Welcome to Wakanda: Everything You Need to Know About ‘Black Panther’ Before You Get to the Theater
A quick guide and glossary on the who’s who of Wakanda, tribe and tech heading into the theater.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Black Panther made his first appearance in comic books in 1966, in FANTASTIC FOUR #52. Invited to visit by King T’Challa himself, it’s here that the First Family of Heroes gets a closer look at Black Panther’s homeland of Wakanda.
Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” picks up exactly where “Captain America: Civil War” leaves off. The film tackles the story of T’Challa who is a young African prince who takes on the mantle of King and Black Panther, and the legacy that comes with it. However, T’Challa’s mettle as ruler and hero is tested in a way that jeopardizes the fate of Wakanda and the entire world.
Wakanda is a fictional independent African nation that is also the most technologically-developed city in the world. Wakanda has hidden its true form, cloaked by advanced technology, protecting itself and its inhabitants, thus secluding it from the rest of the world.
The country is one of the few places where Vibranium is found. The near-indestructible metal is what makes up Captain America’s shield, and possessing that precious substance supercharged Wakanda’s technological and cultural development.
According to executive producer Nate Moore on last year’s set visit, “Having a city built on Vibranium allows them to have all these advances and have wealth beyong our wildest imaginings.”
“The big thing about Wakanda is its Vibranium, which is one of the strongest metals, not the strongest, but one of the strongest and most expensive metals,” adds production designer Hannah Beachler.
The government of Wakanda is a benevolent aristocracy with a royal family that lives in Birnin Zana—the Golden City—the capital of Wakanda. King T’Chaka was murdered at the Nations in “Captain America: Civil War” by illegal arms dealer Ulysses Klaue and therefore his son, T’Challa, is now the country’s ruler.
The country is made up of five tribes. The Border Tribe is the outward face of Wakanda. While they appear to be shepherds and farmers they actually serve as the first line of defense. Like most things in Wakanda, things are not always as they seem. The River Tribe is responsible for fishing and agriculture in Wakanda. The Mining Tribe is responsible for mining minerals in Wakanda, including the precious Vibranium while the Merchant Tribe deals with trade and innovation. However, the Jabari Tribe are the outcasts. Choosing to shun the use of Vibranium, they’ve removed themselves from mainstream Wakandan life. Lead by M’Baku, he and his tribe don’t see eye-to- eye with T’Challa and the royal family and seek to return Wakanda to its isolationist ways.
Quite the Entourage
T’Challa (t’h-cha-lah) is the new King of Wakanda and also carries on the legacy of the Black Panther. Played by Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther is the first black super hero, debuting in the Fantastic Four #52, over fifty years ago.
T’Chaka (t’h-cha-kah), T’Challa’s father and once the ruler of the Kingdom of Wakanda, he assumed the throne and the role of Black Panther in his youth. T’Chaka was killed during a terrorist attack in the film “Captain America: Civil War.”
Nakia (nah-‘kee-ah), a Wakandan spy pulled from her mission abroad by her former flame T’Challa. Played by Lupita Nyong’o, Nakia is a war dog whose determination and worldly knowledge gives her the edge in fighting.
Okoye (oh-‘koy-yeh) is the head of the Dora Milaje—an all-female special forces group. Played by Danai Gurira, Okoye is the best fighter in Wakanda and fiercely loyal to the throne.
Shuri (‘shU-ree), T’Challa’s younger sister and head of the Wakandan Design Group, she’s a genius ahead of her time at just 16 years old. Played by Letitia Wright, Shuri designs and builds futuristic tech such as the Black Panther suit.
M’Baku (mm-‘ba-koo), the formidable leader of the Jabari tribe who have shunned the use of Vibranium and removed themselves from mainstream Wakandan life. Played by Winston Duke, M’Baku is defined by his cultural identity, and is faced with the choice of challenging T’Challa for the throne in order to return Wakanda to its isolationist ways.
W’Kabi (wuh-‘kah-bee), the head of the Border Tribe, a group that serves as Wakanda’s first line of defense against outsiders. Played by Daniel Kaluuya, the tribe is responsible for keeping any and all non-Wakandans from entering their borders.
Ramonda (rah’mon-dah), the Queen. T’Challa’s mother, Queen Ramonda, is played by Angela Bassett and is a wise counsel and confidant to her son in his new position as King of Wakanda.
Zuri (zu-ree), a Wakandan shaman, Zuri is the spiritual leader of Wakanda. Played by Forest Whitaker, Zuri is a trusted advisor to King T’Challa. He is also the keeper of the Staff of Bashenga, and tends the garden of the Heart-Shaped Herb that gives Black Panther his powers.
Dora Milaje, the cadre of strong fierce women who serve as the personal security force to the King and royal family, who act as the personal guard for the Black Panther, and are lead by Okoye.
How Much More Are You Hiding?
Wakanda has hidden and isolated itself for a reason, to protect themselves from those after the country’s precious resource, Vibranium. The substance powers most of Wakanda’s futuristic technology which is what makes it so valuable.
Those aren’t the only innovative technological components in Wakanda, Kimoyo Beads are hyper advanced communication devices. Beads are worn around the hand of a Wakandan, and are built with tech that only works inside the country. Each bead serves a purpose, the prime bead is for medical history/knowledge, the AV bead for an indispensable holographic internet, and the Communication bead, which is used similar to our modern day cell phones.
Ahead of its time in everything, even the transportation in Wakanda is revolutionary. Wakanda’s Air Force One, the Royal Talon Fighter flies alongside Talon Fighters, Wakandan fighter jets. The Dragonflyers are the workhorse of Wakandan aircraft, used for transportation and mining, while Gyro-cruisers are gyroscopically oriented, units that work similar to a large hamster ball. Lastly, every hero needs a personal vehicle. The Panther-cycle, is not your ordinary motorbike, this motorcycle flies.
Want even more insight into the world of Wakanda and Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther”? Pick up MARVEL’S BLACK PANTHER: THE ART OF THE MOVIE out now. Go behind the scenes with exclusive concept artwork and in-depth analysis from the filmmakers in this keepsake volume! Don’t forget to check out “Black Panther” in theaters on February 16!
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