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SYFY WIRE Black Panther

Chadwick Boseman gives a Black Panther shout for young fan’s all-Wakandan letter

By Benjamin Bullard
Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther

Why mess around with English when it’s time to tell the king of Wakanda how big a hero he is? In one of the cutest uses of the Wakandan language you’ll ever see, one young Black Panther fan delivered his admiration right to King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in his native tongue — and Boseman answered back.

Boseman hit social media with a royal shout-out for a young fan named Ben, who’d studied up on the written Wakandan language thoroughly enough to produce an all-Wakandan fan letter. The gesture got Boseman’s attention, and even earned its creator a “you’re awesome” straight from Boseman himself on Instagram. 

According to an amateur translation from the comments, Ben’s message reads “Dear Black Panther, my name is Ben. I am your biggest fan. Could you please write back?” — so of course Boseman couldn’t resist.

“How cool is it that @chinchilla1970 created an incredible alphabet for #BlackPanther and now I’m getting fanmail like this?” Boseman gushed. “Thanks for letting me know you’re my biggest fan, Ben. You’re awesome and your letter means a lot to me.”

Created as a way to add a dose of extra realism to Black Panther’s entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe last year, the Wakandan written language is the work of Oscar-winning production designer Hannah Beachler, whom Boseman acknowledged by tipping his hat to her “@chinchilla1970” Instagram handle above.

According to IndieWire, Beachler drew on the native African aesthetics of the real-life Nsibidi script, an ancient pictographic style of writing still used by some cultures in both Nigeria and Cameroon. With instructions from director Ryan Coogler to come up with something that “felt African but was really advanced,” Beachler said she mixed in influences from ancient cave drawings as well as modern-day graffiti to create a Wakandan-language “bible,” codifying the new alphabet into hieroglyphs.

Interestingly, Black Panther actually uses two languages: One for the spoken word and another for all the on-screen writing that helps enrich the visual setting to give Wakanda a stronger sense of place. When you hear Wakandan warriors shouting in both Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, you’re hearing an adaptation of Xhosa — a real Bantu language spoken by more than 7 million people.

While we await Coogler’s next MCU movie, it looks like we might need to start hitting the books. By the time Black Panther 2 comes out, we’ll be light-years behind one of King T’Challa’s biggest young fans if we don’t start boning up on our Wakandan now.