Black Panther has done a lot for the culture, including bringing an authentic African language to American ears.
If you watched the film, you had to read a few subtitles as Wakandans spoke to each other. That language wasn’t made up like Elvish or Klingon; it’s Xhosa, the official language of South Africa, and the first language of the late Nelson Mandela.
Singer Zolani Mahola, leader of Freshlyground, sang in Xhosa on Shakira’s hit song “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa),” and is excited to see the language on the big screen.
“We are all realizing how much we have in common," Mahola told ABC News.
"I think that it’s wonderful to open up people’s windows of experience. I mean, how many people living in Ohio have heard Xhosa? I think it’s awesome.”
Mahola also spoke on Mandela’s legacy as a Xhosa man and believes the attention is long overdue.
“One of the most influential leaders of our time was a Xhosa man, Nelson Mandela," Mahola added. "It was his only language growing up. So I mean it’s high time we had a major Hollywood production using it."
Black Panther star Danai Gurira added that she is proud of “speaking a true African language on a global screen,” and believes that using Xhosa has broken misconceptions about African-centered stories.
“It was very important that when you're telling a story from the African perspective it is very authentic and also very accessible which kind of breaks that concept that you can't tell stories from the African perspective on a global scale,” she told ABC.
Gurira’s co-star Lupita Nyong’o said that Xhosa is “one of the hardest languages on the planet,” but that she also recognizes the importance of hearing it in "Black Panther."
“So often we watch American movies that have subtitles in Russian, German and French, but so rarely are people asked to listen to an African language and read the subtitles for it,” Nyong’o said during a press conference for the film’s South African premiere. “It is the same thing. The fact that this film is working and resonating proves that our languages resonate as well as anything else.”