Decorate ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’

Jewelry plays a crucial role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and it’s not just those almighty Kimoyo beads.

Schmuck links the sequel, which released earlier this month, to the first Black Panther film. “We see King T’Challa’s ring that Shuri wears around his neck,” Ruth E. Carter, the film’s costume and jewelry designer, said in a video interview, referring to T’Challa’s sister, played by Letitia Wright . “She wears it during the funeral procession. It is a symbolic passing of the torch.”

(Marvel decided not to recast T’Challa after Chadwick Boseman, who played him in the first film, died of colon cancer in 2020.)

And gracing the cast of the sequel gave Ms. Carter and her team a chance to expand on the African motifs they unearthed for Wakanda, the fictional country featured in the 2018 film Black Panther — and lend a hand with styling of the Talocan tribe inspired by the Mayan culture. It’s an underwater civilization attacking Wakanda, the main story of the second film.

“The Wakandans have a connection to traditional African tribes and the Talocans have a connection to Mesoamerica and the ocean,” Ms. Carter said. “Through the Mayan influence, we connected the surface world to what they would have used from the ocean.” She said designs for the talocans incorporate materials like bone, jade, rope and seaweed.

Perhaps the most prominent jewel-clad character in the new Black Panther storyline is Namor, the leader of the Talocans, played by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta.

“Namor is adorned with a large necklace featuring a two-headed serpent with a large pearl in its mouth and a double strand of pearls,” Ms. Carter said. “It means a lot. A serpent was often used in Mesoamerican stone carvings and pottery.”

Other new characters that are richly adorned include the Talocan warrior Attuma, who wears a headgear depicting a hammerhead shark, while Namor’s female cousin, Namora, has a lionfish fin-shaped neckpiece.

Ms. Carter, the first black designer to win an Academy Award for Best Costume Design for her work on Black Panther, also focused on varying the jewelry between the recurring characters.

“Queen Ramonda wears two different corsets, one of which is inspired by the Dogon tribe of Mali and extends from the base of the neck to the chest,” Ms. Carter said, referring to Angela Bassett’s character leading Wakanda after the death of her son T’ Challah.

“The second one looks like it’s her armor,” she said. “It’s very strong and heavy imagery, but appropriate for the Queen and her reign of Wakanda.”

M’Baku, the leader of the Jabari tribe in Wakanda, played by Winston Duke, has a necklace of tiny spears. And a River Tribe elder echoes the turquoise lip plate he wore in the first film.

Two artists who do a lot of crafting assisted Ms. Carter with the jewelry for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: Douriean Fletcher, a Los Angeles-based jewelry designer who also worked on the first Black Panther film, and Baba Gi, a jewelry maker in Atlanta.

Beginning with the initial preparations for the first film, designers built out the imaginary world that comic book artists Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced in 1966.

“What Wakanda represents is a fictional place reinvented where there was no colonization, and we imagine how they would have advanced with technology and Vibranium if they had leveraged their technological advances,” Ms. Carter said, referring to refers to the fictional ore that gives strength and enrichment to the Wakandans, particularly through the Kimoyo beads given to each Wakandan at birth. “And I like to think that we accentuate our costumes with embellishments that connect us to the story.”

Marion Fasel, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Adventurine, an online jewelry magazine, said over the phone: “There are certain cultures in the world where jewelry is not an accessory but an integral part of culture and life, and for me that is ‘Black ‘Panther’ does it with Wakanda.

“It establishes a jewelry culture,” she added. “Every single character in the film wears something symbolic, and historically that was jewelry. In Africa, India and many cultures, jewelry means something to this day.”

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