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I didn’t see Black Panther until this month, and seeing the ideal of an uncolonized African country was something else. The techno-utopia is clearly the most advanced Earth nation in the MCU, and will play a major role fighting Thanos and his minions in the Avengers movie coming out this week. We never see precisely where Wakanda is, but during the prologue of BP, it’s made clear it’s somewhere in East Africa, which raises the obvious question: are they talking about Ethiopia here?


Africa after colonization, shaded by occupying European power. White means uncolonized. Credit: Eric Gaba.

After all, other than the special case of Liberia, Ethiopia, aka Abyssnia at that time, was the sole African power not overrun by the European pre-WWI colonization wave — and it’s awfully close to where the movie implied the fictional nation of Wakanda to be. And as with Wakanda in the movie, Westerners think of the real-life nation as just another backwards third-world basket case, when there’s clearly something more going on with the sole African nation, not counting the one with patronage from the United States, that survived the brutal age of pre-WWI colonization with its independence intact.

Not that Europe didn’t try:

“Italian defeat came about after the Battle of Adwa, where the Ethiopian army dealt the heavily outnumbered Italians a decisive blow and forced their retreat back into Eritrea…

This was not the first African victory over Western colonizers, but it was the first time such an indigenous African army put a definitive stop to a colonizing nation’s efforts. According to one historian, “In an age of relentless European expansion, Ethiopia alone had successfully defended its independence.”

Now, the character Black Panther and his country were created by a couple of white dudes in the 1960s, so maybe this is all a coincidence. But some quick googling shows that lots of others made the connection, most of all Ethiopians:

“When I left the cinema, I thought, imagine if I saw this when I was 12,” [Ethiopian lawyer Blen Sahilu] said, noting as well the central debate in the movie between the Black Panther and his nemesis Erik Killmonger about how to respond to the crimes against Africans. “How do you bring about change? The battle between the Black Panther and Killmonger are two different schools of thought about how we respond to imperialism and force.”

Ethiopia did eventually fall to the Italians during the fascist colonization wave of the 1930s-40s, the one that triggered World War II; it should be noted that most of the other victims lay in Europe and Asia. And as with France and Austria, its occupation was relatively brief compared to that of, say, South Africa.

But either way, Ethiopia’s unique history really deserves more mention in the books.