Everything South Africans can look forward to when they see Black Panther

Afro-futurism, Gqom, politics and all the elements of home 

By  | Jun 22, 2020, 01:45 PM  | Top of The

Everything South Africans can look forward to when they see Black Panther
An African hero who looks like us, sounds like us (sort of) and behaves in the same manner we do is finally a reality and the world is waiting on tenterhooks to see the vision come to life - none more so than South Africa. I can confidently say we feel a special connection to this film as it features a lot of elements from a place we proudly call home.

From the minute the film, it’s cast and director were announced, the world has been watching. South Africa took a particular interest in the film when the character (T’Challa) first appeared in the Captain America: Civil War film with a South African (John Kani) playing the role of his father (T’Chaka - the original Black Panther).

In the years since that first happened, more South Africans were added to the project, both as part of the cast and the official soundtrack and come 16 February 2018, you will all hopefully get to fall in love with the film the way I did.

Check out a few of my highlights (and lowlights):

1. The accents

black panther
Supplied: Marvel Studios

I’m just going to come right out and say it: they. are. SO. bad!

I don’t know about the rest of you but when it comes to actors of African descent playing the role of an African character, I do manage my expectations about their accents because there are so many variations across the continent, it is hard to master certain accents and stick to one.

Hollywood has however, picked a few stock accents for films that actors often tend to switch between throughout the film, as was the case with Black Panther. Whenever the American and British actors spoke English, the tonal inflection of their accents went from Kenya, to South Africa to Nigeria to Zimbabwe and back to Kenya…

And do not get me started on the Xhosa!

Xhosa is a beautiful language with a very poetic cadence when it is spoken and the beauty of all languages really is the power carried in HOW something is said that gives the message that much more meaning. With that said, you can tell the cast is trying SO HARD to do justice to the language dubbed as Wakanda’s official language but they just can’t.

Any South African will agree with me once they hear it.

However, Marvel should keep the accents, which will hopefully get better with time should they give us the sequel we so desperately want.

2. The costumes

black panther
Supplied: Marvel Studios

There is nothing bad that can be said about the costumes picked for the film - from T’Challa’s sandals and the Dora Milaje’s gear, to the Wakanda’n border army’s Lesotho-inspired regalia, the costumes worn in the film are a nod to the many faces and places of our continent over a number of years and across a number of cultures.

Done in any other way, it would have felt gimmicky but the film’s official costume designer, Ruth E. Carter did the damn thing!

Although Carter has worked mainly on biopics of iconic individuals on films such as “Selma,” “Malcolm X” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” the Oscar-nominee says she feels as though she has been dressing superheroes all her life so she was prepared for what this film required of her.

The main theme for the film is Afro-futurism meets royalty and there was never a moment when this didn’t come across in the costumes.

Speaking to AM Newyork, Carter explained the influences they drew upon for the film, saying “what we examined were all the things that we liked: Nigerian embroidery, Maasai beads, the Suri tribe and the way that they used leaves and decorate themselves with paint.” They also looked Senegal’s Himba and Turkana tribes for inspiration. 

South Africa also features prominently in the costume design and this can be seen in items such as Queen Ramonda’s (Angela Bassett) crown which Carter confirmed was inspired by the hat married Zulu women wear.

black panther blankets
Supplied and aranda.co.za

In the pre-production stages, Carter also wanted to incorporate traditional Lesotho designs into the film's costuming… So she and the film's crew traveled to Lesotho and got permission from the Basotho people before moving forward. So if you see the prices of traditional Basotho seanamarena blankets sky-rocket in the coming months, you will know why.

Speaking of costumes, Carter also stated that it is an absolute must that everyone dresses up when they go see the film, even if it is just to add a touch of Africa to their outfits, so do the right thing.  

3. The underlying themes

black panther
Supplied: Marvel Studios

I don’t even know where to begin with these… There are just so many!

As mentioned above, Afro-futurism and the vision of what Africa could have (read: would have been) had it not been interrupted by colonialism and imperialism lay at the forefront of it all but beneath these themes are more themes; themeception. With topics such as gender parity (a scientifically adept 16-year-old girl, the Dora Milaje and the presence of women at the upper echelons of Wakanda’s politics), Ubuntu, family, leadership crises and a sense of belonging, the audience will find something to relate to in one way or another.

The themes are presented in such a nuanced way that one has to see the film more than once just to really appreciate and understand it all.

Lastly, it goes without saying that there is no question about the quality of the film, it’s a Marvel project for crying out loud and Ryan Coogler (whose past credits include Creed and Fruitvale Station) is at the head of it all. In addition to all the aforementioned, there is enough action to keep everybody’s pulse racing until the very last scene and it all plays out with a seamless soundtrack that alternates between the bass heavy beats of Gqom and hip hop music and the moving notes of some beautifully layered classical music.

P.S.: If you get to the end of the film, you are undoubtedly a Marvel fan now and as a day one Marvel fan, it is my duty to induct you. When the movie ends, DO NOT LEAVE right away! There are two post-credit scenes that give hints as to what lays ahead for future Marvel films, namely (hopefully) a sequel to Black Panther and the upcoming Captain America film. Only after that can you go forth and tell the world how great this film was and that they should all go see it and talk about it for weeks afterwards.

Main image credit: Supplied by Marvel Studios