African Culture Featured in Black Panther Empowers African Americans and Women | Local

Dressed in a Zulu headband, Xhosa necklace, and Basotho blanket with a Ndebele pin, Veli Thipe entered Forum 8 for a screening of Black Panther. Each prop represented a tribe that was featured in the record-breaking Marvel movie, which hit theaters earlier this month. Thipe is a Fulbright exchange student from South Africa who is completing his PhD in Chemistry at MU. He speaks six languages, one of which was featured in the film.

“I felt like ‘wow’ for the first time,” Thipe said. “Especially with the film of this magnitude, I was surprised that they used any of the South African languages.”

Thipe speaks isiXhosa, the language of clicks. It was a major language spoken by the main characters in the film and is spoken by millions of South Africans, including Daily Show host Trevor Noah.

But for Thipe, it wasn’t just the language that spoke to him. It was also about who had told the story.

“An African story has always been told by a Western narrator,” he said, referring to Hollywood films which often tell the stories of African countries and black experiences.

But Black Panther was different.






Velaphi Thipe stands next to a poster for Black Panther. The pin on his clothes is the motif of the Ndebele culture. Four cultures are represented in his outfit: isiZulu, isiXhosa, Basotho and Ndebele.




Because it was narrated by a black person and featured an all-black cast, it showed a different Africa, an Africa that represented the rich cultures and experiences of the people of the continent, Thipe said. He showed that African countries develop and prosper, which is often missing from Western films. Besides clothing and language, he said the inclusion of African rhythms, rituals and values ​​was important in painting an authentic take on African culture.

He also said that black actors are often not the main storytellers, superheroes, or protagonists in Hollywood movies, which is different in Black Panther.

From the film’s casting to the artists on Kendrick Lamar’s album, there’s the inclusion of South Africans, representations that are rare in mainstream media.

For Thipe, it was stimulating.

“The purpose of the film was to empower black people,” he said. “With a focus on black women. ”

Black women were leaders, warriors, and geniuses in the film – depictions of women that are not historically common. The number one warrior in the film is a black woman played by Danai Gurira, whose parents are from Zimbabwe. The designer of Wakanda’s advanced technologies in the film is Black Panther’s sister, played by Letitia Wright.

MU junior Kelsie Wilkins said that although Black Panther is a male hero, the dominant characters and supporters in the film are black women.

“Women were the backbone of this movie,” she said. “They were the number one people to call.”

She said that not only is this celebrated, but that Black Panther recognizes the role of the women around her in her success.

“(The Black Panther) recognized that as well, which I think is great,” Wilkins said.

High-tech advancements like the absorbent spacesuit and levitating transport are staples of the fictional country of Wakanda. To power this highly developed nation, the country uses vibranium, a powerful and versatile metal.

Thipe spoke about the parallels between the natural resources of African countries such as gold, platinum and diamonds.

He said in the movie that most of the vibranium stays in Wakanda, which allows them to develop the country.

Beyond ticket sales, Black Panther has a cultural impact.

But when the colonizers arrived on the African continent, they took these resources and hampered the development of countries, he said.

“In Wakanda you see the world representing what the African continent would have been without colonization,” Thipe said. “I absolutely loved this movie.”

Thipe said there are significant breakthroughs and developments in African countries today that mainstream American culture ignores and the film is starting to capture. He said the film was able to do this by avoiding an approach to a vision of the narrative.

Wilkins also said it was edifying that people from different industries were trying to shed light on the skills of African countries before colonization. She liked the way the film depicts various voices from Africa.

Wilkins, who is the finance chair of the Legion of Black Collegians, said that as a black student leader on campus, the film pushes her to lead her community in the most authentic way possible by representing a variety of voices.

“We have a lot to offer, which is what is shown in the movie,” Wilkins said.

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