Actors in Marvel’s newly released film, Black Panther, speak isiXhosa as a way to promote authenticity. IsiXhosa is a South African language known for its distinctive clicks. Wakanda, the African Kingdom where the movie is set, is mythical, but the language its inhabitants speak in parts of the film is not.
IsiXhosa is from the Nguni language family and is spoken mainly in South Africa’s Eastern and Western Cape provinces.
Award-winning South African actor John Kani told directors it didn’t make sense for him to speak English to his son when the characters are African. IsiXhosa became the language of Wakanda in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, which introduced Black Panther and his father, played by Kani.
The majority of the film is in English however, audiences will hear isiXhosa words and phrases used throughout the film.
According to an article in Quartz Africa, this film carries the weight of meeting the expectations of audiences who place great significance on a black superhero set in an Africa that resists stereotypes.
In 2016, screenwriter Joe Robert Cole explained part of the significance of this movie in an interview with Mother Jones, “Black Panther is a historic opportunity to be a part of something important and special, particularly at a time when African Americans are affirming their identities while dealing with vilification and dehumanization. The image of a black hero on this scale is just really exciting.”
To read more, please see: Marvel’s Black Panther will speak this real African language.