The Wakanda is the home of King T’Challa aka Black Panther. It’s an isolated, technologically advanced African nation filled with spiritual and the mystical influences.When creating the world, writer’s wanted to make sure that despite Wakanda magnificent presence the country’s culture was still anchored in the real world with relatable characters to allow the viewers a tangible, yet remarkable experience. In order to accomplish this goal Director Ryan Coogler, brought in Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler.
I WAS INVITED TO AN ALL-EXPENSE PAID TRIP TO LOS ANGELES COURTESY OF DISNEY TO ATTEND THE #BLACKPANTHEREVENT & #ABCTVEVENT IN EXCHANGE FOR MY COVERAGE. NO OTHER COMPENSATION WAS PROVIDED. ALL VIEWS SHARED ARE COMPLETELY MY OWN.
Ruth E Carter is an African American costume designer, for film and television, with over 40 films to her credit and has earned two nominations for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design for her work on the films Malcolm X (1992) directed by Spike Lee, and Amistad (1997) directed by Steven Spielberg.
Hannah Beachler is an African American film production designer and is known for her work on the 2015 Rocky film Creed, and the Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead.
During the Black Panther Event, I had an exclusive opportunity to participate in a roundtable interview where they shared with us how they help visually created the world of Wakanda, below are highlights from our interview.
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Where is Wakanda?
“…It was really about like where is Wakanda in on the continent of Africa because that’s going to then determine everything that goes around.And we kind of set it in sort of eastern sub-Saharan Africa. So, basically you can kind of place it on the border of DRC like right above Burundi and Rwanda. So Kibuye was there, Kenya, Uganda, above Uganda, Sudan. So, that’s sort of where we are. And we also took from Omo Valley tribes in Ethiopia. So you go down a little bit, but we wanted to keep it sub-Saharan. We wanted to keep it very specific. We also — I reached into Western Nigeria, so the people and the Igbo people and their dealing, which you’ll see in the film a lot.”~Hannah Beachler
‘So, I did reach into Nigeria, Lagos. Did a lot of research in Nairobi and the bigger cities around — and Kenya and in South Africa, Joburg, Cape Town just for some of the architecture. And I looked at lotta older architecture.”~Hannah Beachler
What is the topography of the land?
“Next step is where does each tribe live on that land and why? And what is each tribe’s history? So then I go down and dot through each tribes’ history, and like this is why they live here. There is a story and a reason behind every single thing you see on that screen coming from me and coming from Ruth.
Every single tiny, little you know, I’m gettin’ a little bit of chills, because it really is. Like people it’s real. Like if I was go into a like, oh, my gosh. But it is so intentional. And really meaningful and thoughtful and everything that we did from the colors to the every little thing. I think we were in a couple like really personal spaces. And if you look around, you’re gonna see that character. And I think a lot of the process for me was taking big spaces and making them feel intimate.” ~Hannah Beachler
Map of Wakanda
“I was in Hannah’s office sitting across from her like let me see everything. And she said, hey, I’ve got this manual, I did. And it outlines everything. And I open it up and there’s like a map of Wakanda. It has a royal palace in the middle.
It has districts of — that are explained to the hilt. I was like how long did it take you to do this manual? Everything is written out. The Insivity language is in there and you know what it means. So, I bring the manual back to my team and I’m like, everybody, study this. Study this. Study this. I’m not — we are going to call these districts by the names that they made up in the office. I want boards. I want images.” ~ Ruth E Carter
Styling of the residents of Wakanda?
“We were looking at Afropunk. We’re looking at modern fashion. We’re moving everything forward. Everything has to be beautiful. We are not going to lie in any stereotypes at all. Whatsoever. And we wanna this present this world as a kingdom. What if Africa was not colonized?
This is what they would honor. And you see these images of the Himba girl with her leather drape on and her Himba paced all over her skin and her costume, and she’s pushing like a grocery cart in like a little convenience store. This is like a real photo that I saw.
And I thought, wow, this is like really cool how you can mix ancient indigenous tribal culture with modern. We don’t want to make a documentary. This is a futuristic place. This is a place that has the richest mineral known on earth, Vibranium. And, you know, they’re aware of it. They’re aware of their richness. So, let’s just move that forward. Looking at Afropunk, those images that you see on your phone, going through your Instagram, you see that beauty. And that’s some of the beauty that we wanted to infuse. And when you see the Dora Milaje, you see the Maasai tribe, you see the Himba.
The same drape that that girl in the grocery store pushing the cart had in front of her body with the little ringlets on the end of the leather, I put that on the back of the Dora Milaje so that when they walked in the room, Ryan Coogler said I wanna hear them.Can we put stuff on their ankles so that we hear them coming? And hearing them coming on set, I didn’t hear them coming in the — I mean arriving in the movie. But on set you can hear them.
And I felt like the color, we upped the ante on the color. If you go to Africa, you see people walking around with color. You see a brown guy with a yellow shirt and red pants. That’s just the norm. So, we’re not reinventing anything. We’re just bringing it out. And we’re just honoring it and holding it up. So, you know, that’s how we started.” ~ Ruth E Carter
Creating the Boarder Tribe Costumes
“Yeah, and so we did have this vision board. And I had a shopper — we had shop– we all had shoppers, and I had one that was in Africa, in South Africa. I had one in Nigeria. I had a shopper in South Korea. And they were — and I said I wanna see the real thing. I don’t wanna see the tourists’ trade. I gotta see the real Dogon mask. I gotta see the real Himba drapes. I wanna see the real thing so that I could springboard from Lesotho.
… so the Lesotho Village they’re one of the last to be colonized, and so they have held on to their traditions. And one of their traditions is this blanket that was given to them from England. So, you know, it is a kind of a part of the beginnings of their colonization. But there’s this beautiful blanket that the King of Lesotho embraced for his village and was like in the 1800s. So, this blanket represents the Queen. It offer– — they have these different designs that they do, and they’re magnificent. They’re beautiful. “~ Ruth E Carter
Basotho Tribal Blankets
“And the Border Tribe they use these blankets, based on Ryan Coogler’s trip to South Africa and to the Lesotho Village where he stayed — and he fell in love with these blankets. So, he was like, Ruth, you have to get these Lesotho blankets. I was like okay. I’m gonna get ‘em. So, my South Africa shopper went to the company that made them and we got them in in all colors, you know. And then we had to get them all cleared, because they all mean different things. They have meanings as They hold them dear in their nation. So, we camera tested. We had like — I don’t know — 300 of these blankets that the whole army was gonna use. And Ryan said we need to lace them with Vibranium. Now what that means — okay. We need to make sure that they have Vibranium on them. So, we silk-screened the silver patterns that — you see the movie? Okay. So you see they had all those silver elements to them.
So that was all the screening process. Then we camera-tested the blankets. And I got a note from Marvel and from Ryan that the blankets were too thick. And we were like a couple of weeks away from shooting. And we had been developing the Vibranium on these blankets for weeks and weeks and weeks. We had imported these blankets from South Africa. And it was too late to redo our own design on a blank canvas, but I tried. I called every manufacturer known to man, and they were like we need a six-month lead on the blanket.
So, it was nearing Christmas and everyone was, you know, getting ready to leave and go for their Christmas break. And a few of us decided no break for us. We have to stay and figure out how to make 200 blankets that are beautiful more pliable. They were too stiff. The pile was too heavy. They just kind of, you know, just sat on top and sat as opposed to draping on top. And just one of my assistants said you know what. I’m gonna go get a shaver like they use in the barber ” ~ Ruth E Carter