It’s only February and what might be the year’s biggest movie-cum-cultural phenomenon, Black Panther, is a hit in all theaters around the world and made headlines in its wake. With all this well-deserved success, we bring you some of the biggest highlights from The Week in Black Panther.
Words: Tshiamo Seape
The anticipation leading up to the release of the film has been palpable, with fans, media and everyone in between clamouring to be part of the movement so big it has almost celestial importance and makes you think the Black Panther should become its own zodiac sign. Building on the importance surrounding the issue of positive representation in mainstream media, the film is a champion of women, Africa, and Blackness in general. Premieres around the world were filled with fans in full regalia showing just how much this movie means to so many.
The film also has local significance for South Africans in particular. First of all, the soundtrack features a number of local talents doing the most on the Kendrick Lamar produced album. The local connections don’t stop there: Xhosa is used as a proxy for the fictional language of Wakanda, local acting royalty John Kani (among others) play major roles, and for those who’ve seen the film, the production and costume design borrow noticeably from South and Southern African traditions. Our very own David Tlale was even responsible for creating the red carpet look for Florence Kasumba at the film’s Los Angeles premiere – a very purposeful appreciation for the people and continent from where this film draws so much from.
Outside the film itself, the impact of Black Panther has inspired Disney and Marvel to commisiion multidisciplinary artists to create their own works based on the themes of Afrofuturism present in the movie. From South Africa the talented trio of siblings Manthe and Tebogo Ribane alongside friend and collaborator, Trevor Stuurman have created a beautiful and vibrant series of photos embodying their vision of Africa in the far-flung future. “Africa is full of inspiration and definitely the future”, says Stuurman. The other artists commissioned for this project are Loyiso Mkize, Mike Toney, Nikolas Draper-Ivey and one of our personal favourites: Osborne Macharia. Osborne is having a stellar 2018 so far and we’re totally here for it. The Kenyan photo artist began the year with an exhibition in Dubai’s Gulf Photo Plus, highlighting his most famous “Afrofuturist” works: The Globetrotting Grannies and his Hip-Hop Grandpas.
Photography Trevor Stuurman and Obakeng Molepe. Costume Design Trevor Stuurman and Manthe Ribane. Creative Director Trevor Stuurman.
Now, Osborne continues to inspire while creating beautiful artworks layered with compelling narratives. The work he created on behalf of Disney/Marvel is entitled “Ilgelunot” and translates to The Chosen Ones in the Maasai language. Their story, tribal elders rescued during WWII, is woven into the Black Panther mythology as fan fiction, but really acts as a springboard for African talent and a tangible proof of Black Panther’s far-reaching cultural impact.
Photography Osborne Macharia. Props Styling and Production Keveo Abbra. Make-Up Valery Mdeizi and Sinitta Akello
An impact runs deeper than inspiring art and positive sentiment. The bottom line is that the recognition by studios that fans crave quality entertainment with characters that look like themselves, and doesn’t portray suffering or oppression, is paying dividends. As of the following Monday, the film’s release has become the fifth highest opening weekend in terms of box office receipts.
With a staggering $253 million dollar opening weekend the film became a certified hit and record breaker; several times over in fact. Aside from having the fifth biggest opening of all time, here are the other records it shattered over its first three days of release: Biggest non -sequel opening; Biggest solo superhero launch of all time; Biggest February opening; and the highest grossing movie directed by a black filmmaker – all very impressive.
While it’s still early days, the coming weeks will give us a more accurate estimation of Black Panther’s success, by the numbers and otherwise. Right now, what we can say is that the Black Panther is at the centre of our collective conscious and with a grip on our hearts and minds that won’t soon be released.