The Various African Cultures That Inspired the Beautiful ‘Black Panther’ Costumes

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Black Panther Cast
Marvel/Walt Disney

“Black Panther” recently made it’s big debut in movie theaters pulling in a whopping $242M in four days of its release and making it the top-grossing film with a predominately Black cast according to ‘Forbes’.

As Black fans showed up and showed out with their African inspired ensembles, “Black Panther” costume designer Ruth E. Carter gave the deets on the different cultures and designs that inspired the stunning costume worn by the cast members.

Igbo Masks

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Michael B. Jordan who plays the character “Eric Killmonger” wears a mask in the movie which was inspired by the Igbo tribe and known as a ‘Mgbedike’. The masks are typically worn when something is being celebrated such as Igbo ceremonies and rituals (birth, death, weddings,etc.). They’re usually large in size and display striking masculine features.

Isicholos

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The character Queen Ramonda who’s played by actress Angela Bassett wears a unique Zulu headdress in the film. It’s redolent of the Zulu flared hats known as “Isicholos”. The headdresses are worn by married Zulu women of South Africa for traditional and religious ceremonies.

Basotho Blanket

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“Get Out” star Daniel Kaluuya wears a Basotho Blanket around his neck in several scenes along with his other co-stars within the fictional Border Tribe. The blankets originate from the Lesotho tribe who come from southern Africa. The blankets are usually worn for ceremonial use and are cultural symbols of a nation.

Dahomey Amazons

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The Black female warriors in the movie aka the Dora Milaje warriors were inspired by the real-life “Dahomey Amazons”. The African female army was a military regiment with swift, ruthless, and incredible fighting abilities. Many of the costumes also display distinct and futuristic ornamentation and were made to emulate the styles of the Masai people of East Africa (Southern Kenya & Northern Tanzania).

Lip Plates

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The characters in the film wear lip disks which are a form of ceremonial body modification. The two main cultures that are best known for this tradition are the Surma and Mursi tribes in Ethiopia. The women wear it as a symbol of female maturity, a sign that she’s reached child-bearing age. It’s also to make sure she is not mistaken for a member of neighboring rival.

Ndebele Neck Rings

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The Shuri and Dora Milaje female warriors wore costumes with an eminent collar known as a Ndebele Neck Ring. They stem from the South Ndebele tribe of Zimbabwe/South Africa. The Ndebele people wear the neck rings as traditional dress attire. It is a symbol of wealth and status.

The Agbada

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The spiritual leader shaman Zuri of Wakanda played by actor Forrest Whitaker wore an ornate flowing robe known as an Agbada in the movie. The wide-sleeved robe is quite popular, worn by men and women of West and North Africa.

Himba Tribe

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During scenes of “Black Panther” certain costumes were made of distinctive red earthy clay. Ruth E. Carter studied the colors used by the Himba tribe of north-western Namibia. The Himba people are known for applying a red type of paste or clay to their hair and skin. The paste is known as “otjize”. Otjize protects them from the desert climate and cleanses their skin and hair.

Other African Inspirations

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Carter’s immaculate costume designs concocted a mix of many African cultures. The large scarfs worn in the movie to cover the different characters head and face wear inspired by the “Tuareg” tribe located in North and West Africa. The “Kananga” masks in the film were inspired by the “Dogon” tribe who reside in the central plateau region of Mali, West Africa. Other costume inspirations like the different color beads and jewelry were taken from the Turkana tribe in Kenya.

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