the breathtaking Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. If so, I don’t know how you’re hearing this podcast, but my sympathies to you and I’ll try to lower a pitcher of lemonade on a long rope.
But for everyone else, as of February 21, not even a week after opening day, the $200M-budget movie has earned $441 million worldwide. The idea that a completely Africentric science fiction film with a pan-African cast, set in a fictional African country, with no major European stars, and written and directed by Africans, could achieve one of the biggest opening weeks ever was, even a few years ago, unthinkable. You could even say the idea of that success itself was Africentric science fiction. And now, it’s reality.
Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole wrote it, Coogler directed it, and Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright among many others starred in it, and it’s outstanding. Story-wise, in many ways it’s an Africentric Star Wars but set on Earth. The film inspired massive anticipation, far more than I ever would have guessed, and many African movie goers attended wearing gorgeous continental clothing to celebrate and posted their photographs to prove it.
But with so many people expecting so much, including some people who know very little about superheroes and science fiction, it’s inevitable that many people expected this action movie to do things that action movies can’t and shouldn’t do: that is, provide a saintly portrait of perfect people behaving nicely and checking off every box on their personal, political, cultural, and artistic agenda. Lemme tell you: no movie ever will do that, unless it’s two hours of rock-hard dullness.
This is an action movie with a mind, Marvel’s most intellectual, most feminist, and clearly most African. So I sat down at the African Safari Somali restaurant in the neighbourhood of Kush, Edmonton on February 18, 2018, with a group of brilliant and accomplished friends of mine: YA author Natasha Deen, arts organiser Darren Jordan, HIV activist Morenike Olaosebikan, Black Women United co-founder Junetta Jamerson, and Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta David Shepherd, to discuss the movie and its social significance. And let me be clear, our discussion is 100% spoilers.
Today and next week, as a special gift in honour of African History Month, I’m releasing the extended versions of this show absolutely free. Just go to Patreon.com/mfgalaxy to download more than 40 minutes of extended content, no charge. Of course, if you want to support MF GALAXY, please become a sponsor and access all the other bonus content.
A correction—I refer to the Great Djenne Mosque of Mali as being in Timbuktu, but that was silly of me, because of course the Great Djenne Mosque is in, where else, Djenne. Timbuktu is a separate city.
Continuing our programming for Black Panther Month ahead of the local and international review panels for the Marvel blockbuster, we’re delving deeper into historical African martial arts, or HAMA. If you loved the exciting, aspirational vision of a fictional African technostate with its own fighting arts, MF Galaxy is your show to learn about actual combat systems from the continent.
Yes, you know about East Asian martial arts such as Chinese kung fu, Korean tae kwon do, and Japanese judo, but what about Sudanese Nuba wrestling? Or stickfighting from Ancient Egypt called Tahtib or from Zululand called Nguni? Or Madagascari boxing called moraingy?
To discuss those forms and more, I spoke with Mansa Myrie. Originally from Red Deer, Alberta, Myrie is the Chief Operations Officer of the Historical African Martial Arts Association, a new and international organisation whose aim is to promote verifiable information about and practice of historical African fighting arts and warfare.
Myrie spoke with me from his home in Hamilton, Ontario by Skype on January 17, 2018. We discussed:
Along the way, he mentions “the Hamitic hypothesis” and the Hyksos. The Hamitic hypothesis was a 19th century European myth that survives to this day—a European racial esteem fantasy to claim that a range of African civilisations including Ancient Egypt were actually European. The Hyksos, or more properly known by their Ancient Egyptian name Heka Khasut, were non-African invaders from the west and east who at times dominated the country.
Dr. Adel Boulad video
This is Black Panther Month on MF GALAXY and with all the excitement surging about the Marvel movie about the Wakanda super-genius, superhero, super-fighter, the time is right to go beyond fictional African martials arts and discover authentic, deadly African martial arts from across the continent and across history.
Most people in the West think of the phrase “martial arts” as referring to East Asian fighting systems such as kung fu, karate, and tae kwon do, without realising that “martial arts” means any combat system. And certainly every culture in the world produced its own combat systems or its people would have been assimilated or annihilated.
So it really should not be a surprise that the African continent, home to humanity and birthplace of civilisation, should have scores of martials arts, ranging from the wrestling, sword systems, and stick fighting of Ancient Egypt, to the range of West African fighting arts, and that’s where we begin today.
Balogun Ojetade is a fascinating man with a remarkable history. The African-American playwright, filmmaker, and Steamfunk novelist is also a master of martials arts from Yoruba civilisation, an area covering Togo, Benin, and part of Nigeria. He runs the international African Martial Arts Institute whose headquarters are in Atlanta.
The school features a trio of West African systems he groups under the name Egbe Ogun, and seeks to promote African histories and cultures though demonstrations, lectures, workshops, classes, films, plays, and music. Egbe Ogun is a formidable system, and its experts are more than capable of meeting fighters from any other art head-on.
On January 18, 2018 Balogun Ojetade spoke with me by Skype from his home in Atlanta. We discussed:
To hear nearly half-an-hour of patrons-only bonus content from our conversation, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.
By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show including this one with West African martial arts master Balogun Ojetade discussing: