By Ryan Velez
Modern technology, untouched by colonialism, unfettered pride, it’s no surprise that the world of Wakanda as depicted in Black Panther sounds like a dream for many Black people around the world. While it may not exist, every good story has a hint of truth, and The Grio explains how Ethiopians feel especially proud about the film, seeing their country as a source of inspiration for the concept.
Ethiopia and Wakanda do have one similarity, in that they were never colonized by Europeans, though it was briefly occupied by Italy in 1936. However, Wakanda got past the issue by disguising its resources and riches, while several countries attempted to get a slice of the pie, so to speak, from Ethiopia during the “Scramble for Africa” in the 19th century.
Italy twice attempted to take control of Ethiopia, first in 1896 during the Battle of Adwa, whose anniversary the nation celebrates March 1. During the battle, 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.
Several Ethiopians have taken to social media to point out the similarities. Amongst them is Addis Standard, editor Tsedale Lemma, who flatly stated that Ethiopia is definitely the real-life Wakanda, “minus the techno-utopia.”
“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,” theater manager Elias Abraha told the Washington Post. “It cannot be compared to any other franchise movie we have ever exhibited here.” Operating out of the capital of Addis Ababa, his theater has had sold-out screenings, and he expects to keep this going.
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 acknowledgment of histories as well as copyrights,” the site said. The two even have iconic kings. For Ethiopians, it’s Haile Selassie, who would end up revered as a divine figure in the Rastafarian religion. Selassie also played a crucial political role in the early 20th century.