How Captain America: Civil War used Xhosa to create a language for the Black Panther
I think we can all agree that Captain America: Civil War is a kickass movie. Balanced action, a huge cast of heroes engaging in a massive battle royale and a story that manages to be both epic and personal. A really, really fantastic film. One of the highlights of Civil War has been the introduction of a new Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland. But for me, it’s seeing the Black Panther in action that really sells the movie.
The prince of Wakanda has his own story-arc, setting up Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa before his own solo movie. And as a South African, watching him speak Wakandan and realising that I didn’t need subtitles to understand him, was magical. That’s because the language of Wakanda, is largely Xhosa. I guess you could say that it just clicked in as a natural fit. “The language we used for Wakandan is called Xhosa,” Civil War co-director Joe Russo said to EW.
And that’s massively important. We’ve got our own terrible history, of abuse, violence and Apartheid. A history that will still take many, many years to properly heal. And then you’ve got Wakanda, a fictional nation which is the polar opposite of what South Africa has been through. In the comics, Wakanda is not only home to the Black Panther, but is the most technologically advanced country on the planet.
It’s a nation that has never been conquered, having easily fought off the likes of the Dutch, British and American forces over centuries. Countries with shady governments who would stop at nothing to destabilise Wakanda and claim the Vibranium ore that is found only on that land. It’s one of the reasons why Wakanda was for many years an isolationist country, before it began reaching out and attempting to better the world, giving it a future that lies in the stars.
I think Black Panther is going to be a hugely important movie for not just us, but for our entire continent. To see a hero who echoes the best of Africa, a warrior-king in Vibranium threads who in a way embodies the lessons taught by Nelson Mandela on compassion and action, is very inspiring. And makes me want to pump my fist up and shout RSA! RSA! RSA!
The Black Panther movie is currently scheduled for a February 2018 release date, alongside Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, Thor: Ragnarok and others in the third phase that stretches into 2020.