Entranced with Black Panther? Here's how to create your very own Wakanda experience
While the magical African country from Marvel's box-office smashing Black Panther may be fictional, you can find many of its hallmarks – powerful women, innovative technology and gorgeous fashions – across the very real continent
If you, like millions of others, watched the box-office smashing Marvel blockbuster Black Panther and fell in love with the country of Wakanda, chances are you were left with two dilemmas:
1. How to book travel to a country that is hidden in plain sight, and;
2. How to get over the fact that Wakanda is an entirely fictional place.
It's true. The best country in the world – filled with powerful women warriors, innovative technology and gorgeous fashions – is a figment of a talented movie-development team. And while you may have been wooed by the Afrofuturistic concepts and gorgeous cinematic details, your chances of getting to Wakanda are about as likely as your chances of getting to Bedrock.
There is, however, an alternative. The filmmakers say their goal was always to pull real African places and concepts into the fabric of the film – so much so that set designers visited the continent while developing the movie.
And that means that while there may be no Wakanda, savvy travellers can find many of the movie's themes on a trip to Africa.
Move over, Eurocentric ideas of Africa as a monolith; step aside, "safari and leave" travel itineraries; be gone, "country" of Africa pronouncements. The true treasures of Africa await.
In the movie: When Wakandans are conversing within earshot of potential colonizers, they switch over to a language all their own.
Where to find it: South Africa
If you liked the tonal lilt and soft clicks of the Xhosa (pronounced " Khosa") language spoken between Wakandan citizens, you'll enjoy a visit to South Africa. With about eight million native Xhosa speakers there, it's a language that stands out. In fact, the late president Nelson Mandela's official first name is "Rolihlahla" – a Xhosa word meaning "trouble maker." Can't master the clicks? Don't worry, it's only one of 11 languages recognized by the South African Constitution.
Your Black Panther moment: Visit Kayamandi township where you can dine with a local, tour the neighbourhood and get a better sense of the language and culture from the people who know it best.
In the movie: Striking fashions in bold, bright colours
Where to find it: South and West Africa
From the neck rings and bold geometric shapes on the fighting gear to the gorgeous wax-print dresses worn by the movie's main characters, fashion and femininity aren't forsaken for action and prowess in the film. (Heck, in one scene, both a wig and high heels are used as weapons.) The combination of gorgeous garb with cultural significance and a modern sensibility also made its way to the red-carpet premiere in Hollywood, where when asked to wear "royal attire," stars showed off modern day stylings that included dashikis and traditional headwraps.
Your Black Panther moment: You'll find the Kente cloth that adorns King T'Challa's (Chadwick Boseman) robes in Ghana and the wax-print stylings that factored into Nakia's (Lupita Nyong'o) fashion choices in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Pick up some fabric while away and then have a dress made locally. Or, consider fashion artists such as Catherine Addai, who transform the fabrics into runway-worthy designs. For more eye candy visit the global Afropunk festival where attendees twist the fabrics into masterpieces of their own.
In the movie: Tribal connections
Where to find them: Ethiopia, Mali, Congo
From the moment the striking elder in the lime-green suit shows off his lip plate, you'll be intrigued. The practice, which is popular among the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia, has evolved into a tribal beauty mark statement. The movie also pays homage to the ochre otjize paste used by the Himba women in Namibia and the Congo and the masks of the Dogon people of Mali.
Your Black Panther moment: Many African countries offer meaningful opportunities to interact with tribes who still maintain traditional ways. Look for tour companies that involve tribe members in the development of their offerings.
In the movie: Fierce females
Where to find them: Kenya, Tanzania and more
The Dora Milaje warriors who protect the the royal family are gorgeous and gifted. They are fierce fighters who manage to save the kingdom with their might and technologically endowed spears. Everything from the bald heads to the lithe frames to the intelligence seems modeled on the Maasai. Although the culture was long male-dominated, an outside interest in the traditional bead work of the women is spearheading a cultural change making this Afrofuturistic interpretation of the Maasai warrior a real possibility.
Your Black Panther moment: Head out on to the savannah to explore with a Maasai guide. Or, spend time with the phenomenal beading women of local villages, who are creating micro-financing opportunities that are transforming the lives of their children.
In the movie: Technologically advanced African cities
Where to find it: Rwanda, Ethiopia and more
Fly into a major African city and you're more likely to run into a skyscraper than a giraffe. Kigali, in particular, is poised to be a technological powerhouse with exponential population growth and most residents under the age of 25. The city already boasts a very Wakandan approach to women – Rwanda has the highest number of women in parliamentary positions in the world.
Your Black Panther moment: While you won't find vibranium in Africa – yet – many of the large cities on the continent are well-poised for technological breakthroughs. Book time in some of the big cities (Kigali and Ethiopia's Addis Ababa among them) to get a sense of the technological advances and life-saving developments on the horizon.
Ethiopian Airlines offers the only non-stop, direct flights to Africa out of Toronto. Flights operate five times a week.