Benin, Nigeria

In the same London museum scene, Michael B. Jordan inquiries about bronze heads on display. The bronze heads are popularly known to be from the ancient Benin Kingdom in Nigeria’s south. Even though they remain in production in Edo, many ancient samples plundered in the late 1800s remain on display in Western museums. Indeed, there have been campaigns for the repatriation of some of the artifacts. In one instance in 2016, “Okukor,” a Benin bronze cockerel, was removed from a Cambridge University following protests by students. The repatriation of African art is prominent in the scene as Jordan’s character, which is portrayed as being strongly anti-colonial throughout the movie, accused the museum officials of theft.

Mursi, Ethiopia

One of the most distinctive cultures apparent in Black Panther is a lip plate worn by a Wakandan elder in the throne room. Lip plates are drawn from the culture of the Mursi in Ethiopia and are also seen among Chai and Tirma, for whom it is a source of pride and also identity. While the lip plate in the movie is worn by a man, the lip plates are typically worn by women. In the Mursi culture, teenage girls have their lower lips cut to allow for the lip-plate. Until the wound heals, the cut is held open by a wooden plug after which the opening is stretched further by inserting larger plates overtime.

Kente, Ghana

Towards the end of the movie, King T’Challa, is seen  wearing a Kente scarf, the fabric which has its origins in Akan, in Ghana’s Ashanti region, where it was first woven with raffia fibers. Ancient Kente mythology suggests that the idea for weaving Kente was developed based on a spider’s web. Even though Kente has become widely worn, it was initially only reserved for royals and for special occasions.

Tuareg, Algeria/Mali/Niger

Carter often drew inspiration from several tribes to build for one character’s costume. She told Vanity Fair that the beading techniques of intricate Tuareg jewelry were a “jumping-off point” in designing clothes for everyday Wakandans. Tuareg jewelry often combines jade, amber and other stones with handcrafted silver, each piece carrying its own meaning. The hand of this nomadic desert tribe can also be seen in the draping of the priestesses.

A Tuareg band
A Tuareg band
Image: Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.