Now that we all want to travel to Wakanda thanks to the brilliance of our fellow Oakland native (#townbusiness) Ryan Coogler and the gorgeous, talented cast & crew that made this world so captivating and sensational in the blockbuster film Black Panther, we are all asking ourselves how can we experience this place when Wakanda is just a fictional country? Well every part of Wakanda that we love might not exist in just one country, but the diversity of the landscapes, people and culture does exist throughout the African continent. Together, we have travelled to 2 African countries and separately 9, covering each region: East (Ethiopia & Kenya), West (Ghana, Burkina Faso & Cape Verde) South (Botswana & South Africa), Central (Congo) and North (Egypt & Morocco) and the African Union country of Mauritius.
Africa is not a monolith, so it follows that no region or country in Africa is either. Many of the borders of the continent are arbitrary to the distinct identities of different tribes, and often nation groups cross borders within particular regions. Over the next several days we are going to share our experiences in the different African countries where we have traveled and how these relate to some of the imagery and culture created in Wakanda.
North Africa – Part I:
While parts of East Africa and West Africa have large Muslim communities, the Northern region of Africa is very much associated with Islam, and at times is even categorized as an extension of the Middle-East. Regardless, Egypt and Morocco both represent hybrids of Arab-African culture (not dissimilar to the Horn of Africa).
Morocco, January 2015
While in Morocco we stayed in Marrakesh in the heart of the medina, which was hustling and bustling from sunup to sundown. The medina is not unlike other market places in Africa where people are selling spices, leather bags and other goods. Moroccans specialize in leather bags and certain spices like saffron (the most expensive spice) and cumin. Almost all Moroccan cities have a color code and for Marrakech it is the reddish brown clay, which they use to build much of the architecture in the city and especially the Medina. The scene of T’Challa and Nakia walking through the streets of the market in Wakanda reminded me of walking through the medina in Marrakesh.
Egypt, December 2006-January 2007
The city of Cairo, where our mother lived for three months from 2007-2008, Is a densely populated, busy city. The roads are full of people, cars, animal carts, and the occasional bike. The modern architecture of Cairo is juxtaposed with the Pyramids of Giza, which can be seen in the backdrop from many parts of the city. The combination of modern and historical aspects of architecture, seemingly in opposition, create a sense of a timeless city. The juxtaposition of modernity, history, and function makes perfect sense. Upon going to the Nubian villages outside of Cairo and in the Aswan region, we saw more “traditional” structures that were the color of the desert sand and made from mud-bricks and sometimes carved out of rock. This made sense for the Nubian way of life, it was functional. Throughout Black Panther, there are conversations about tradition versus modernity, and we realize they are not binaries that have to be in opposition, rather they can work in tandem. In our opinion, Cairo is a city that integrates tradition and modernity in a functional way.