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

3 min read

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.

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.

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

Last Updated: November 9, 2017

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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