Black Panther is a superhero film like no other. Where most Marvel movies introduce us to a superhero, this film welcomes viewers to an entire fictional African country. In artistic terms, it’s beyond anything fans have seen before. It’s a stunning exercise in world-building, revealing Wakanda as almost a character in its own right. Black Panther is so effective because the production crew put a tremendous amount of effort into it. They created a stunning range of sets and costumes, dazzling the eye. Some scenes were filmed exclusively for IMAX screens, making the movie an even more remarkable visual success.
Supporting the theatrical release, Marvel Worldwide has published Black Panther: The Art of the Movie. It’s a beautiful hardcover book, filled with stunning concept art and exclusive interviews with the production crew. Here at Screen Rant, we’ve sifted through this book for the major reveals. It’s time for us to welcome everyone to Wakanda!
This Page: Secrets Of Wakanda
12. Where in the World is Wakanda?
Obviously, Wakanda is in Africa, but nowhere in Black Panther is it shown where exactly the nation is hidden. The art book provides a map of the small, tribal nation, and in doing so confirms that it’s situated on the East African Rift Valley. It shares borders with Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda.
We had actually got a clue towards this in MCU years ago. In 2010, Iron Man 2 dropped a Wakandan Easter egg into the background of Tony’s S.H.I.E.L.D. debrief – one of the organization’s points of interest was in the middle of the African continent, right where its in-universe location ended up being.
11. Wakanda was Unified 10,000 Years Ago
In Black Panther, we get a brief history of Wakanda in the opening of the film, explaining how it became a major deposit of Vibranium, the development of the Heart-Shaped Herb, and how the first Panther, Bashenga, united warring Stone Age tribes. The Black Panther Art Book goes deeper into that past, revealing more details.
The sacred mountain containing the Vibranium is named Mount Bashenga, after Wakanda’s first King. It’s possible that Bashenga himself established the ancient Hall of Kings. Whatever the case, this makes Wakanda the oldest civilization on Earth; while the rest of the world was still in the Stone Age, Wakanda was beginning to explore the mysteries of Vibranium.
Surprisingly, the Vibranium mine itself may be one of the oldest sites in the film. Production Designer Hannah Beachler actually planned out the mine’s entire history. She consulted with mining experts, and worked out how mining in Africa would work outside the context of colonization. The swirling ramp in Shuri’s lab, for example, is actually an ancient drill bit. It was once used to drill into the heart of the mountain. “It could have been 5,000 years ago,” Beachler observed, “and they stopped using that type of mining.”
10. Not Every Black Panther Is King
The Black Panther Prelude comic revealed that T’Challa became Black Panther back in 2008. That fact has surprised and confused some fans, who incorrectly assumed that the Black Panther has to be Wakanda’s king. As The Art of Black Panther clarifies, that’s not necessarily the case.
“While Wakanda’s ruler does not always serve as both Panther and king, it is not unusual for those two people to be one and the same. From the first Black Panther – Bashenga, born 10,000 years ago – to the current incarnation, this tradition has ensured their ciilization’s survival.”
9. The Tribes of Wakanda
The Art of Black Panther includes a section dedicated to each of Wakanda’s tribes, and a map shows where each tribe is based. The various tribes are:
- The Border Tribe, who appear to be simple shepherds and farmers to the rest of the world. In reality, they’re Wakanda’s first line of defense. While most Border tribesmen ride horses, a select few have been chosen by young rhino calves to bond with them. They ride these rhinos into battle.
- The River Tribe, found along the Amanzi Kwakhona Umlambo – the longest river in Wakanda. At the King’s request, the River tribe can shut down the river with Vibranium dams. When designing these costumes, Marvel took inspiration from the Tsamai and Suri tribes in southwestern Ethiopia, and the Wagenia fishermen in the DRC.
- The Mining Tribe, who mine all minerals in Wakanda, not just Vibranium. Their sacred duty is to maintain exacting records of how Vibranium is used.
- The Merchant Tribe, who manufacture and distribute clothing and goods across Wakanda. They were originally two tribes, the Merchant and Artisan tribes, but merged.
- The Jabari Tribe, the only tribe in Wakanda who do not worship Bast. They reject the use of Vibranium, which is associated with Bast, and instead embrace older traditions; they’ve become master carpenters. The design for the Jabari is based on the Karo tribe in Ethiopia and the Dagon tribe in Mali.
The tribal leaders convene in a council chamber, one of the most remarkable sets in the film. It’s designed to evoke the concept of the “circle of life.” Wakandans venerate their history, and as a result the leaders meet atop the ruins of an ancient tribal building. Beachler had the set marked with inscriptions in an old Nigerian language called the Leopard Society, which she found amusing. “Leopard, Black Panther,” she quipped. “It’s the same.”
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