This year’s contest was hugely affected by the worst influenza outbreak in a decade. On the day, three students were still suffering so were unable to compete. This didn’t, however, stop the remaining eleven from showing the school just how good they are.
The beginning was full of nerves as the Level 1 student Reia gave a composed speech on her desire to help children. Level 2’s Sara stepped up and got the crowd energized with her moving speech about chocolate that won her the Special Prize for Best of Level’s 1-3. Sakura, Julie, and Merumo followed Sara’s example to give impressive speeches about giving to charity, identity and euthanasia respectively.
The main competition began with a shift to well researched and details speeches from Wakana (Youth of Today) and Aika (Let’s Share Thank You) that left the audience thinking about themselves and their actions. Level 5’s Ayumi stepped up and delivered a detailed argument about Internet control by non-expert politicians, and how this could affect our lives in the future.
As Level 6 began, expectations were high. This year’s trio of Rikitada, Karin, and Ester are not only excellent communicators in English, but theatrical in their performance. They didn’t disappoint! Rikitada won third for a moving speech about how his friendless childhood has given him the strength to push himself further than he ever knew. Karin delivered a silver medal performance on a controversial topic: tattoos. Her excellent knowledge and thorough research gave many in the audience food for thought, and many of the judges self-doubt about the stance they take on the issue.
Finally, Ester came to the podium to deliver the prize-winning call-to-arms. Her topic was simple, her message loud and clear: the time of Hollywood and the mass media’s racial stereotyping of Africa is over. The arrival of Black Panther in cinemas last year has changed the way Africa, women and the African people are represented on screen. Ester’s arguments were well thought out and almost impeccably delivered, which left the audience in awe of what could be achieved by a KI student.
THE SUPERPOWERS OF A MOVIE
Ester Aika Shiba
I’m sure that everyone in this room has heard at least once the name “Black Panther”. If you haven’t, well you should have because “Black Panther” was one of the most popular movies of 2018. In fact, it officially made over $1billion in less than a month. $1billion! In less than a month! So now you’re probably wondering what’s so amazing about it. Well, the special effects, the costumes and the scenography were quite impressive but that’s not the main reason. It’s the message behind it. Or rather, the important messages towards a society that needs to change its way of representing Africa, women and black people in the media.
So now close your eyes and think about African countries. What comes to mind? Poverty, civil wars, refugees, right? I would not be surprised at all if most of you thought so, since Hollywood and the media have shown the same stereotypical depictions of Africa for years. This ‘hopeless’ representation of Africa has persisted since the late nineteenth century’s era of slavery and colonialism. Africa has been known as the needy “dark continent” characterized by primeval irrationality, tribal anarchy, civil war, political instability, flagrant corruption, incompetent leadership, managerial ineptitude, hunger, famine, starvation and, of course, rampant diseases.
Black Panther, however, poignantly shows the history of colonization; the main reason why African countries are so underdeveloped. Wakanda, a fictional African nation, symbolizes what the African continent would’ve looked like if it hadn’t been for the colonization and tyranny from the European empires. In the movie, Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation in the world and most importantly, the people are strong and fearless. They have wealth, technology and a military and, even though it’s not real, this might scare some people as African countries have always been underestimated.
So now close your eyes again and think about women characters in movies. For a long time, the most popular roles were housewives, queens and princesses. Still today, in a lot of movies women are “supposed” to look good, devote their lives to get the man of their dreams. For example, in a film made in 2009 called “All about Steve” the women look weak and desperate. In Black Panther, however, women are – don’t be surprised – warriors, soldiers and the guardians of the king and the whole country. They are not the ones who need protection but are the ones who provide protection. They represent not only power and strength, but also intelligence and wisdom. In fact, it’s the king’s sister, a brilliant scientist, is the one who invents new technological gadgetsvery day and makes new suits with superpowers for her brother.
So now close your eyes one more time and think about the African characters in movies. They are always the funny guy, the ghetto best friend or the thug villain, right? Not this time though. In fact, Black Panther is the first movie to have a black director and a predominantly black cast that is not a funny comedy but a superhero movie. They are rulers of a kingdom, or investors and creators of advanced technology. T’challa – or more commonly known as Black Panther – has supernatural strength and agility as his main features, but a genius intellect is his best attribute. For the first time, black superheroes have been put at the center as lead characters and this is a big deal. We’re not dealing with black pain, black suffering or black poverty, which are the usual topics of acclaimed movies about the black experience. I mean, how would you feel if you always saw people like you in stupid or poor roles? Would you be happy?
In this movie, representation is extremely important. It’s all about what people couldn’t see for a long time. It’s hard for non-white people to watch television and find people that look nothing like themselves. So, for the new generation being able to see themselves in position of power, royalty, and strength, with powerful women, strong and smart characters is very important and making movies like this is part of showing that they matter. Black Panther explores issues of identity, culture and heritage, and of who you are. Black Panther is the opportunity to change, to change the way we think and to open our minds and hearts to a more equal world, where black people have the same rights as white people and women are not just housewives. This is not just a movie about a black superhero; it’s very much a black movie. It carries the weight that neither Thor nor Captain America could lift: serving a black audience that has long gone underrepresented and showing that they matter.