How African fashion has conquered film

How African fashion has conquered film

A new exhibition explores the extraordinary work of Oscar-winning designer Ruth E Carter. She speaks about Coming 2 America, Black Panther and Afrofuturism.

I still get excited talking about Black Panther now,” Carter tells BBC Culture, over a video call from Atlanta. “It’s amazing how meaningful it is, even for me, being an African-American, to connect to  something real from Africa and put it in a movie and show the world: ‘This is part of South African culture’ or ‘This is from the Lesotho people’. It makes it so much more meaningful; it has so much more depth.

Through Black Panther – which became the 12th highest-grossing film ever, and saw fans attend screenings in traditional African attire to celebrate its release – Carter imbued fantasy costumes with very real significance, informed by her research into various parts of African culture.

It’s hard to overstate Ruth E Carter’s achievement in costume design on Black Panther, even now, three years after the film’s release. She did, after all, win an Oscar for it. Not only did a massive movie franchise like Marvel finally put a leading black superhero on screen, but he was regally dressed too.

I still get excited talking about Black Panther now,” Carter tells BBC Culture, over a video call from Atlanta. “It’s amazing how meaningful it is, even for me, being an African-American, to connect to  something real from Africa and put it in a movie and show the world: ‘This is part of South African culture’ or ‘This is from the Lesotho people’. It makes it so much more meaningful; it has so much more depth.” Through Black Panther – which became the 12th highest-grossing film ever, and saw fans attend screenings in traditional African attire to celebrate its release – Carter imbued fantasy costumes with very real significance, informed by her research into various parts of African culture.

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Marcia Mphahlele

Marcia Mphahlele