Legendary costume designer Ruth Carter used the solemn occasion of King T’Challa’s funeral to bring a spellbinding moment of African unity to life in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
According to The Wrap, Carter viewed the fallen king’s sendoff as an opportunity to honor the fallen monarch while glorifying his transition to the ancestral realm.
“We wanted this scene to feel celebratory despite the sadness. For the Wakandans, this is a ceremony of T’Challa’s ascension.”
To achieve this, she dressed the film’s stars and hundreds of extras in immaculate white costumes that incorporated style elements from a variety African nations. In this way, Carter brought a multitude of African cultures together for the scene.
“When people watch the procession at home and are able to pause it, they will be able to see the different tribes of Africa coming together through the different costumes. You can see the Zulu, the Tuareg of Mali and all the areas of Africa together as a group.”
The sheer scope of the scene placed extraordinary demands on Carter’s meticulous attention to detail, from the regal attire of Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), to members of the Wakandan government and the mourning garments worn by subjects of the kingdom.
“I’m running from person to person, wrapping turbans, adjusting outfits, making sure everything is in place. It makes it hard for me to watch a film the first time out because we are so intentional about how each person is represented, how each person celebrates their culture. It’s the grooming that makes the authenticity come alive because when clothes aren’t respected in the proper way, it takes away from the magic of learning about that person and their tribe and culture.”
So far, Black Panther has been the crowning achievement in Carter’s 30-year career. She has earned three Academy Award nominations, including one for Malcolm X and another for Amistad. However, it was the innovative Afrofuturism of her designs for Black Panther that saw her become the first African American to win an Oscar for Best Costume Design.
In addition to being a longtime collaborator of Spike Lee, and her work with Ryan Coogler and Steven Spielberg, Carter has also created costumes for Lee Daniels (The Butler), Ava DuVernay (Selma), and the late Jon Singleton (Shaft).
Carter’s work is integral to the visual conceptualization of Wakanda that has captured the imagination of so many MCU fans. The Black Panther sequel raked in an eye-popping $330 million through its opening weekend, blasting the previous record set by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, making it the highest-grossing November film release on record.