Black Panther African Culture Influences

We are still in the month of February, yet we officially have our best Fantasy/Sci-Fi film of the year. If you guessed Marvel’s Black Panther Film you are absolutely right.

Not only is it the first Marvel film to feature an all-black cast, it also showed a different Africa, one that represented the rich cultures and experiences of the people of the continent something we hardly see in Western Movies.

Here’s a list of all the unique African Cultures showcased in the Black Panther Film.

Wakanda must have been a fictional location but it is totally based on real African Cultures and places. The costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, production designer, Hannah Beachler and film director, Ryan Coogler; took it upon themselves to truly showcase the rich cultures of Africa. The costumes, language, set design, props and even hairstyles were inspired by one African culture or the other.

If you haven’t seen the movie there are plenty spoilers ahead.

We share with you some of the rich African Cultures that influenced the clothing, hairstyles, accessories, jewellery and language in Marvel’s Black Panther Film.

  • Clothing
  1. Seana Marena from South Africa:

According to Wikepdia; The Basotho blanket (Seana Marena) is a distinctive form of woollen tribal blanket traditionally worn by Sotho people and unique to the Kingdom of Lesotho. Originally gifted to the then ruler King Moshoeshoe by a British man known only as “Mr Howell” in the late 19th Century, these blankets quickly gained popularity in the Lesotho region.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
L to R: T’Challs/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya)
Ph: Film Frame
©Marvel Studios 2018

Black Panther African Culture Influences

In several scenes, W‘Kabi played by Daniel Kaluuya and other casts are shown wearing Basotho blankets around their necks.

Black Panther African Culture Influences2. Maasai People of Kenya, East Africa:
For the Dora Milaje costume, a team of women who serve as special forces for the fictional African nation of Wakanda, Ruth Carter drew inspiration from the Maasai people of Kenya.

3. Dogon people of Mali, West Africa: 

The costumes for M’baku, played by Winston Duke, and the rest of fictional Jabari tribe were inspired by the Dogon people of Mali.

black panther african culture influences

4. Senegal, West Africa


When he’s not fighting topless or sporting his Black Panther suit, T’challa played by Chadwick Boseman is often seen wearing an embroidered Kaftan similar to the ones popularly worn by Senegalese men. The Kaftan is popular in other West African countries.

  • Accessories

5. Surma and Mursi people of Ethiopia, East Africa.

The lip plate used as a form of body modification by the Mursi and Surma women of Ethiopia was spotted on one of the Black Panther film actors, Isaach de Bankole whose character plays the role of  River Tribe Elder.

Black Panther African Culture Influences

Black Panther African Culture Influences

6. Zulu tribe, South Africa

Queen Ramonda’s flared shaped hat as seen in the Black Panther film was inspired by the traditional Zulu married woman’s hat which is known as the isicholo.

Black Panther African Culture Influences

MARVEL’S BLACK PANTHER – Matt Kennedy © 2017 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

7. Ndebele people of South Africa

The neck rings worn by the Dora Milaje was also influenced by the South Ndebele people of South Africa. These neck rings are part of their traditional dress and they also serve as a status symbol among the married women.

Black Panther African Culture Influences

Black Panther African Culture Influences

8. Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa

Shaman Zuri, the spiritual leader of Wakanda, played by Forest Whitaker wears ornate flowing robes known as an Agbada. The Agbada is one of the names for a flowing wide-sleeved robe worn by men in much of West Africa and North Africa.  The name “Agbada” originates from the Yoruba language, predominantly spoken in Western Nigeria by the Yoruba people.

Black Panther African Culture Influences

9. Himba tribe of Namibia and Angola

Many of the costumes worn in the movie have a distinctive red earthy tone. This was done in recognition of the colors used by the Himba people of north-western Namibia and Angola. One of the elders is also seen sporting the traditional Himba hairstyle.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER.Mining Tribe Elder (Connie Chiume)… Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

According to Wikipedia; the Himba women especially, as well as Himba men, are remarkably famous for covering themselves with otjize paste, a cosmetic mixture of butterfat and ochre pigment, to cleanse the skin over long periods due to water scarcity and protect themselves from the extremely hot and dry climate of the Kaokoland as well as against mosquito insect bites.

The cosmetic mixture, often perfumed with the aromatic resin of the omuzumba shrub, gives their skin and hair plaits a distinctive orange or red-tinge characteristic, as well as texture and style.

 Otjize is considered foremost a highly desirable aesthetic beauty cosmetic, symbolizing earth’s rich red color and blood the essence of life, and is consistent with the OvaHimba ideal of beauty.[

  • Hairstyles

10. Bantu knots and braided hair –  Nakia’s “Wakandan knots” and Shuri’s braids are similar to hairstyles common among African women and people of African descent.

  • African Language

13. Nsibidi Language – In several scenes in the movie, “Wakandan” text appears on the screen and is inscribed on the walls in T’Challa’s throne room. In reality, though, the script draws inspiration from Nsibidi; an ancient Nigerian language which dates as far back as the 4th century, with origins in modern-day Cross River in southeastern Nigeria.

Find out how Black Panther production designer, Hannah Beachler revamped this 400-year-old language in this article by IndieWire.

The isiXhosa language spoken by an ethnic group in South Africa was adopted as the official language of Wakanda

  • African inspired Art

13. Ndebele Wall Art: In some scenes, in the film, we see wall art synonymous to that of the Ndebele tribe of South Africa.

The Ndebele are famous for their colourful geometric mud-house wall paintings.

14. Body scarification and face paint: Although it is said that the markings on Erik Killmonger’s skin, played by Michael B.Jordan, represents the number of people he has murdered, it also mirrors traditional scarification; a permanent form of body modification present in several African cultures.

black panther african culture influences

Black Panther Movie African InfluencesScarification has been used widely used by many West African tribes to mark important life stages; such as puberty and marriage. Several other actors were also seen with different artistic face paintings popular in several African cultures.

Other African tribes whose influences were seen in the movie are; the Turkana people in East Africa, Hemba people in Congo, Suri tribe in Ethiopia, Igbo and Benin people in Nigeria and Tuareg people in western and northern Africa. 

For more African culture influences as seen in the Black Panther Fim check out these posts here, here and here.

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Photo Credit – Google Images