Since his first appearance in the Fantastic four #52 and the first live-action performance in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther has become an important figure in the Marvel Universe. Black Panther is the mantle given to the ruler of an imaginary African country called Wakanda. It is one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world. and remains hidden using their cloaked by advanced technology. Their many technologies are the result of an alien indestructible element called vibranium.
… And when the time of man came, five tribes settled on it and called it Wakanda. The tribes were constantly at war with each other until a warrior-shaman had a vision of the Panther Goddess Bast… the warrior became king and the first Black Panther – the protector of Wakanda.
They do this to protect themselves, their culture and their inhabitants from the evils of the rest of the world. In the MCU, Wakanda is made up of five tribes, four of which were united under the rule of the first Black Panther 10,000 years ago. In Wakanda there are five tribes – border, merchant, mining, river and Jabari. Their chief gods are Hanuman, for the Jabari, and Bast, for everyone else. The lords of each tribe sit on the king’s council and assist the king in the political affairs of the country. In the comics, the royal family was considered to be of “The Panther Tribe” or “The Golden Tribe”. But that’s not the case with MCU.
Let’s look at them one by one.
1. The River Tribe
River Tribe of Wakanda wear their signature green clothing made from crocodile leather, with some men wearing lip plates – a disc inserted into a hole pierced in the enlarged lower lip. They worship the Panther Goddess – Bast. The River Tribe was one of five tribes that fought each other after the fall of the Vibranium meteorite in what later became Wakanda. Finally, Bashenga – the first Black Panther, ended the conflict between them and united them as one.
2. The mining tribe
Mining Tribe is responsible for the extraction, storage and use of vibranium from the Wakandan subsoil. They wear traditional dresses in red and orange color with big headdresses. They also worship the Panther God – Bark. Before the comics, The Mining Tribe seemed to have influences from the Himba and Maasai People of East Africa.
3. The Merchant Tribe
Merchant Tribe of Wakanda is responsible for the trade and crafts of arts, clothing and works of art. They also wear veils on their faces when trading to maintain anonymity and are sometimes also referred to as – The masu. They also worship the Panther God – Bast. In the prehistory of Wakanda, as told in the comics, the ancestors of the Koopmans tribe fought for possession of the land against other tribes for many years. The tribe eventually merged with another tribe to form the larger Masu people. Their traditional color is purple. They are based on the Tuareg people from the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa.
4. The Border Tribe
Border Tribe sticks to the edge of the Wakanda border. They mainly pose as farmers to mislead foreigners of Wakanda’s wealth and their talent for breeding white rhinoceroses for many purposes. This tribe also acts as the nation’s shield against foreign threats, ensuring no invaders enter Wakanda uninvited. They too worship the Panther God – Bast.
Their humans possess vibranium-based capes with shielding and cloaking features. Their traditional color is blue. In addition, certain members of this tribe scarification i.e. decorating their faces with various scars and marks. One of the members of this tribe W’Kabi (Phil Morris) was shown as a close friend and advisor to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in the movie Black Panther.
5. The Jabari Tribe
Jabari Tribe (or J’Abari or Mountain Tribe) follows the White Gorilla cult of the god Hanuman. They are staunch traditionalists and live in the mountains of Wakanda, isolated from the rest of the tribe and the Black Panther royal council. They follow a more primitive lifestyle and wear the colors brown and white in honor of the White Ape.
This tribe has a strong tradition of woodworking and farming. The language spoken by them, as seen in the MCU, is in a Yoruba dialect. While other tribes and the royal family speak in the Xhosa dialect. They are inspired by the karo tribe of Ethiopia and the Dogon people of Mali.
Their leader M’Baku (Winston Duke), initially turned out to be against Black Panther and his rule over Wakanda, but later joined his forces with T’Challa to defeat N’Jadaka, aka Eric Killmonger. (Michale B. Jordan). He also participated with his tribe in the Battle of Wakanda against Thanos’ army.
There is one more movie – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and two series – Wakanda and Okaywhich could further elaborate on the cultures and importance of these tribes in Wakanda and MCU.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be released worldwide on November 11, 2022.