The excitement that surrounded Black Panther’s international premiere enveloped Barbados on Wednesday night, as the Commission for Pan African Affairs and the Cultural Policy and Research Section of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports held a private screening of the film at the Olympus Theatre in celebration of African Awareness Month.
Moviegoers arrived on the “black carpet” dressed as African nobles in brightly coloured prints, including some who wore traditional headdress and garb. The stirring sounds of the drums, played by the Haynesville Youth Group, welcomed patrons as they entered the venue.
Addressing the gathering, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Stephen Lashley pointed out that the screening was taking place as the United Nations commemorates the third year of the international decade for people of African descent.
He also acknowledged that the film highlights issues of race, identity and imperialism that plagued people of African descent.
“This movie premiere and this event are . . . not only highly relevant for us in the predominately African descendent nation, but it is also timely . . . [and] much needed at this time where there appears to be a resurgence of voices across the globe that seem to promote racial hatred,” he said.
“[It] provides an opportunity for discourse for all of us on issues of Africa, issues of identity, issues of race, issues of cultural diversity, imperialism, colonialism, the cultural industries’ vision and interpretations of global Africans – past, present and the future,” Lashley added.
Following the 135-minute movie, the minister also applauded the cast for their acting skills and for their attempts to raise black consciousness.
“[There is] quite a lot we have to do in terms of developing ourselves [and that] has to do with how confident we are and we have a responsibility to reinforce that consciousness and confidence lies in our ancestry,” Lashley said.
Chief Cultural Officer of the National Cultural Foundation Andrea Wells also said: “It is just wonderful to be in a movie where we are seeing images of ourselves on screen and ourselves larger than life and mythologized but still wonderful because you don’t see that very often.
“There were lots of respectful references to our history, a fair demonstration of the reality of why Africa today is so stripped and so often at war with itself and a lot of good lessons I think for how hard it is . . . to maintain unity even if you had it for hundreds of years and how easy it is to break apart,” she added.