Yess finally... it seemed like it took forever. I enthusiastically awaited the drop of this movie ever since it was announced. The thrill grew even more after the official trailer was released thanks to the visuals of the wardrobe. Heyyy when you have a background in Anthropology, a lover of Africa, her plethora of culture, her countless contribution to our colorful manner of expression through fashion/style (regardless if the rest of the world chooses to give her credit or not), lover of Africans home / abroad and most importantly an AFRICAN, you can't blame ME... you shouldn't.
So we've been entertained and awakened by the amazingness that is BLACK PANTHER ... numbers don't lie !! I have been itching to write my review on the film but for some reason I feel like I haven't gotten all the gist, symbolism and overall theme that was presented in the movie. I have viewed it three times and each time, I discovered something completely new. I had the privilege to attend the APOLLO in conversation with Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o and the incredible author Ta Nehisi Coates. There is definitely a lot to unpack. Let's see how much I can unpack in this record breaking marvel movie without a SPOILER. Here we go!
Can we talk about the black diversity that was not only evident in the casts but the accents and wardrobe ( I choose not to say costume BECAUSE PUT SOME RESPECT ON AUTHENTIC AFRICAN CLOTH... people actually wear these things. While I'm at it can we put an end to that term GARB ... THANK YOU !! I was actually screaming haha! but seriously though words we use to describe our cultures matters) Back to the diasporic diversity of the casts.
Chadwick Boseman / Tchalla, Micheal B. Jordan / Eric Killmonger, Angela Bassett / Ramonda Forest Whitaker / Zuri, and Sterling K. Brown / N'jobu are all from the United States. Lupita Nyong'o / Nakia (Kenyan born in Mexico, Danai Gurira / Okoye (Zimbabwean born in the US), Daniel Kaluuya / W'Kabi (Ugandan born in the UK), Florence Kasumba / Ayo (German and Uganda), John Kani and Atandwa Kani / Older and Younger T'Chaka respectively (Father and Son yeah you guessed right. South Africa), Isaach De Bankole (Côte D'ivoire), Winston Duke / M'Baku (Trinidad & Tobago), and Letitia Wright / Shuri (Guyana). Can you imagine !?!!
So can we talk about the accents guys? Oh that Jabari bark haha!! He had that Nigerian accent down packed. I was an excited Nigerian when he hollered "We will not have it OO" because our sentence isn't finished unless there's an "OOO" stressed at the end of it hahahah! Oh another favorite was the scene where he cuts into the whole mushy moment between Tchalla, Nakia Queen mother and Shuri with "Are you done ? " if that's not a typical Nigerian parent hahaha! T'Challa's and Zuri's accent were obviously South African Accent. The back and forth between English and Xhosa language was beautiful. It's really beautiful to see this diversity in accent because I've had questions like "why is your accent different from so and so ? I am pretty sure some first generation immigrants can relate to this. A Kenyan or Senegalese can't have the same accent... just like you have the southern draw or the northern which are accents by the way. Similarly, people from the same country for instance Cameroon can't have identical accents. In the movie, only one form of Khoisan language out of about 30 ( not including the other hundreds of languages excluding dialects) was used for this movie. Now imagine the plethora of accents if you were to meet each person that speaks these languages.
There were a bunch of favorite scenes but the scene that is ingrained in my mind will have to be the waterfall scene...challenge day! I must have been slicing onions in the theater... okay I CRIED! I got emotional to finally see a Hollywood film depicting the beautiful array of the continent's authentic traditional cloths, cultural practices ( lip plate, African wrestling et cetera), Showing that Africa is not a monolith. Our global narrative has been one of poverty; the wealth and beauty is seldomly seen. It was an emotional and a prideful movie experience. Let me make it clear that I don't need a nod from Hollywood to see the beauty of home and culture nonetheless it was amazing to see home reimagined beautifully on screen.
A big hand clap to Ruth Carter and her costume design team for doing their research... great work. I did observe some folks mention that having knowledge of how some of these traditional clothes, they had a problem with how these wardrobes were mixed up. Coming from someone (me) that does have knowledge of how some of these are worn but will also re imagine a gele (Nigerian hair scarf) worn in some other fashion. Perhaps, that was afrofuturistic approach by the team. It's also interesting that the film looks futuristic but it draws specifically from ancient African cultures and practices. I say Wardrobe team did an amazing job. Let us explore some of the cultural pieces and nuances that I observed.
Above are some of the nuances that I picked up from the fictional Wakanda and below are the Real countries and tribes from where these are a way of life. First is the Kaftan worn by Tchalla It is commonly worn through out West Africa but it is a Senegalese attire. Kaftan means robe in Wolof which is the language to a group of people on Senegal. Second is Agbada worn by Zuri. Agbada is a robe which is worn by much of West Africa and North Africa. Agbada is a Yoruba word for this form of robe usually made with a hand woven and hand dyed cotton. Third is the Ndebele neck ring. The South Ndebele people of South Africa wear the necks ring as a sign of wealth and status. Only married women are allowed to wear the neck ring and not removed until husbands death. Fourth is the hat known as Isicholo worn by Zulu women. This traditional hat began as hairstyle morphed into a wig and finally a hat. I also observed the colors that were worn by Ramona were either black or white. These colors are mourning colors in some tribes in the continent. Fifthly, is the Himba women of Namibia and finally the Basotho blanket. Basotho blanket is a woolen blanket worn by the Sotho people of South Africa.
Image:: Courtesy of MCU
The first thing that hits me off the bat was the art of storytelling. The movie introduces us to Wakanda by the beautiful narration by Sterling K Brown's character to his son N'Jadaka. I was automatically transported to one my fond memories of a distant uncle that lived with us when we were kids. I always looked forward to the folk tales. Africans being rooted in oral cultures and traditions have revered good stories and story tellers. Ancient writing traditions do exist on the continent, but most Africans are primarily oral people. A couple of these ancient writing traditions present in the movie was the Adinkra and Nsibidi. Adinkra is a visual symbols that gets its origin from Gyaman a medieval Akan people state (present Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire). In the past. Adinkra symbols were hand printed on undyed, red, dark or handwoven cotton fabric depending on the occasion and the wearer's role. Similarly, in Wakanda different symbols are inscribed on the cloths depending on their roles and their tribes. It can also be seen on the kimoyo beads. It's essentially the form of communication in Shuri's lab. It was drawn on Shuri's undercut. Last year I did something similar to my undercut but with Nsibidi (image below) . Nsibidi is an ancient writing tradition indigenous to the southeast region of Nigeria. Similarly to Adinkra, the nsibidi symbols are inscribed in cloths, pottery, painted on walls. As seen in the film, symbols were also tatted with vibrainium in the mouths of Wakandans which brings me to the next piece of detail... Take a guess while you enjoy the images below showing the Adinkra and Nsibidi references.
Did you guess right? Scarification and body mutilation Yeah!! I do remember getting into an argument with an African on this subject. I believe someone had asked " would you marry a woman with tats ? " and his answer was no because tattoos are "unafrican" I was like "huh? come again" No sir it's very much African!! It might not be widely practiced lately but that doesn't make it Unafrican or whatever that word is. For crying out loud my late grand mother had a tat and I have come across women in her age group who had tattoos. It begs to question how much of our history and identity has been wiped out due to colonialism? what were we before the colonizer told us who we were? While you ponder on those questions, below are some images of real scarification.
In the past, a woman or man would have scarification marks that would distinguish her or him from anyone else based on ranks, clan, family, tribe and even symbolize beauty or strength. It was practically a form of identity and a major aesthetic or cultural component as can be seen in the numbers of "taken" artifacts/sculptures in museums in Europe and America. Oh that was pointed out in one of my favorite quotes in the film. I can't remember verbatim but it was something to the fact that the artifacts were stolen.
Architecture!!! The Wakanda architecture was modeled off of the Dogon people of Mali. Best known for their architecture amongst other things.
I might write all year if I list every detail and nuances presented in this film so I will save that for the discussions and conversations that will be had as a result of this story created by the mastermind Ryan Coogler. So Last but definitely not the least will be the Pan Africanism displayed in this film. There is so much to celebrate about this film. However, what I found most unprecedenting was that it deals with issues concerning the Black diaspora. This movie connects the struggles of Africans in the continent and African descendants globally under the same system of oppression and offers the notion of working together to fight against it. This film is not just great because black kids can see themselves in these fictional characters but because it may spark my generation and this generation of black youth in Africa, Caribbean, US of A, Latin America. and elsewhere to see themselves in each other. SAWUBONA. I FU N'ANYA!!
As always it's been a pleasure cracking the brain going back to undergrad classes of Anthropology hahaha! Until next time BeYoutiful!! hit me with comments below. While I prep to see the Avengers Infinity war. Finally!! 10 years later Marvel! I am definitely not writing a think piece on this one.