Give the Black Girl the Remote: Decolonising and Depatriarchalising1 Knowledge and Art in Black Panther and Colour Me Melanin

Decolonising Speculative Fiction

Keywords: Black Panther, Colour Me Melanin, decolonising, depatriarchalising, Wakanda, tribalism


This article explores two texts set in Africa to determine to what extent they exhibit decolonial and anti-patriarchal impulses. They are Ryan Coogler’s 2018 film, Black Panther, and the adult colouring book, Colour Me Melanin (Kekana 2019), which features 27 portraits of African women paired with 27 poems inspiring pride in women’s African heritage. Black Panther features a Black superhero: the hypermasculine T’Challa, although its technological genius is not T’Challa (the eponymous Black Panther), but his sister Shuri, disparaged by traditionalists in Wakanda as ‘a child’. Despite her irreverent and iconoclastic approach to tradition, sixteen-year-old Shuri is ‘the smartest person in the world, smarter than Tony Stark [Iron Man]’ (Malik 2023). Despite these promising features, the film’s portrayal of Shuri – a Black girl nerd who is manifestly her brother’s equal in the arts of war and technology – stops short of a complete depatriarchalisation of the norm that reserves superhero status for men. Further, Black Panther contains a number of concerning representations that reinforce, rather than disrupting, the colonial view of Africa. Colour Me Melanin may be called speculative fiction in that it points to a future that is yet to come as it shifts the locus of women’s beauty away from whiteness and places it firmly in the domain of Black African women’s embodiment. All the same, some aspects of this multimodal text signal its affinity for colonial taxonomies and ways of thinking about ethnicity.