Black Panther’s Costume Designer Pulled Influences From All Over Africa

HERO. LEGEND. QUEEN of costume design. Ruth E. Carter is an Oscar-nominated, African-American costume designer who was in charge of the upcoming Black Panther film and she drew gorgeous designs from actual African roots.

During an interview with Elle magazine, she explained, “I’m looking at the whole continent and a wide range of people, like the Masai and the Suri. It all becomes a part of the framework of Wakanda. Most people who read the comic books know Wakanda is a mountainous area; it’s a secret place that’s not necessarily trading and interacting with the rest of the world. They’re a little bit more advanced in technology than other civilizations. We are creating that world, and trying to create a culture and pride that feels authentic to the specific location.”

She looked at Maasai’s red garments that Nakia wears (played by Lupita Nyong’o), from southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The color’s and patterns seem to pull from women’s clothing from that region.

The large lip plates from Ethiopia are common among the Surma and Mursi people in Ethiopia. Though they are normally worn by women 6 to 12 months before marriage. The initial piercing is a simple wooden peg. After the wound heals, the peg is replaced with a slightly bigger one. The reasoning behind the man’s suit could have been explained in the designer’s thoughts about protests and appearances.

“There’s always a part of black culture that is well groomed and they take pride in their appearance. The ’60s were a time when everyone, black and white, wore suits, even when they were in protest. You see those pictures of Martin Luther King and the protest marches. People are dressed.”

Basotho tribal blanket (Seanamarena) in Lesotho can be traced back to the European traders and missionaries as far back as the 1800s. A blanket was presented to King Moshoeshoe I in 1860 by Mr. Howel. The King was by all accounts quite taken with the blanket and wore the blanket in preference to his then neglected traditional leopard skin karosses. The blanket becomes part of not only their everyday life but as a status symbol.

While working on the design she drew from the comics first. “It all becomes a part of the framework of Wakanda. Most people who read the comic books know Wakanda is a mountainous area; it’s a secret place that’s not necessarily trading and interacting with the rest of the world. They’re a little bit more advanced in technology than other civilizations. We are creating that world, and trying to create a culture and pride that feels authentic to the specific location.”

Black Panther release date is February 16, 2018.

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