Chiume and John are elders of Wakanda. We caught up with them to hear their thoughts on the film.
Where you nervous about the film coming out?
In my entire life, be it in television, theatre or film, what I get nervous about is the process, because when you’re immersed in such a huge project where there are 600 people on the technical side and four actors around you, you don’t become aware of the scale. To you, it seems like I’m just alone in this tree, but when the movie comes out, there’s a forest with animals. That’s the most nerving period, because you don’t really know how it’s going to come out and get perceived.
What is the biggest misconception people have about Black Panther?
Apart from the fact that it’s a comic book story, people tend to think “oh go away, it never happened”. When you think of Black Panther, think about Batman, Iron Man, Superman, Spiderman, The Hulk etc., you look at all these super heroes and think “that’s impossible, no black person can be one of those heroes” and yet when you see Black Panther you realise that you’re in the picture too. You see the beauty that is Africa. So maybe not so much of a misconception, it’s a fact that it’s been drilled and indoctrinated not to see Africa as the origin of knowledge, information and everything. They have taken so many things out of this continent. What we’re now holding on to is the thread of our dignity and that our cultures have kept us together for a very long time. Now you see a movie where you hear a couple of words of isiXhosa, you see warriors dressed as women, some of them wrapped in Basotho blanket, and some in Masai clothing. All of that says “We are here, we know you haven’t been seeing us, we’ve stepped out of the so-called dark continent and we’re stepping in.” That will surely give one some kind of pride.
What do you think Black Panther will open up and what will it mean for South Africans?
Let’s not be over-ambitious, this is still Hollywood and Hollywood is a business. Let’s not think that this film is going to create a miracle for the South African film industry, it’s still an American blockbuster, it’s a comic book Marvel. I am very proud of the resources they allocated to a young black director, I am also proud that we as Africans we have made a contribution on a movie that speaks about Africa and we’re fortunate that the director was hell bent on getting some African authenticity in.
Please tell us about the day you got the call
The day I got the call, all I remember was being happy that I got casted for something because you know it’s hard for actors/actresses out there. We’re always looking for another project so getting the call made my day. But on the back of my mind I was worried about this film because I was associating with the other Black Panther (revolutionary socialist organisation) so I was wondering why they’d cast me in such a movie until one day when I was shooting TV series here at home, the director announced to everyone on set that I wasn’t going to be around because I’d be shooting Black Panther. All of a sudden everyone was on their feet and started ululating. I still didn’t understand until they got on their phones and showed me which Black Panther I was going to be shooting. My jaw dropped when I saw the names of the people I was going to star along… Angela Basset, Lupita Nyong’o, Forrest Whitaker, Danai Gurira, Michael B Jordan. I became numb.
In the film, you were on the king’s council, what do you think is the significance of having a council that’s so diverse and has women in a decision-making role like that?
That’s Wakanda: Wakanda is gender nuetral, there were so many women who had a pivotal role. Wakanda is a very civilised country that recognises the expertise and experience of women.
What made you feel most proud about the film?
Wakanda is a country that was never colonised yet it’s rich with everything that other countries want and need. It’s very advanced technologically; it has good governance; it’s rich; and it has vibranium. The council is filled with smart people who are responsible to keep the country together, everything is perfectly organised in a country that was never colonized. There’s a misconception that civilisation came with ‘certain people’ but the film proves it wrong. We’ve always had civilisation in Africa and I love that the film shines light to that.