Singled out as the highest grossing film of 1994, highest grossing animated film, and a box office of close to a billion dollars, the Lion King is supposedly one of the most successful movies in the Hollywood industry. Its characterization of spirituality and the influence of African society has in time appreciated. The Lion King was released on June 15, 1994. Acclaimed for its music, themes, story, and entertaining animation, it has evolved with different meanings and interpretations as to what is understood. This is ranging from political, social, and contemporary world issues and global overview. This article is not to lament the movie but to create a contextual analysis of what is derived from an African perspective.
The movie tells a story of a young and promising lion, Simba, who is to ascend the throne of his father Mufasa as King of the Pride Lands. A twist to the succession occurs when Simba’s paternal uncle Scar murders Mufasa and blamed Simba. Simba was consequently handed in an exile sentence. In summation, Simba would later rebound and launch an offensive to retake what he considers rightfully his.
THE AFRICAN DREAM’S INTERPRETATION
The main characters which are the lions are all light and fair in complexion. The light lion king as seen in the movie excludes the inclusion of the darkly colored hyenas, who he considers to be inferior. This is a representation of colonial Africa.
The hyenas (Africans) became frustrated and desperately wanted to partake in the day-to-day activities of the land. They eventually stood up to the test and ignited a revolution to enface a would-be bleak future considering their wellbeing. They, therefore, elevated a darkly colored lion (Scar) to power who then becomes the lion king.
They (hyenas) started enjoying their rightful share of the land’s wealth and resources. They practically managed and were involved in the total running of the land. What then happens?
It occurred that things started going anticlockwise and static. Problems of hardship crept in and the hyenas who had suffered under the light lions became belligerents towards the darkly colored lion (Scar) forgetting how they were excluded in the past. Sounds familiar right?
To crown it all, the light-colored lion returns and sets the hyena against their leader who was then killed. The lion clinched power this time and returned things to the way they had been. The hyenas went back to retrogression as they lost control of the Pride Lands, leaving them with nothing. Makes no sense yet?
Well, let us dive into historical examples and contexts within the African continent.
So you might have heard of the events surrounding the independence struggle of the Democratic Republic of Congo. A nation small in geography but endowed with resources worth more than 20 trillion dollars. Yet still, they have been poor due to bad governance and exploitation by foreigners who regard themselves as investors. Do you remember King Leopold who stamped his reign on the colony and exacted terror? He exploited Congo into a stupor.
The independence of Congo came at a time when there were different factions initiating attacks within the country. Patrice Eméry Lumumba though raised from a small beginning was a focal voice in the struggle for democracy. He became the country’s first Prime Minister in 1960. He had adopted an ideology of self-determination and wanted the affairs of Congo to be managed by its people. This seemed contrary to the intention of nations like Belgium and the United States who had hoped to benefit from the country’s vast resources. The State Of Katanga which was built by secession was a burden to Lumumba. He had called for the subtle intervention of the United States and Belgium to coil this prevailing threat to peace and uniformity. They however failed to intervene. After appealing to the United Nations, Lumumba opted for assistance from the Soviet Union which at that time had a vendetta with the United States and parts of Europe.
This grew discontent within his government and his Secretary Of State, Joseph-Desiré Mobutu who was an avid opposition to the Soviet Union. He announced on the Radio his motive for machinating a Coup. Concisely, Lumumba and colleagues were apprehended and imprisoned.
The cornerstone of the Congo independence and staunch Pan Africanism herald was assassinated by Mobutu on 17th January 1961. Mobutu would then consolidate his stay in power and milk the country dry. He had strong economic, military, and diplomatic backing from the United States, France, and Belgium who were convinced of healthy relations between themselves. Mobutu in his brutal reign embezzled between $4 billion and $15 billion in total. The people of Congo suffered economic and social setbacks which hampered their development strides.
There is a slight distinction if we are to make a case for the Lion King comparison. This time, the light lion comes in a form of a darkly colored hyena who promoted the interests of the light lions and exploited his own. Nevertheless, it is avidly the same. It is worthy to note that in 2002, Belgium formally apologized for its role in the assassination of Lumumba.
Yes! Thomas Sankara fits into the context of the Lion King. Murdered at a very young and promising age, Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara is one of the most respected leaders to emerge in modern Africa. He is widely acclaimed for his rapid steps to ensure the inherent development of Burkina Faso.
Thomas Sankara became president at the age of 33. He inducted a mindset of self-care and improvement. He was an antagonist to foreign aid and spoke lengthier on the necessity for a nation to feed itself. Though becoming president after a coup d’etat, Sankara was determined to change the face of Upper Volta as it was called. He replaced the luxurious vehicles meant for government with portable and economical ones, initiated the planting of trees to avoid deforestation, and included and gave women more political autonomy and preference to oversee key positions in governance. Oh! It was developed at its finest. Scores of schools and hospitals were built. There was a record of 2 million children who were vaccinated against meningitis, measles, and yellow fever. Sankara himself lived a moderate and humble life for a president owning not many properties with a salary of $450 a month. Till today, Thomas Sankara is considered one of the best presidents in Africa. His leadership style and charisma cannot be overemphasized.
On 15th October 1987, Sankara was killed by an armed group in a coup d’etat organized by his best friend and former colleague Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré’s argument for leading the coup was that Sankara jeopardized and ruined the foreign relations with their colonial master France. Remember, as opposed to the status of quo of begging by African leaders to their colonial masters, Sankara was on a different page. Like Lumumba, France played a role in ridding off Sankara.
Compaoré would then assume office as president and reverse all of Sankara’s policies to zero. He spent a hefty 27 years in governance with little or nothing to applaud. He fled the country after an uprising in 2014 demanding his quittance.
Again the light lions infiltrate and manipulate the intelligence of the hyenas projecting them into killing their own. Like the movie, the light lions who had fled reinvented a plan to launch back and stamp their authority.
The Lion King movie should elope past entertainment with critical lessons learned. Despite scaling through slavery and colonialism, it is worthy to note that we are still under the format. Africa’s thirst for the involvement of the Europeans is a hole we are digging. Our dependence on foreign aid strips us of our dignity and prestige. Like the pride lands, the light lions wait to feast on our carcass. They may need a hyena so they are watchful. They envision their return in a quest to take what they believe is rightfully theirs.
The Lumumba and Sankara examples were done to contextualize the significance of the movie and realize the lessons learned.