“Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.” — Shuri
Upon hearing those words, during my second viewing of Black Panther on opening weekend, I had a thought: Shuri is a Web Chef!
If you haven’t seen the Black Panther movie yet, you’ll probably just want to stop here, close this tab and buy a movie ticket right now. You don’t want to miss this cultural moment, and this blog post will have the whole plot and some of it’s best moments spoiled.
The Way of the Wakandan Web Chef
Within Four Kitchens, we live by a set of values known as The Way of the Web Chef. It is a set of principles that remind us of who we are and guide the work that we do. When we see someone who is living those values, they stand out. Shuri stands out to me as someone who lives those values.
Be transparent, generous, and humble. Shuri is a legitimate genius, the smartest person in her entire universe, and a royal princess to boot. Yet she doesn’t come off as a pompous jerk. She’s down to earth, humorous, and relatable. Her dialogue is peppered with puns and memes. And everyone knows, Web Chefs cook up puns with the best of them. However, her humility wasn’t mealy-mouthed or self-defeating. She was confident in her abilities and was never afraid to use what she knew to help others.
Take the initiative and own the outcome. Who was responsible for all the technological advances for the entire kingdom of Wakanda? The one and only Shuri. The Wakandan Kingdom thrives because of its cache of a valuable and versatile natural resource, vibranium. Instead of making a single shield (looking at you Captain America), Shuri melded the magical mineral into a variety of uses. She took a platform agnostic wonder resource and used it to power Wakanda’s mass transit, harnessed its healing properties, and create a cadre of ferocious weapons.
Empathize. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Shuri appeared to empathize with her brother. She understood his lovesick weakness for Nakia — and gently teased him about it. She understood Agent Ross’ inability to fly a Wakandan style plane and developed an American style remote plane for him to fly. She embraced outsiders and repaired their bodies and minds with the magic of science.
Always improve. Support and Continuous Improvement were Shuri’s cornerstone. Even after designing a whole vibranium laced suit, she kept improving it even though it was working well and serving its purpose. She recognized potential pain points through observation and feedback and built a better mousetrap.
Embrace open source. Traditionally, Wakandans are isolationist and not at all into sharing with the outside world. However as the film closed, a new day was dawning. By the end of the film, Shuri was tasked with leading the charge of extending the technology she developed in Wakanda with students across the globe from her home in Oakland, CA.
In a moment of crisis the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams. —Nigerian proverb
Wherever open source solutions exist, they serve as bridges where knowledge can be exchanged in both directions.
Reel to Real
While Shuri, vibranium, and Wakanda are unfortunately fictional, I’m grateful that the story exists as an aspirational metaphor for what could someday be possible. School children’s imaginations are being stimulated and who knows what solutions will grow in their minds because of it. This Afrofuturistic work of fiction gives us all a glimpse of an alternative reality and expands our horizon for what might be possible. We are all richer for having characters like Shuri, Wakanda’s Web Chef, to watch and model.