The Royalty of Wakanda and its Various Tribal References

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The Black Panther film’s representation of Wakanda is beautiful, striking, diverse and real. The plethora of tribal references permeates throughout the film. Although, Wakanda itself is a fictitious nation and kingdom, the cultural references it showcases are not.

We noticed the wise elder lady in the beginning of the film wearing traditional Fulani earrings with the post wrapped in red threads, another woman of the King’s council donning locks with otjize paste representing the ovaHimba women of Namibia and the isicolo headdress worn by Queen Mother Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett representing the Zulu tribe in South Africa.

There were also the blankets worn by W’Kabi played by Daniel Kaluuya and his tribe like the Basotho people of Lesotho, the kente cloth, that’s traditionally reserved for royalty and special occasions with origins from the Ashanti of Ghana and the Moorish attire worn by King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the gold rings around the neck, indzila worn by Okoye, played by Danai Gurira representing the Ndebele women of South Africa.

We loved the depiction of women warriors which was likely inspired by the Dahomey kingdom in present-day Benin, where there were female soldiers who fought against French colonial troops in the 1600s. There are so many other references including the Xhosa language, Tuareg jewelry, Maasai attire, and Igbo-like mask but too many to explain them all.

Overall, Wakanda reminded us of the empire of Mutapa, ruled by the Munhumutapa people in present-day Zimbabwe. Perhaps because of all the South African references with Director, Ryan Coogler drawing much influence from the Kingdom of Lesotho, which is surrounded by huge mountains that made it difficult for Europeans to colonize the region. And also because the Mutapa empire “held a monopoly on gold and it was forbidden of anyone to reveal the location of the gold mines for fear of death if this rule was transgressed” just as it was forbidden for any Wakandan to reveal the location of vibranium mines.

African kingdoms and empires are not a fantasy…it is based on reality; it’s our true history and origin. Fulaba celebrates this by preserving traditions and making jewelry that represents African High Culture – the royalty and nobility of African tribes and kingdoms. We are working to expand our collection and look forward to showcasing the beauty, diversity and rich traditions of the African continent.

Sources:, Daniel Coogler Hot 97 interview, Mutapa empire post

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