Wakanda Forever Indeed!
We were dancing, we were singing, we were shouting, ululating in the cinema. It was lit.
The entire audience drew in a collective deep breath when Atandwa Kani appeared on stage and can we please talk about Shuri and the Dora Milaje?
Here’s a lowdown of some of the African influences in the national black film of the year, Black Panther:
The African Influences In Black Panther Design
The Dora Milaje
The Dora Milaje, did indeed exist. They were the Dahomey or Min, which in the local language means “our mothers”. There are the closest thing we have to real-life Wonder Women. They were all female warriors in what we now know as Benin and they were legally married to the King. By the end of the 19th Century, there were thousands of Dahomey warriors, with girls as young as eight years old, being rigorously trained for battle.
The Border tribe (W’kabi’s people)
The Border Tribe who wear blankets (called seanamerana in Sesotho) and ride on horses, also represent another Southern African tribe – the Basotho people who occupy the mountainous region of Lesotho. These blankets are incredibly expensive, otherwise, I’d definitely get one (if you randomly feel the need to send one for my birthday, that would be great!).
The Royal Council and The Elders
This is probably the greatest amalgamation of various cultures. The Elder wearing green from the River Tribe represents the Surma Tribes of Ethiopia and East Africa.
Connie Chiume plays one of the female elders in the film. Her red-tinged hair (called otjize, which is a combination of butter, fat and red clay) represents the ovaHimba people of Namibia and Angola. The clay is used cosmetically and protects the women from the harsh climate. Their hair is as long as the extensions they use (!) The red earthy tones of the Dora Milaje are also possibly inspired by the same tribe.
The Red ochre floor in the Royal Court looks like it’s made of the same clay.
The Queen Mother’s Head Gear
This is Nguni headgear (isicholo/inhloko) worn by married women during religious and cultural ceremonies – Women in South Africa, Malawi and Zambia. Mam’ Angela Basset looks like a Queen wearing it!
T’Challa wears a West-African-like Kaftan. This slim-fitting, tailored style is more in line with the modern trends.
What’s good, T’Challa and crew?
The African Masks
These intricate masks look similar to Igbo masks (Mgbedike in Nigeria) as well as Dogon masks (East Africa). They also look similar to some masks in Southern Africa worn by the Mbunda people of Zambia and Angola during cultural rituals. These masks are meant to emphasize the masculinity of men, the wildness of the owner. These featured in the scene where Killmonger famously said, “How do you think your ancestors got them? They stole them, like they did everything else!”
Suri, the shaman/sangoma/spiritual leader of Wakanda
Suri and his assistant wear West African/North African Agbada. These are the long flowing robes with many layers.
Then There’s the Touareg-Inspired Headwear.
The Touareg are a nomadic people who inhabit North and West Africa. They travel long distances in the heat, and wear heat resistant cotton to keep cool. The Oscar-nominated Malian film Timbuktu (2015) focuses on the lives of Touareg men in Mali. According to the senior designer, Ruth Carter, the Touareg also inspired the intricately woven metal work and jewellery that features in the film.
The Dora Milaje (the all female warriors who flank T’Challa)
General Okoye and her goddesses borrow from the Ndebele (South Africa) andSamburu and Masaai people (Kenya and Tanzania) in terms of the neck pieces, the arm bracelets, the beaded breastplates, the symmetry of the armour and colours. The designer has also cited his own Filipino culture as inspiration.
The African Architecture
The architecture in the innercity is also borrows from the geometric designs made famous by the Ndebele people of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The River Ceremony
Once T’Challa is crowned king, the river ceremony that takes place is directly influenced by the Kuomboka ceremony of the Barotse Kingdom of Zambia and Namibia. The Barotse are also known as the Lozi people.
It’s definitely the year of the Panther!
Have you seen the movie? Let us know which character was your favourite or tell us about your favourite scene in the comments below.
This article was originally published on Quora.