There is no way that you’re living on planet earth and by now, you don’t know the history that Black Panther is currently making. I got to take the family to see the film on Friday and it was just as amazing as the first time, if not more. I was able to pick up on more things and hear more lines that I missed the first time around.
The Wakanda culture is real, and it comes alive on screen in large part due to these two women we got to sit down and chat with.
I got to really focus in on the culture and the colors that jumped out of the screen. I paid attention to a lot of the things that were pointed out after interviewing Hannah Beachler and Ruth E. Carter. We got to sit down with them during the Black Panther Event.
Hannah is the Production Designer and Ruth is the Costume Designer. They make one heck of a dream team. Check out our interview below.
Hannah and Ruth clicked right away. Hannah shared that she remembered when Ryan first introduced her to Ruth and she was so excited. They were supposed to be interviewing but ended up just talking about Ryan’s suit for his wedding.
They both had a good feeling that they were in the right place and the right space. And although Ruth wasn’t 100% certain she was joining the team, she was so grateful and happy when they made their decision.
Hannah shared it was such an honor for her because she was very familiar with Ruth’s work. She knew the right decision was made and that they were in good hands.
Hannah shares how the location of Wakanda came to be
Hannah was on the team first as the Production designer (usually hired after the Director on films). She knew that Ryan was doing the film as it had already been announced. So it was a no-brainer when he asked her to come on board. She shared that he was really good at guiding her, starting at the macro.
The first mission was to figure out: where on the continent of Africa, is Wakanda? The answer to this question was going to determine everything else that goes on.
So they set the nation of Wakanda in the eastern sub-Saharan Africa. “You can place it on the border of DRC, right above Burundi and Rwanda. Kibuye was there, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan. We also took from Omo Valley tribes in Ethiopia. We wanted to keep it very specific. I also reached into Western Nigeria, which you’ll see in the film.”
The research into developing Wakanda
Being that my family is from Uganda (and my mom was born in Rwanda but spent her formative years in Uganda), I was fascinated by the amount of research that went into the authenticity of the film.
Hannah shared that she also reached into Lagos, Nigeria. She did a lot of research in Nairobi and the bigger cities around (in Kenya, South Africa, Johannesburg, Capetown) for some architecture inspiration. She looked at a lot of old architecture. That’s where the research started.
Once they figured out where Wakanda was located, they then needed to figure out where each tribe lived on that land and why? They needed to understand the story and history of each tribe.
They drilled down on questions like What is the topography of the land? Then on to going in and dotting through each tribes’ history to understand why they live there.
“There is a story and a reason behind every single thing you see on that screen coming from me and coming from Ruth,” said Hannah.
“Everything we did from the colors to every other little detail was intentional, meaningful and thoughtful. If you look around, you’re going to see character. A lot of the process for me was taking big spaces and making them feel intimate.”
She shared that’s how the continent felt to her when she was there. Even though she would be in giant spaces, there was an intimacy that came from the culture and the people. That’s where everything started and how she developed her research.
Ruth shares her first glimpse of Wakanda
By the time she joined the team, Ruth shared that the “ship had already left the station.” She shared that she had to start by being a really good listener & getting into everything that had been done up unto that point.
Ruth shared with us that she was sitting in Hannah’s office across from her and asked her to see everything. So Hannah tells her that she’s got a manual that outlines everything. When Ruth opened it up, it literally was a map of Wakanda with a royal palace in the middle.
Absolutely everything was written out…including districts. She wondered how long it had taken to create this manual? But she immediately took it back to her team and told them to study it. Ruth told them they were going to call these districts by their names. She wanted to see boards and images.
“We were looking at Afropunk. We were looking at modern fashion. We’re moving everything forward because everything has to be beautiful. We are not going to tie in any stereotypes at all, whatsoever. We want to present this world as a Kingdom. What if Africa was never colonized?”
Bringing culture and color into Wakdanda costume design
Ruth spoke to us about the ideas to mix ancient indigenous tribal culture with modern.
This is a place that has the richest mineral known on earth, Vibranium. And Wakandans are aware of their richness. We wanted to infuse that beauty. When you see the Dora Milaje, you see the Maasai tribe (Kenya), you see the Himba (northern Namibia).
Even when it came to the costumes, there was no stone left unturned. Simple details like putting noisemakers on their ankles so you could hear the Dora Milaje enter the room. They wanted to take the color up even more. Africans breathe color. Seriously, I don’t think they believe in the word mismatch. The more color, the better. It’s normal.
Ruth said they didn’t have to reinvent anything, they just had to bring it out. They wanted to honor and hold it up.
Hannah then filled us in on the ginormous floor that held everything from seamstresses to leather workers, to jewelry to metal workers. All in one place. It was unlike anything she had seen before (or we had heard before). They had separate rooms for everything.
Authenticity to the next level
Not only were these countries visited, and the people of their tribes researched, but even down the to the fabrics used, they were direct from the continent. Ruth spoke about how she had shoppers in South Africa, Nigeria, and South Korea.
The vibranium capes that W’Kabi and the Border Tribe used were from the Lesotho tribe in South Africa. The Lesotho Village was one of the last to be colonized, and because of that, held on to their traditions. One of those traditions is this blanket that was given to them from England, as Ruth explained to us. This blanket represents the Queen and it was embraced for his village by the King of Lesotho in the 1800’s.
Ryan Coogler took a trip to South Africa and stayed in the Lesotho Village. He fell in love with these blankets. So he told Ruth that he had to get these blankets and use them. They all have different colors and meanings and are held dear in their nation. Ruth and the team had to test these blankets on camera (they had a good 300 of them).
They almost ended up not being able to use them because they looked to be too think for the camera. At the 11th hour, Ruth and her team were able to figure out a workaround in order to thin the blankets out and still use them for shooting. The blankets needed to be more pliable. Somehow, they figured out that they needed to separate the synthetic fibers from the cotton. They worked some serious magic y’all. Amazing!
I adored chatting with these two incredible women. They are the real deal and truly have a gift and passion for what they do. Everyone sees it when they watch the film. I’ve already seen it twice and plan to see it again, especially in 3D. Thank you, Ruth and Hannah, for all you did to bring culture, color, and authenticity to Black Panther!
About Marvel’s Black Panther
Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.
Check Marvel Studio’s Black Panther – Warriors of Wakanda:
In case you missed any of my previous Black Panther Posts:
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Black Panther is out in theaters EVERYWHERE! Check your local listings for times and to purchase tickets.
This trip to LA to cover the Black Panther premiere was sponsored by Disney. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.