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Black Panther: Unveiling the African Cultures that inspired the film

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever 2022 is currently being premiered in cinemas worldwide! I am certain this movie will come with a nostalgic wave, compelling us to reminisce about the release of the first Black Panther movie in February 2018. What a time it was!

For the first time ever, our race and culture were being heavily uplifted and represented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with an almost entirely black cast, elements from different cultures across the African continent, and black women in powerful and engaging roles.

In as much as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever evokes many positive feelings, the palpable loss of Chadwick Boseman cannot be ignored or forgotten. Two years ago, we lost the first Black Superhero who impacted the black race in the world, and Ryan Coogler did a great job of exploring the grieving process in the sequel.

In memory of Chadwick and to celebrate the sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever simultaneously, let's throw it back and explore the prevalent African Cultures that inspired the art direction of Black Panther.

The Dora Milaje

The Dora Milaje are the powerful female warriors that serve as the protectors of Wakanda, as well as King T’Challa’s bodyguards in the first movie. The Dora Milaje were bold, fierce, and displayed an essence of female empowerment throughout the film.

It is interesting to know that the fictional Dora Milaje warriors were inspired by a real group of African soldiers known as The Agojie. The Agojie were an all-female military regime from the 1600s until the late 1800s in The Kingdom of Dahomey, present-day Benin.

Now let's get into the costumes of the Dora Milaje, which was inspired by the Masai tribe of East Africa. The Masai tribe of East Africa are known for wearing red which represents blood and signifies bravery, courage, and strength. The Dora Milaje, who had their outfits meticulously crafted by award-winning costume designer Ruth Carter were also clad in red uniforms, and their performance showcased its significance.

Another reference to the Masai in the appearance of the Dora Milaje is their bald haircuts. Masai women are known to have short and almost bald haircuts from their childhood. It signifies rites of passage such as circumcision and marriage.

The Basotho Blankets

The Border Tribe in Wakanda were seen to be clothed in beautiful and unique patterned blankets, which had Wakanda Vibranium enhancements for protection. These are distinctive woollen blankets commonly worn by the people in Lesotho and South Africa. It is intriguing to know that these blankets were gifted to King Moshoeshoe by a French Missionary in 1860. He was so astonished that he replaced it with his traditional leopard skin kaross. These blankets come in a range of symbols, and they each have their special significance. For instance, the Basts blanket signifies wealth and fertility. The Moholobela blanket is also worn by men to signify their transition to manhood.

Ruth Carter was very vigilant about how she represented the continent's culture. So she and her team travelled to Lesotho and got permission from the Basotho people before proceeding with the costume design.

The Jabari Tribe

The Jabari Tribe, or the Mountain tribe headed by M'Baku in Black Panther isolated themselves in the mountains due to their disapproval of using Vibranium and technological advancements in Wakanda. They believed in old traditions and, as a result, were opponents to modernized rule. The Jabari tribe is inspired by the Karo tribe of Ethiopia, and the skirts and armed bands worn by them are like that of the Dogon people of Mali.

Also, the staff used by M'Baku during combat with T'Challa in the first film is known as Rungu by the Nguni people from South Africa. It is used for self-protection and hunting animals, and can even be used as a walking stick.

The Karo tribe of Ethiopia

The Dogon people of Mali

Lip Plate

The leader of the River Tribe is seen wearing a lip plate worn by the Mursi people of Ethiopia. The Mursi tribe live in an isolated region in Ethiopia and are one of the last tribes that still wear traditional clothing and accessories. Mursi women are famous for lip plates, which signifies beauty and identity in their tribe.


The South African Isicholo hat is worn by the queen in both Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The Isicholo hat was developed out of a conical hairstyle in the 19th century before it became a removable head piece. The Isicholo hat was originally worn by married Zulu women however it is now a part of traditional Zulu outfits and is worn for ceremonial events.

We hope this was not just informative but also an interesting read! It sure does feel good to be represented and we hope to see more movies that uplift black culture and make an impact to the black race. Anyway, if you have not watched Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, this is your sign to destress and go see it with a friend or two!


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