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Consider This Brunch: How Costume Design Legend Ruth Carter Created the Look for T’Challa’s Funeral

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" producer Nate Moore and costume designer Ruth Carter participated in a panel moderated by awards editor Marcus Jones at IndieWire's Consider This FYC Awards Brunch.

Ruth Carter (Costume Designer) and Nate Moore (Producer) arrive at the 2022 IndieWire FYC Consider This Brunch  at the Citizen News on November 18th, 2022 in Hollywood, California.

Ruth Carter and Nate Moore

Stewart Cook for IndieWire

Few films in the 21st century have made as large of a cultural impact as “Black Panther.” A sequel was inevitable, but Chadwick Boseman’s tragic death put the creative team in a seemingly impossible position. How do you continue a franchise without its titular star?

As part of IndieWire’s Consider This FYC Brunch November 18, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” producer Nate Moore and costume designer Ruth E. Carter joined IndieWire’s Marcus Jones for a conversation about bringing the fictional African nation of Wakanda to life once again.

“Making this movie was a way for us to process our own grief,” Moore said. “And we knew it would be a way for the audience to mourn this character and this actor they loved so much as well.”

Boseman, and his character King T’Challa, is felt throughout “Wakanda Forever.” But the filmmakers decided an outright funeral scene was needed.

“We asked the question: How do they mourn their dead in Africa?” Carter said. “One of the colors was red, and one of the others was white. White represented purity and because we already used red for the Dora Milaje we wanted to go with white. We were painting beads, draping fabrics. And it was so wonderful because we were then able to stage it like all the different tribes that were introduced in the first film come together to honor the king. Normally they’re so colorful. Now they’re all in white. They’re all one to honor the king.”

“The notion of burning the funeral garments is also an African tradition,” Moore said. “All of this allowed Shuri to unlock the spiritual side of her, while we know she already is so in touch with her technological side.”

Drawing from real-world cultures and traditions extended to the creation of the underwater city Talokan, where Namor (Tenoch Huerta) rules. Talokan itself is a Mayan name and mythological idea — rooting this watery realm in a Mayan aesthetic gave a greater level of specificity (as well as representational possibilities) to who Namor could be. In the film, Namor is believed to be the Mayan god K’uk’ulkan, and a real sculptural relief of K’uk’ulkan at Chichen Itza helped influence the way he looked. “Namor wears on his neck ring an image of the two-headed feather serpent [that’s K’uk’ulkan],” Carter said.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is directed by Ryan Coogler and co-written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. It stars Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta, Danai Guriria, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Dominique Thorne, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Cole, Alex Livinalli, and Mabel Cadena. 

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