Changing Perspectives or Revisionism?
I wanted to wait to write this entry until after I had seen The Black Panther. I had read of the controversies swirling around the film regarding its competing narratives of "Africa" as a single, unified identity (see this article). Having seen the film I can both affirm it's a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that the ongoing dialogues regarding a true versus fabricated "history" are both fascinating and warranted. The reason I wanted to wait to see this film before writing here was because I have heard similar concerns over the years regarding "Native Americans," articulated perhaps most recently (and rigorously) in 1491. I see an analogous "re-raming" in the long passage wherein the history of colonialism and genocide is re-written as the result of "witchery".
It starts with a group of competing witches:
“Long time ago in the beginning there were no white people in this world there was nothing European. And this world might have gone on like that except for one thing: witchery. This world was already complete even without white people. There was everything including witchery.”
After they show off some competing tricks, one witch in particular begins to tell a story of “ white skin people like the belly of a fish covered with hair.” After a relatively accurate, if stylized, account of the colonization and destruction of the American continents, the tale culminates with the moving passage:
“Set in motion now set in motion To destroy To kill Objects to work for us objects to act for us Performing the witchery for suffering for torment for the still-born the deformed the sterile the dead. Whirling whirling whirling whirling set into motion now set into motion.”
My post today can't offer much in the form of conclusion, but rather, I hope, in the form of questions. Questions like: Why does Silko offer such a shift of agency for the evils that besought the land, animals, and people of the American continents? Why make it the fault of "witchery"? What is gained by such a shift in perspectives? What is lost?