The long anticipated and critically acclaimed Marvel film, Black Panther, has finally hit theaters and it did not disappoint. The movie, which takes place in a fictional East African country called Wakanda, represents such real-life tribes such as Tanzania/Kenya’s Maasai, South Africa’s Zulu, South Africa/Lesotho’s Sotho and the Himba people of Namibia. Though some of the representation was obvious, others were more subtle, but what we do know is that “Black Panther” is unmistakably African. I think we are all longing to get to Wakanda. Personally, I am still trying to locate the Embassy of Wakanda so that I can sort out my work visa, but in the meantime, why not take a visit to some of the countries that are the homes of the tribes in the film.
Whether it is your first or fifth time to Africa these four countries should be on your travel list for 2018.
Kenya and Tanzania
The costumes of the Dora Milaje were 80% Maasai, according to Anthony Francisco, the Senior Visual Development Illustrator at Marvel Visual Studios.
One of Africa’s most recognizable tribes, the Maasai, are known for their height, bead-work and famous jumping dance known as adumu. The costumes of the Dora Milaje, the elite trope of female bodyguards and special forces, were 80% Maasai, according to Anthony Francisco, the Senior Visual Development Illustrator at Marvel Visual Studios. The Maasai call both Kenya and Tanzania home and both are a great place to start your East African exploration. Whether flying into Zanzibar, Nairobi, or Dar es Salaam, there are tons of carrier options to enter the country from anywhere in the world including KLM, Qatar and Ethiopian Airlines.
The default activity in both Kenya and Tanzania is safari and for good reason. The Serengeti and Maasai Mara offer some of the best safaris on the continent and for all budgets. For those looking for a luxury option, Cottar’s 1920’s is my go-to option. With luxury tents and fine dining in the bush, it is the go-to for those looking for luxury in the wilderness. A more budget-friendly option is Basecamp Masai Mara where a former US Senator who went on to be president, once stayed with his family.
In Tanzania, if you are looking for a private butler to bring you sun-downers as you gaze out at animals milling about, then &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is a no-brainer. With three camps and only 30 stilted suites, personal attention is first and foremost. Time your visit with the Great Migration to witness one of nature’s most amazing feats. After your safari head to the coast of Kenya, Lamu Island is my favorite and a stay at Forodhani House or The Majlis Resort will be the perfect ending to an adventurous time in Kenya (be sure to try the fish samosas). Another relaxing beach option is also Zanzibar which boasts one of my favorite beaches in the world, Nungwi. Be sure to find a property on Nungwi or in Paje, both which offer crystal clear waters.
Various South African tribes were well represented in “Black Panther“, in fact, more than any other country. The Zulu, Ndebele, Xhosa and Sotho tribes of the country were all represented, from language to traditional dress, to music and art. Xhosa was the chosen language in the film, largely recognized by the click sounds. Zulu was represented by Angela Bassett, in particular, her regal headdress.
Angela Bassett’s headdress was influenced by the Zulu tribe of South Africa called Isicolo.
South Africa, a go-to for many on their first trip to Africa, has a number of offerings in each city so why not city-hop to a few? Johannesburg is great if you are looking to take in some art, learn the history of apartheid and experience one of Africa’s biggest cities. A stay at Hallmark House in the Maboneng neighborhood is a good jumping off point for exploring the city and a bike ride through Soweto with Lebo’s Soweto is an experience you will not soon forget. A visit to Cape Town will take you to main tourist attractions such as Table Mountain, Boulder’s Beach and Camp’s Bay. (Be sure to check with the hotel you are interested in staying at, as a drought is threatening tourism and life in the city.) Finally DURBAN! If you want to party, eat well and relax in warmer waters than those found in Cape Town, stop in Durban for a couple of days.
W’Kabi, the head of the Wakanda Border Tribe, wore distinct blankets that were clearly inspired by the Sotho tribe found in both South Africa and Lesotho. Lesotho, a tiny kingdom surrounded entirely by South Africa is known as the “Kingdom in the Sky,” the mountainous terrain is not one explored by many tourists. A four and a half hour drive from Johannesburg, Lesotho is a great add-on trip. During your drive through the mountainous nation, you are sure to see Basotho people walking around with their traditional hats, which block the sun in summer. These hats also help them keep warm in winter, along with traditional blankets they cloak themselves in. The Maliba Lodge (fairly close to the border) is a great stay for a long weekend, relaxation and hiking. With sunrises over mountain peaks, you will wonder why you did not visit sooner!
W’Kabi wears a blanket around his neck inspired by the Sotho tribe.
The Himba tribe of northwestern Namibia are recognizable by the red clay, otjize, that they use in their hair and on their skin. In Black Panther, one of the elder’s that is part of the King’s court is a clear reflection of Himba culture.
The Himba tribe’s influence is clear in Black Panther.
It is rare that countries blow my mind, but Namibia did just that. With various landscapes including rocky mountains, sand dunes, and an extensive Atlantic coastline, Namibia is best explored by car. You’ll need at least a week in the country to be able to explore the breathtaking Deadvlei and Sossusvlei, the former being flatlands with hundred-year-old tree skeletons and the former with dunes with the safest sands I have ever felt (and that are the perfect backdrop for Instagram pictures), Namibia is what dreams are made of. Minimal to light pollution in much of the country allows you to see the Milky Way and seemingly every constellation that you’ve ever heard of. If you take a drive up to the Skeleton Coast you will surely see members of the Himba tribe that were portrayed in the movie. We met a few who were selling beautiful bracelets on the side of the road and I even had an opportunity to have them dress me in their traditional dress. If you are looking for a safari, head to Etosha National Park.
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With so many options to choose from, where do you want to travel to first?