I am unreasonably excited about answering this question, because I just watched Black Panther twice.
I’m ready. Here we go.
When I first watched the first trailer, I was shocked, they mixed East, West and Southern cultures into one melting pot, and I wasn’t quite sure what they were doing. Why didn’t they have African consultants on set? What are you doing Ryan? Please don’t let this be bad.
I might’ve prayed to the ancestors too.
So, humour aside. They mixed a lot of different cultures, traditions and religious practices into one. And when I say a lot, I mean it.
Did they make a mistake?
I don’t personally think so. Here’s why:
Tribalism and tribes as we understand them today, are in fact a colonial construct (surprise!)
Precolonialism ethnic groups shared many tribal practices that stretched beyond tribal affiliations and allegiances, which is why today many tribes though scattered, have similar practices. Ever heard of the Divide and Conquer strategy? The Colonial Powers used the creation of tribes to separate ethnic alliances and allegiances. Ethnic alliances and not tribes were more prominent than the distinguished tribes we know today. Even in present day, across Africa, tribalism versus nationalism poses a huge problem, we don’t see that in Wakanda Forever.
Wakanda is a fictional country…
But the tribal practices are very real. Yes, the country is in East Africa, wedged somewhere between Kenya, Rwanda, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia and I was hoping that they’d primarily lean on East African customs (of which there are hundreds to choose from).
They clearly emphasised the fact that there are four different ethnic groups loyal to the Wakandan Throne. Each tribe had unique symbolism and practices, we see this in the Waterfall scene where he must fight for the throne. The various tribes are united under the Throne, and that’s what the amalgamation of cultures represents – ‘unity’ despite difference.
Wakanda is Afro-Futurism defined
And Wakanda is the embodiment of magic realism, so technically they can re-imagine Africa (and reimagine they did) in whatsoever shape-shifting form they so please. In the comics, Wakanda is also supposed to be the Cradle of African people – African people spread out from Wakanda and settled elsewhere.
Some people will naturally, disagree with me and might cite the hodge podge of cultural indicators as culturally insensitive or American ignorance at best.
The use of isiXhosa: the national language of Wakanda. IsiXhosa is a language from Southern Africa and is one of the few click languages in Africa. The use of the language is technically misplaced, but it still works well. Given that Wakanda is an isolated nation, the language would have developed differently. I personally wished they had developed a new language for Wakanda from different Bantu languages, like other Sci-fi films have done.
The Border tribe (W’kabi’s people): The Border Tribe who wear blankets (called seanamerana in Sesotho) and ride on horses, also represent another Southern African tribe – the Basotho people who occupy the mountainous region of Lesotho.
The Royal Council and The Elders:this is probably the greatest amalgamation of various cultures. The Elder wearing green from the River Tribe represents the Surma Tribes of Ethiopia and East Africa.
The Female elder with red hair (otjize) represents the Himba Tribe of Namibia and Angola. The red earthy tones of the Dora Milaje are also possibly inspired by the same tribe.
The Red ochre floor in the Royal Court looks like it’s made of the same clay.
The Queen Mother’s head gear is Nguni headgear (isicholo) worn by married women – Women in South Africa, Malawi and Zambia.
T’Challa wears a West-African-like Kaftan.
The masks are look similar to Igbo masks (Nigeria) as well as Dogon masks (East Africa).
Suri, the shaman/sangoma/spiritual leader of Wakanda and his assistant wear West African/North African Agbada. These are the long flowing robes with many layers.
Then there’s the Touareg-inspired headwear. The Touareg are a nomadic people who inhabit North and West Africa.
The Dora Milaje (the all female warriors who flank T’Challa) borrow from the Ndebele (South Africa and Zimbabwe) and Samburu and Masaai people (Kenya and Tanzania) in terms of the neck pieces, the arm bracelets, the beaded breastplates, the symmetry of the armour and colours.
The architecture in the city is also borrows from the Ndebele people.
The river ceremony once T’Challa is crowned king is directly influenced by the Kuomboka ceremony of the Lozi people in Zambia.
I personally feel that they represented most corners of the African continent, and that their aim was not to offend. As a Southern African, I’m immensely proud of this film, not only because of what it has done, and what it will continue to accomplish, but that Africans and African Americans came together to create something unseen in the cinematic universe. It’s indicative of the future. The world has seen nothing yet.
EDIT: Wow. Thank you so much for the incredible response everyone! I really appreciate it. My friends and I recently hosted a more critical panel on Black Panther and African responses to it. You can listen to it here.
Before I say anything else, I want to make clear that I completely agree with Eleftherios Tserkezis’s answer to this question. The way your professor said what he said was highly problematic because, as Eleftherios explained, the concept of a “white race” is an entirely modern one that did not exist in ancient Greece.
The modern concept of “race” developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a justification for the enslavement of Africans. It did not exist before that point. Although the ancient Greeks certainly recognized that people from different parts of the world tend to look different, they had no concept of “race” as we think of it today. If you walked up to an ancient Athenian man in the Agora and asked him, “Hey, are you white?” he would have about as much of an idea of what you were talking about as most people today would have if you asked them, “Hey, are you olive?”
As Eleftherios has already explained, it is therefore anachronistic to call the ancient Greeks “white” or “not white,” since these are terms that would make no sense to them. Our modern ideas about race are certainly not objective either, since there is very little agreement on what exactly it means to be “white” to begin with and there is no objective way to measure whether someone is or is not “white.” In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were seriously people who insisted that the Irish were not white and used this as justification for their subjugation by the English. Just take a look at this racist propaganda flyer from the nineteenth-century:
For more information on this subject, I highly recommend reading this answer I wrote back in May 2019. Nonetheless, I have something else that I would like to add on to what Eleftherios has already said, which is that, even though your professor did not express what he said in the most ideal way, I think he was trying to convey the right message.
There is a very longstanding idea that still holds a lot of sway, especially in certain conservative circles, that the ancient Greeks were members of the supposed “white race,” which, as I have previously explained, is basically a fantasy notion. The more overtly racist iterations of this idea often claim that the ancient Greeks’ achievements were the result of their racial superiority as white Europeans. As I have discussed in several previous answers, this notion feeds into a dangerous narrative of white supremacy. This is a narrative that contemporary racists and white supremacists are only too happy to exploit.
White supremacist and neo-Nazi groups such as Identity Evropa continue to routinely misuse images of classical-looking sculptures in advertisements for white supremacy, emblazoned with dog whistle slogans like “Let’s Become Great Again,” “Serve Your People,” and “Protect Your Heritage.” These people love to talk about the glories of ancient Greece and Rome in terms of the supposed white race. They frequently use the idea of “western civilization” (which, when they use it, is always a dog whistle for “white civilization”) as a tool to win supporters.
ABOVE: Posters from Identity Evropa displayed on a bulletin board on a college campus advertising white supremacy using classical sculptures
Obviously, we do not want to add any more fuel to this sort of narrative.
Furthermore, classical studies is a field that has a acquired a negative, but not entirely accurate reputation for being the study of exclusively “dead white men.” This reputation is very harmful to the field of classical studies in our modern, increasingly diverse country. It is a reputation that has, unfortunately, given a lot of people a very negative impression of classical studies as a field and even seems to drive a lot of people—including both young students and apparently even mature scholars—away from the field.
For instance, at one point a few months or so ago, I read an answer right here on Quora written by a tenured history professor in which he more-or-less argued that, because America is becoming less white than ever before, universities should not hire classicists and should instead only hire professors to teach about the histories of “non-white” peoples.
He suggested that, instead of hiring classicists, universities should hire professors to teach about East Asian history, African history, or Latin American history. I agree with him that these are all areas of history that deserve to be studied, but I strongly disagree with his contention that universities should not hire classicists.
I think that, when he said that ancient Greece was diverse and that there were non-white people who lived there, your professor may have been trying to combat this negative reputation that has developed surrounding classical studies. Essentially, by saying that there were people in ancient Greece who were not white, he was trying to assert that classical studies is a field for everyone where ethnic minorities are welcome and make a case for the continued relevance of classical studies as an academic discipline.
I think that this is a very good message to send; I just think that the specific wording through which your professor chose to convey this message was not entirely ideal. In trying to combat the narrative of white supremacists and the negative stereotypes surrounding the field of classical studies, he inadvertently gave credence to both of them by implying that the idea of a “white race” is a real thing.
Scientist wouldn’t say “White people evolved from Black people” since “Black people” and “White People” are Homo Sapiens. Unless you are Saying “White people” have sprouted rhino horns and “Black people” grew bat wings lol. Evolution involves speciation (ie: a dog like creature becomes a dolphin) Speciation – Wikipedia). Adaptation is different (White skin developed to better absorb vitamin D in low sun conditions) Adaptation – Wikipedia. There is a lot of evidence to prove the past.
We also know All Homo Sapiens came from a small group of Africans due a number of facts:
The fossil record – This shows that All Hominids (Humans, Apes, and our predecessors), even monkeys are from Africa. Its similar to how most marsupials are from Australia. The oldest Human remains were found in Africa. The oldest DNA ever sequence was also found in Morocco, Africa. All of the predecessors leading to modern humans were also found in Africa.
DNA – We also know that all people come from Africa due to DNA evidence. Using a Family Tree based on DNA we are able to see how we are related to each other by tracing specific traits. Just as a paternity test would point out the Father of a child Genetic evidence conclusively shows that everyone is ultimately an African with modifications for their native environment. Also outside of African other species have mated with Humans with varying degrees of success. The Maasai people in Tanzania and Kenya are like most Africans they are the purest form of Homo Sapien (They don’t have Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA). Non-Africans are part Neanderthal, genetic research shows This also shows that all modern Humans are from Africa since Neanderthals did not mate with Humans in Africa. Had Humans originated anywhere else most likley all Africans would have inherited Neanderthal DNA.
DNA: Cheddar man – The Earliest European remains found in the UK underwent genetic analysis. It turns out his Africanized dark skin remain long after scientist would have expected. The result of the DNA analysis showed that Cheddar man had dark chocolate skin and showed a recent mutation for Blue eyes:
DNA: Mitochondrial Eve – One of the Biggest piece of evidence is the existence of Genetic Eve/Mitochondrial Eve. In human cells there are smaller elements called Mitochondria, this Mitochondria has a specific type of DNA “mDNA” (Mitochondrial DNA). This mDNA is passed down unchanged from Mother to Daughter. Virtually everyone has the same mDNA indicating a similar ancient grandmother playfully called Eve, Mitochondrial Eve. This “Eve” would have lived it the Areas around Kenya and Ethiopia. Basically every human on Earth carries the basic blueprint to a 200,000 year old African Woman we have dubbed “Eve”. Based on her DNA we are able to reconstruct how she would have looked:
Eve is actually a composite of Several different women that existed during this time. People will have slightly different Mitochondrial Eves however we know all of these Mitochondrial Eves were related (Sisters, or cousins, ect).
And finally people adapt to their environment.“Adaptation – a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.” The features that we perceive as race are simply a few minor features that most groups share in varying degrees:
Adaptation: Nose – A longer narrow nose with silted nostrils is suited for warming colder air before entering the lungs in Cold Climates.
A shorter nose with wider circular nostrils is best for preventing the already hot air from getting warmer in Hot Climates.
Adaptation: Skin color – Darker skin is full of Melenin. Melanin is a natural substance that blocks UV radiation, it gives skin its yellow and brown colors. This is useful in sunny environments. However in less sunny environments it can block too much light. The skin absorbs some of this light to make vitamin D. People whom live in less sunny environments adapted lighter skin to help absorb enough sunlight to synthesize vitamin D.
Adaptation: Eyelid Shape – In every continent we can find variations in eye/eyelid shape. A common eyelid shape in East Asian is having a prominent epicanthic fold. This fold developed to protect the eye from Wind, Glaring Sunlight, Sand, Snow, and other foreign objects. All groups of people can have this feature however it is more frequent in East Asia.
Adaptation: Lip Size – Similar to eye shape all groups of people have varying lip sized and shapes. However fuller lips are more predominate amounts African peoples. Most likely this was a dominate trait with the original humans. Full lips aid in regulating body temperature. The lip are full of fine blood vessels that can be cooled by the circulating air passing through the mouth.
In colder environments full lips can be a disadvantage due to the lips chapping. Since the main purpose of full lips is to help cool the body it is less needed in an already cold environment.
Adaptation: Hair Texture – Human hair can be pin straight, tightly curled and everything in between. In Very hot climates Human hair has adapted to be tightly curled/coiled. Scientist believed this happens for 2 reasons. Tightly curled hair increases the volume of the hair. This help block the sun from causing heat stroke from excessive heat to the head. The coils also aid in allowing air to blow through the scalp while blocking the sun. Tightly curled hair also tends to be porous and hydrophilic, meaning it absorbs/holds water. This is useful in an hot arid environment.
Straight hair tends to be thicker in width and aids in keeping the head and body warm in cold climates. Long straight hair also is good at repelling water away from the head and body. Straight hair clumps together forming a route for water to follow and drip off.
Before racism there was no “Black” culture, Just African culture.
The concept of being Black was invented in Europe not Africa. Africans did not think in terms of Being Black. They were taught to think in terms of Black and White during slavery. Many Africans practiced West African religions that were considered by Christians to be pagan. One of these religions was called Vodun. The Slaves were taught by their Slave masters that Vodun was evil, and all African religion was considered evil. All African religions was called “Black magic”. Vodun became demonized as VooDoo West African Vodun – WikipediaMagical Negro – Wikipedia
Back to the main Subject. The picture above is of the late Carol Channing. She was a famous entertainer, she sang, danced, and acted. Once she was elderly she reviled that she is actually “Black”. Her father was African-American and her mother was “White”. Carol Channing – Wikipedia
What Carol Channing did was relatively common in America, it has happened so much that around 1/3 of White Americans are part African-American:
And although African-Americans only make up 13% of the American population, 38% of Americans have African-American ancestry if you include White-Americans. And when you include Hispanics the number of people with some African ancestry increases.
If we examine the history of music in America also, you will see that Most of the music comes directly from Africa (Gospel, Blues, Jazz), and the ones that aren’t African in origin are heavily influenced by African Music (Bluegrass):
Even the type of cooking such as the deep frying of chicken first started in West African and got carried over to the Southern Slaves in America where it became popular Southern Cooking. Most Western European food only used salt and pepper where as most West African styles of food heavily used various spice rubs. The Scots also independently discovered deep frying they however they did not season or batter their poultry before frying it, where as African did and America adopted the African style of flying chicken. Fried chicken – Wikipedia
Blood-line/heritage, music, and food are major parts of Culture and All of these have been heavily influenced by Africans in American. Without Africans America would be unrecognizable as America. Black-Americans and White-Americans are cousins. African culture is part of American culture.
In the picture below you might see a White family eating fried chicken.
They’re the “White” looking descendants of African-Americans that are eating the food the same way their ancestors cooked it back in West Africa.
I’m no expert, I hope someone with the right back ground will give us the full story. Some minor corrections! First, it’s not just atheists but also believers who are scholars, historians, and archaeologists.
Second, The Epic of Gilgamesh isn’t a book, its twelve stone tablets from (nearly) 4000 years ago, 2100BC (that’s when the tablet was made, not when the story was first told).
That’s a thousand years before the original Hebrew Bible, the old testament was compiled (which started in 1200 and finished by 165 BC), The rest (depending on your religion) started to appear during the first century AD. The Epic is regarded as the “earliest surviving great work of literature”.
That’s the physical evidence for the Epic being older than the Bible, Scholars believe multiple stories from the bible are lifted from the Gilgamesh (The following is copied from Wikipedia with links to the references)
Garden of Eden
The parallels between the stories of Enkidu/Shamhat and Adam/Eve have been long recognized by scholars.
In both, a man is created from the soil by a god, and lives in a natural setting amongst the animals. He is introduced to a woman who tempts him. In both stories the man accepts food from the woman, covers his nakedness, and must leave his former realm, unable to return. The presence of a snake that steals a plant of immortality from the hero later in the epic is another point of similarity.
Advice from Ecclesiastes
Several scholars suggest direct borrowing of Siduri‘s advice by the author of Ecclesiastes.
In a 2001 Torah commentary released on behalf of the Conservative Movement of Judaism, rabbinic scholar Robert Wexler stated: “The most likely assumption we can make is that both Genesis and Gilgamesh drew their material from a common tradition about the flood that existed in Mesopotamia. These stories then diverged in the retelling.”
Matthias Henze suggests that Nebuchadnezzar‘s madness in the biblical Book of Daniel draws on the Epic of Gilgamesh. He claims that the author uses elements from the description of Enkidu to paint a sarcastic and mocking portrait of the king of Babylon.
Many characters in the Epic have mythical biblical parallels, most notably Ninti, the Sumerian goddess of life, was created from Enki‘s rib to heal him after he had eaten forbidden flowers. It is suggested that this story served as the basis for the story of Eve created from Adam‘s rib in the Book of Genesis.
Gilgamesh is mentioned in one version of the The Book of Giants which is related to the Book of Enoch presumably written by biblical grandfather of Noah. The Book of Giants version found at Qumran mentions the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh and the monster Humbaba with the Watchers and giants.
n my opinion a God could be anything. All it takes is a person to worship, pray to and constantly praise something and label it a God. Most often times a person will attribute unrealistic characteristics to such a deity or God. The believer then disproves the reality of such a deity or God when they add things which can not be proved to such a deity to enhance it.