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Simunye and the Black Panther Experience

Close up on Black Panther statue

Marvel’s Black Panther is a phenomenon: record breaking box office numbers, a great story, and critical success. To many, I might be stating the obvious, but to a few, I haven’t even begun to articulate why Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is such an iconic moment in pop culture and means so much to the black community, not just in America, but across the world.

Close up of T'Challa's Black Panther Helmet

To get to that, I have to begin by asking a non-rhetorical question: what is black? Many answers to that question begin and end with pigment and melanin. But, black is more than that, it is music, fashion, language(s), art, dance, food, spirituality, struggle, perseverance, and more.

Shuri costume in MARVEL: Universe of Super Heroes

With Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, Director Ryan Coogler and his production team captured, explored, and celebrated the nuances and complexities of black. In 2 hours and 15 minutes, they gave us a beautiful mosaic of its different shades, textures, and dimensions. Wakandan fashion — outfits, jewelry and hairstyles — was inspired by different tribes in Africa; the salute came from Egyptian pharaohs and west African sculptures. And these are just a few of many examples.

Okoye costume from Black Panther

Regardless of who you were or where you were in the world when you watched Marvel’s “Black Panther”, as a person of African descent or someone who identifies as black (the two can be mutually exclusive), you found something in its music, characters, colors, and design you could identify with, something that made you feel that your journey or story, observations, or experiences, were represented. And more importantly, you discovered that your story and journey were interwoven (and sometimes no different) with those of others. It was a moment that inspired a feeling of oneness.

Black Panther and guest in "MARVEL: Universe of Super Heroes"

On Friday, February 1, the Museum of Pop Culture and our community partner, Brand Kings, will once again collaborate in producing the much-anticipated Black History Month celebration event, Through the Eyes of Art. This year’s theme is Simunye, a Zulu word meaning “we are one,” and through music, dance, spoken word, and visual art, we will present the stories of differing journeys throughout the African diaspora. Through these inspiring and empowering performances and conversations, we will reinforce the concept of Simunye. This annual event brings together artists, community leaders, politicians, and tastemakers from across the state of Washington to celebrate the black experience.

While you’re here, take a moment to enjoy this Simunye Spotify Playlist we created just for you. A beautiful music mix featuring artists of African descent that have created beautiful music, collaborating across genres, borders, religions, cultures, languages, and generations.

Close up on Okoye's costume at MoPOP

Get tickets for Through The Eyes of Art right here.

Can't make it? Join us for our other Black History Month events: Campout Cinema: Black Panther and Movies at MoPOPGet Out.

Marvel, Afrofuturism

About the author

Kwapi Vengesayi is the Manager of Community Engagement at MoPOP, and a fan and student of all things Motown, Afrofuturism, and Star Trek.