In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” jewelry plays a vital role, and it’s not just those almighty Kimoyo beads.
Jewelry links the sequel, which was released earlier this month, to the first “Black Panther” movie. “We see King T’Challa’s ring that Shuri wears around her neck,” Ruth E. Carter, the film’s costume and jewelry designer, said in a video interview, referring to T’Challa’s sister, played by Letitia Wright . “She wears it during the funeral procession. It is a symbolic passing of the torch.”
(Marvel decided not to recast T’Challa after Chadwick Boseman, who played him in the first film, died of colon cancer in 2020.)
And by embellishing the sequel’s cast, Ms. Carter and her team had a chance to expand on the African motifs they’d mined for Wakanda, the fictional country portrayed cinematically in the 2018 film “Black Panther” — and to take inspiration from the Mayan culture when styling the Talocan tribe. It is an underwater civilization attacking Wakanda, which is the main storyline of the second film.
“The Wakandans connect with traditional African tribes, and the Talocans connect with Mesoamerica and the ocean,” Ms. Carter said. “With the Mayan influence, we connected the aboveground world to what they would have used from the ocean.” She said the designs for the Talocans included materials such as bone, jade, rope and kelp.
Perhaps the most prominent jewel-clad character in the new “Black Panther” story is Namor, the leader of the Talocans, played by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía.
“Namor is adorned with a large necklace with a two-headed serpent with a large pearl in its mouth and a double pearl necklace,” said Ms. Carter. “That has a lot of meaning. A snake was often used in Mesoamerican masonry and pottery.”
Other new characters that are lavishly decorated include the Talocan warrior Attuma, who wears a headgear depicting a hammerhead shark, while Namor’s niece Namora has a neck piece shaped like lionfish fins.
Ms. Carter, the first black designer to win an Oscar for best costume design for her work on “Black Panther,” also focused on varying the jewelry between the recurring characters.
“Queen Ramonda wears two different corsets, one of which is inspired by the Dogon tribe in Mali and runs from the base of the neck to the bust,” Ms. Carter said, referring to Angela Bassett’s character, who heads Wakanda after the death of her son T’Challa.
“The second one is made to look like it’s her armor,” she said. “It’s a very strong and heavy imagery, but befitting the Queen and her rule over Wakanda.”
M’Baku, the leader of the Jabari tribe in Wakanda, played by Winston Duke, has a necklace made of small spears. And a River Tribe elder is repeating the turquoise lip plate he wore in the first movie.
Two craftsmen helped Ms. Carter with the jewelry for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”: Douriean Fletcher, a jewelry designer from Los Angeles who also worked on the first film, “Black Panther,” and Baba Gi, a jewelry maker in Atlanta .
Starting with the initial preparations for the first film, the designers built out the imaginary world introduced by comic artists Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966.
“What Wakanda represents is a fictional place that has been reimagined where there was no colonization, and we envision how they would have progressed with technology and Vibranium using their technological advancements,” Ms. Carter said, referring to the fictional ore which empowers and enriches the Wakandans, especially through the Kimoyo Beads given to each Wakandan at birth. “And I like to think we accentuate our costumes with embellishments that connect us to history.”
Marion Fasel, founder and editor-in-chief of The Adventurine, an online jewelry magazine, said over the phone: “There are certain cultures in the world where jewelry is not an accessory but an integral part of culture and life, and to me that’s what ‘Black Panther’ does. with Wakanda.
“It establishes a jewelry culture,” she added. “Every character in the movie is wearing something that is symbolic, which is what jewelry was historically. In Africa and Indian and many cultures to this day jewelry means something.