African Culture Through Black Panther

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Marvel’s Black Panther screening was characterised by pomp and color. Fans wore traditional African shirts, dresses, headwraps and colorful beads. This they said, was a way to celebrate their heritage through a movie, in a way they had never seen before.

In this post, we focus on the African cultures portrayed in Black Panther.

  • Ramonda, The Queen Mother: Zulu Hat

Traditional, Zulu Hats, or ‘Isicholos’ were worn by married Zulu women during religious and cultural ceremonies.
In Black Panther, we see the Queen wearing this hat as she welcomes her son T’Challa, back home and during the ceremonial challenge for the throne.

A traditional Zulu woman in a head wrap, vis a vis Queen Ramonda, Black Panther

  • The Border Tribe: Basotho Blankets

The Basotho Blankets were worn by the people of Lesotho. Traditionally, the Basotho blankets were manufactured from wool, to offer protection from wind and rain. Metaphorically, in the movie, it is the Border Tribe who protect and man the Wakandan borders. To W’Kabi and his army, the blankets hide their weapons while doubling as shields because of the Vibranium woven in them.

Traditionally, the Basotho blankets have pin stripes. When worn in the traditional manner, the stripes run vertically symbolising growth. W’Kabi and his warriors also have blankets that have Wakandan strips running across them. Note that it is W’Kabi who challenged King T’Challa to grow; to do better than the kings before him.

Basotho blankets in Black Panther vis a vis traditional Basotho Blankets

  • Elder of the River Tribe: Clay Lip Plate

The lip plate is worn by the people of southern Ethiopia, mostly the Mursi and Surma. It is worn as a sign as a social and economic importance. Kindly note that these tribes live by the Omo River.
In the movie, we see the Elder of the River Tribe praising what might possibly be a River God, before the ritual battle takes place at the river. Perfect plotting from the directors if you ask me.

 

  • Mining Tribe: Red Ochre

The Himba Tribe in Namibia are known for covering themselves in ochre to cleanse their skin and protect themselves from extremely hot and dry climate. Their hair is also covered in otjize (red ochre). Gents will only have one plait while ladies will have many hair plaits.
In the movie, we can see their elder’s hair in several plaits covered in ochre. Her tribe, The Mining Tribe, has their bodies covered in ochre. To protect their skin as they mine Vibranium maybe? We don’t know. Just a speculation.

  • Dora Milaje: Neck Pieces

These badass female warriors in Black Panther, led by Okoye, represent a world which accepts their femininity and humanity and where their natural beauty and intelligence is normal. Okoye and her soldiers wear neck rings similar to those of the Ndebele people. To the Ndebele, these rings were a sign of wealth and status. Notably, since Okoye is the General, her neck ring is gold in color while the rest of the army has silver ones.

It is said that the Dora Milaje are a kin to the Dahomey Amazons. These badass women always fought to death. It took the French Foreign Legion, heavily armed elite troops with machine guns, 23 battles to defeat the Amazons. Now you get why Okoye was ready to fight her love for Wakanda.

I’m here wishing Black Panther had a food scene. Would have loved to see what authentic African dish gives the Wakandans such a glow.

WAKANDA FOREVER!

(Images courtesy of Marvel Studios and Wiki Media)

 

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