There is no denying that Black Panther is a great movie, probably the best ever to come out of Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has shattered box office records and is now the third highest-grossing film of all time. Classic!
One of the reasons why the movie is dear to us as Nigerians is the opening scene, which portrayed the abduction of the Chibok girls at the Sambisa Forest, and how King T’Challa came to their rescue. It was indeed a beautiful scene to watch. Not only that, one of the strongest female warriors was named “Okoye”, a popular Nigerian name, from the Igbo cultural extract! This explains why Africans rocked their native attires to watch this movie.
Black Panther is in many ways a love letter to black culture. Africa has traditionally been an unsophisticated bit player in American media, often portrayed as backward, savage, and chaotic in everything, from news coverage to films. It’s a portrayal that has left little room for other interpretations, which is why Black Panther’s vision of Wakanda as a bustling metropolis of vibranium-powered futuristic skyscrapers, racing trains, and soaring spaceships feels so refreshing. The movie really expressed the African culture from the language, the costume, props, songs and everything!
Here are some of the African tribes and cultures featured in Black Panther.
In one of the early scenes in the movie, Killmonger visits a London museum for a heist, during which he steals a menacing long-horned mask complete with a mane. It appears to have drawn inspiration from Mgbedike, a relic of Igbo origins in southeast Nigeria. Mgbedike translates as “time of the brave” and is used during local rituals. While there are various versions, the masks typically depict aggression with features such as horns and bared teeth.
Towards the end of the movie, King T’Challa is seen wearing a Kente scarf, the fabric which has its origins in Akan, in Ghana’s Ashanti region, where it was first woven with raffia fibers. Ancient Kente mythology suggests that the idea for weaving Kente was developed based on a spider’s web. Even though Kente has become widely worn, it was initially only reserved for royals and for special occasions.
A tribe of warriors disguised as simple farmers protect Wakanda’s borders. Their most distinctive costume features are the blanket cloaks they wear, the traditional gear of the Basotho people. In Lesotho, a mountainous country surrounded by South Africa which gets snow in the winter, the Basotho blanket holds deep significance.
Ova Himba, Namibia
One of the elders in Wakanda wears the distinctive locks of ova Himba women. Sculpted in otjize paste, made of butter, fat, red ochre and scented with herbal aromatics, ovaHimba plait or twist their hair into thick locks, often leaving ends to puff. Living in the unforgiving desert climate of northern Namibia, ovaHimba also protect their skin with the red-brown otjize paste.
Zulu, South Africa
Angela Basset as Queen Mother Ramonda makes an entrance with a large disc head dress. In most of her scenes she wears a smaller version of the hat, which is borrowed from Zulu culture. The “Isicolo” is a hat worn by married women, which was traditionally shaped from grass fronds, with cotton woven through. Their sizes and colors differ between clans.
Talking about cultures from South Africa, the language spoken in Wakanda is "Xhosa" a South African Language. Wowzers!
Surma and Mursi, Ethiopia
Lip plates or disks are a form of ceremonial body modification that was used in the movie. Women from the Mursi tribe in southwestern Ethiopia are particularly notable for this practice because it’s believed to make their women more attractive. Their women’s beauty is determined by how large their lip plate is. Women mostly make use of the lip plates but in the movie, a man used it.
There you have it! The African culture to the ends of the world, thanks to movies like Black Panther. We hope that a whole lot more movies are centered on the beauty that is in the African culture. Wakanda Forever!