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  • Fernando Sincero

Wakanda, the birth of an afrofuturistic city

The Black Panther Movie won the 2019 Oscar for Best Production Design, starring Hannah Beachler for the creation and Jay Hart for the decoration of the set.

 

What made the production design of the Black Panther Movie so compelling is the fact that Wakanda is a fictional country never before concretely portrayed in film productions.

Production designer Hannah Beachler spent eight months researching, exploring Africa for references. Unlike her previous works, Black Panther required Beachler to build everything from scratch. Every inch of the scene had to be carefully considered and worked out. The fictitious African country, unlike the others, was never colonized. It is a dream, a vision of what the peoples of Africa would have created in the absence of an invasion and occupation.


It all started for Beachler with an understanding of what Wakanda's spirit was, who the people were. And with that, a first macro analysis was performed.


“So, I was like, okay, how big is Wakanda? What’s the population? Where is it located on the continent? What’s the topography?” Hannah Beachler

With this information in hand, the director was able to begin drawing the map of where each tribe lived, where the Golden City was, the Warrior's Waterfall, the Necropolis, and all the places that are portrayed in the movie.


Beachler defined the Afro futuristic aesthetics based on the rich traditions of diaspora, as well as using textures of the Timbuktu Scaffold and the Mali pyramids as a reference. Afro-Futurism was the bridge between mythology, art, politics, African science and culture, and science fiction.

“I’m always in this transformative place with everything as far as how it evolves” Hannah Beachler

produzione scenografica wakanda architettura
Fonte: https://overmental.com/content/locations-architecture-wakanda-46044

Writers and designers have thoroughly researched the aesthetics and practices of real cultures throughout Sub-Saharan and North Africa to understand how these civilizations would have developed technologically and architecturally.


In addition to all this work, Beachler always had as reference the comics of the Fantastic Four of 1966 and the original Black Panther comic of 1977. Comic Books represented the country according to what the authors were creating at the time, then it was necessary to understand where the ideas and concepts used in those representations came from before they could begin to shape Wakanda as we know it today.


produzione scenografica wakanda architettura
Fonte: https://www.wired.com/story/black-panther-design/

One of the concerns was that the stage did not end up looking like an alien society, because it was not a futuristic science fiction, as some sources like to categorize it, it's just a country that, in 2018, has a significant technological advance compared to the rest of the world.


produzione scenografica wakanda architettura
Fonte: http://africanism.net/the-architecture-of-black-panther/
“I drew from a lot of different places, I think, and keeping the tradition involved in the aesthetic and the design language was of the utmost importance, because it’s about black representation, the black future and agency using architecture and history and science and myth and biomimetics, and biomorphosis, and all of that went into the design”. Hannah Beachler


Hannah Beachler was the first African American woman to be nominated for an Oscar for the Best Production Design, and also the first one to win the award. In her speech, Beachler thanked Ryan Coogler for giving her the opportunity to become a better professional each day, and concluded by saying:

“I'm stronger because of my family that supported me through the roughest of times. I give the strength to all of those who come next to keep going, to never give up. And when you think it's impossible, just remember to say this piece of advice I got from a very wise woman: I did my best, and my best is good enough”. Hannah Beachler


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