Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther accent was chosen to make a point about colonialism

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Black Panther (3)

Black Panther’s greatest strength isn’t a nigh-indestructible suit of Vibranium armour, a connection to heroes of the past or diplomatic immunity. It’s that the chosen hero of Wakanda represents a nation which shows off the spirit of Africa at its finest. Wakanda’s isolation from the rest of the world resulted in an African super-nation.

A land untamed by the West, unconquered and unbroken by repeated attempts to colonise it over centuries by those few settlers foolhardy enough to cross paths with a nation that possessed technology years ahead of the world. Wakanda is uniquely African in that outside influences haven’t touched its culture. An idea represented not only by its Afro Chic fashion and architecture, but also in the accents of the people born and raised there.

It’s also why Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman speaks with a wonderfully thick dialect, influenced by South African actor John Kani and the Xhosa language that Boseman learnt for Captain America: Civil War. More than that however, Boseman’s Wakandan accent was developed to rebel against the taint of colonialism that has ravaged the continent. “People think about how race has affected the world. It’s not just in the States. Colonialism is the cousin of slavery,” Boseman said to CNET.

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Black Panther (2)

Colonialism in Africa would have it that, in order to be a ruler, his education comes from Europe. I wanted to be completely sure that we didn’t convey that idea because that would be counter to everything that Wakanda is about. It’s supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. If it’s supposed to not have been conquered — which means that advancement has happened without colonialism tainting it, poisoning the well of it, without stopping it or disrupting it — then there’s no way he would speak with a European accent.

If I did that, I would be conveying a white supremacist idea of what being educated is and what being royal or presidential is. Because it’s not just about him running around fighting. He’s the ruler of a nation. And if he’s the ruler of a nation, he has to speak to his people. He has to galvanize his people. And there’s no way I could speak to my people, who have never been conquered by Europeans, with a European voice.

That’s an honest answer, which fits perfectly into the narrative of Wakanda and its self-imposed isolation from the global stage. With a character who represents a nation, and carries with him certain ideals that mirror those of former South African president and peace icon Nelson Mandela, Boseman’s T’Challa is refreshingly African in his design.

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A character that cinema needs more of these days, to help break away from predictable blockbuster patterns.

Last Updated: November 9, 2017

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia’s M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

  • Sweet.

  • Sageville

    Sooooooo looking forward to see this one!

    Time for Africa to shine in the superhero universe! Halaaala!

  • The irony of course is that his accent originates from a place so heavily affected by colonisation that it came up with a literal system of division based on race, and was subsequently slammed by the world for it.

    I kinda get that everything is low-key identity politics now, but I feel like it could have been just as believable to say “T’Challa is from a country in Africa, what accent did you think he would have?” Not to imply that there is only one accent in Africa, but certainly his accent is unmistakably of African origin in much the same way my accent is, despite my being Indian. I guess in that way my accent is also a statement against slavery and colonisation, ie. if you bring a bunch of poor people across the world to farm some rice for you, they get a cool accent they can talk about on a gaming website ~150 years later.

    • Sageville

      Hmmm, are you saying the Wakandan accent sounds like a “colonized” isiXhosa accent anyways, so what statement is it actually being made?

      I think we can all agree Wakandans should not sound american or British, but if they wanted to legit make this message as stated above then the accents would also need to be unique within Africa as well while still sounding african…

      Interesting, Can’t wait to see what they have gone with….

      • wow, just, wow

      • I think I’m more just wondering how using an African-based accent for a character based in Africa got turned into a fight against white supremacy, like where’s this “Oh he needs to have a European accent” claim coming from when T’Challa has historically always had an African accent in other media?

        The rest of my comment was poking fun.

        EDIT: I do of course understand that Chadwick is American, and that’s fine. Bumblebee Cabbagepatch is British but he still does an appropriate accent for Dr Strange, as does every other actor in the MCU. ?

  • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

    Discount Batman. They should have called him Pantman.

  • Quentin Huggett

    Lol reach a little further

  • Skyblue

    “Wakanda’s isolation from the rest of the world resulted in an African super-nation.” – I hate to be the voice of rationalism but name one… just one… one… There is a reason technology has been expedited over the last century and that is information sharing across the world. Isolation breeds herders for presidents.

    • You’re thinking of this in terms of reality. If you stick to the fiction comics, then you can see how Wakanda developed so easily. It had the resources, a culture of innovation and a population that gave birth to many geniuses who pioneered their technology instead of being shunned or exploited. Think Nikola Tesla working for Thomas Edison, who was a genius at patenting ideas, not creating his own.

      Remember, it’s all fiction! That’s where the magic is.

      • Admiral Chief

        [spits]
        BAH Edison was a hack!

        • Yes, yes he was. But mah gawd, the man was a genius when it came to exploiting bigger minds than his own.

          • Admiral Chief

            I’m not sure I’d use the word “genius”, but I get where you are coming from

      • Original Heretic

        I also love how, in the comics, Wakandan tech is so different from the rest of the world’s, because it was developed completely independently.
        So while T’Challa can understand Stark tech and all that, because he studied in other countries as well, Stark struggles to come to grips with Wakandan tech.

  • BradeLunner

    His accent wasn’t bad, but Andy Serkis nailed his!

    • We call that the Souff Effriken eccent.

      • Admiral Chief

        PRAWNS!

  • Magoo

    But they’re speaking English… English from England.

  • Skittle
  • Admiral Chief

    I dunno man. WHY bring such drama into superhero movies?

    Like what is happening with Supergirl at the moment, AGAIN, instead of making a show about SUPERHEROES it is becoming a platform for things (not gonna say which things else I’m being offensive)

    • You mean a gay romance. Here’s the thing, would it bother you as much if it was a hetero romance? Because that’s exactly what they did with Mon-El and Kara or Jimmy and Kara. That’s what happens in most of entertainment media. Our hetero lead falls in love with a co-star of the opposite sex for absolutely no reason that’s relevant to the plot, but we’re so used to that being the norm that we just accept it.

      Now, if you want them to cut out all of the personal drama stuff and just focus on superheroics, that’s fine (although removing some personal angle will diminish the characters a bit in my opinion). But you can’t say it’s being a platform for pushing gay romance, when literally almost everything else has been a platform for pushing hetero romance and that wasn’t an issue.

      • Admiral Chief

        No. You totally misunderstand, and that is why I didn’t want to say that. They focus too much on the “romance” and not enough on the action/story.

        The story is weak, and now they bring this drama in. Gay love. Martian love. Inter-species love. Love love love. I say no. I call it lazy writing and they want to use this as a platform to force it down your throat.

    • I think that’s more a thing about the target audience, in that case. 😛

      Like, all entertainment has always been about sending messages and making points about stuff. It just used to be more subtle than it is now. But in Supergirl’s case, that’s 100% catering to a (teenage) market that may not necessarily appreciate subtle storytelling, so it’s thrown right at ’em instead.

      • Admiral Chief

        Well it made my choice to stop watching that crap much easier

  • Yondaime

    I’m going all out for this one

  • Khul

    Love the comics.Just like in america the people are complaining about “diversity” in some films, this should also count. It makes me feel as if they made this movie just because the hero is a person of color. As I said I have no issues with the comic book version, but for me I will give this movie a pass…..

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