South Africa is a nation rich with beautiful landscapes, culture and a wide diversity of languages. From Xhosa to Zulu, the South African languages are unique. So unique that they form the ideal base for fantastical films such as the hit Marvel production Black Panther.
In fact, the lingually authentic Black Panther became so popular that it amassed worldwide sales of over $1.3 billion– securing Black Panther’s global position as the 5th highest-grossing film in the Marvel franchise.
But what is the secret behind Black Panther’s success?
Wakanda – a technologically advanced African Nation
Audiences across the globe seemed to be enthralled by the idea of an African nation boasting of unimaginable technological advances and rightly so. With futuristic medical treatments and transportation methods, Wakandan’s seemed to be reaping in the benefits of a highly sophisticated society. Add in the fact that the core element found in the area- Vibranium – has superpower qualities- and you’ve got the making of a superb film.
Black Panther himself
T’Challa, or Black Panther, the superhero of this superb smash-hit. Black Panther is played by actor Chadwick Boseman. However, audiences seem to have taken a stronger liking to the character Black Panther as he is a modern 21st-century man who has a well-rounded approach to masculinity.
Rather than portray T’Challa or the Black Panther as an aloof and singular minded super-hero, director Ryan Coogler has showcased the hero of this story as a collaborative and sensitive individual. One who values the advice of his family and surrounds himself with a strong female support system. A sister who invents mind-blowing creations and a tribe of female warriors who protect the nation.
As mentioned afore- the women of this Marvel story are awe-inspiring. One may argue that they even overshadow Black Panther with their intelligence, power and loyalty to their nation. Rather than engage in a struggle for power, the heroines of this tale (for they are more than simply by-characters) are to be praised.
Black Panther’s strong female cast were evidently instrumental in helping Black Panther stand out from rivals and from other Marvel films.
So with South Africa celebrating Women’s month this August, it seems to be the perfect time to pay heed to the leading ladies of Black Panther and look into the key role they play as defenders of Wakanda.
Lupita Nyong’o, who stars as Nakia, brilliantly portrays herself as someone who stands up for her opinions. Rather than simply accept her ‘role’ as the future Queen, she is adamant in fulfilling her duties to her county and people.
Throughout the film, we are enlightened about the work performed by Nakia, from smuggling the Queen out of the country, to trying to stop the atrocities of the Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Then there’s the role played by T’Challa’s sister, Shuri. Letitia Wright as Shuri acts as the perfect model for women and girls alike, a woman who can and does reach for new heights. Mastering new technologies and scientific advancements with ease, Shuri showcases the intellectual strength of women. It’s clear to see- that despite the absence of a warrior costume- Shuri still wins her own battles by annihilating stereotypes.
And the one thing uniting all these fabulous women (well, one of the things)? The Wakandan Language!
The language of Xhosa
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need to take a moment to appreciate the language of Wakanda. But Wakandan is a language that doesn’t exist. So what language is actually spoken in The Black Panther film?
South African of course! But Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Setswana, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu are all spoken in South Africa! Which is the language of choice for The Black Panther?
Xhosa of course! A language recognisable by its distinctive clicks, arguable making Xhosa one the most unique languages of all, and with over 20 million people speaking the language worldwide- it is about time mainstream films recognised the uniqueness of this tonal Nguni Bantu language!
However, we can all agree that whatever the secret to Black Panther’s success- be it the characters or the use of the South African language- we love this Marvel production and can’t wait for a sequel!