Half naked people wearing crudely made clothes, hunting animals in the jungle with crudely fashioned tools. That used to be the media’s portrayal of Africa, and the whole of Africa was often talked about as if it were one large country filled with numerous tribes. It’s 2016, and the media’s portrayal of Africa has stepped up to semi-naked people wearing old clothes (that were probably discarded decades ago by their original owners in other parts of the world), living in mud huts with their starving children, who are receiving aid from the Western World in order to survive. I’ve lived in Lagos, Nigeria, all my life and those images are as foreign to me as they are to anyone outside Africa.
Even when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Black Panther and Wakanda to show that an African native was just as capable of being a superhero as a western character was, they just couldn’t visualize properly an African nation without the “native tribe” stereotype. Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation in the Marvel world, and I put no blame on the creators for the design and architecture of Wakanda in the early comics. They were working in the 1960s without social media and very limited sources of any images from Africa that didn’t fit these cartoon-cavemen stereotypes. If I had to draw designs for, let’s say, a fictional South American country today, I’ll base it off whatever images i could find on the internet, seeing as I’ve never actually been there.
We’ve found some designs for futuristic African cities drawn up by people who actually live in Africa. I’ll start with my home city, Lagos. This is a project by Olalekan Jeyifous, in which he juxtaposed real life locations in Lagos with some imaginary shanty structures he designed. Check it out in the video below.
Remember that video we released comparing Lagos in Captain America 3 with Lagos in real life? We took that footage from the 24th floor of this building.
Next, we have this cyberpunk design for Kampala, the capital of Uganda, 200 years in the future. I’m really curious to hear what people who have actually been to Kampala think about this design.
Finally, there are the cities and planets in Yohance, a comic by one of our favorite publishers, Midas Monkee. Yohance is a sci-fi space opera set many years in the future, but everything in the comic from the armor, to the vehicles to the paintings on the wall are heavily inspired by real African sculptures, paintings and armor. You can read Yohance for free right now on iBooks, or for $10 on other digital comic platforms.
We hope Marvel Studios will consult these artists and even more African artists and designers we haven’t discovered in order to create a Wakanda that will look like what an awe-inspiring, technologically advanced East African nation would look like. They made some missteps in Avengers 2 and Captain America 3, but since Ryan Coogler will be directing the 2018 Black Panther movie, we’re confident he’ll do due justice with his research. We’re just trying to be helpful and point him in the right direction.
What missteps, you ask? Well, there’s this big panther statue in the Black Panther comics, and we saw a glimpse of it in the movies. The Cinematic Universe version of Wakanda is positioned in between Uganda, Kenya, encroaching into Sudan and Ethiopa. Sudan is the only one of those that doesn’t stick to an aesthetic in which statues are skinny exaggerations of the creatures they represent, and that’s because Nubia (ancient Sudan) traded more with Egypt and Asia than with the rest of East Africa. I know Wakanda is introvertive as a nation, but it would be a stretch to say that their ancient art aesthetics wouldn’t be similar to the rest of East Africa, since they would all have come from the same ancestors before the individual nations were formed. Not just East Africa, African sculptures hardly ever look like that. Just search for images of a Chiwara, which is a Malian ritual object representing an Antelope.
There was also the fact that in Captain America 3, T’Challa spoke with a South African accent, and also spoke the South African language Xhosa in one scene, even though Wakanda is East African, and Swahili or something completely made up would have been a much better fit. We have another article outlining more cultural mistakes we hope Marvel Studios avoids in the Black Panther movie, but here, we want you to take in the beauty of these futuristic African city designs. Here’s a gallery you can click through, with the names of the real locations stated where applicable. Enjoy!