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African Inspired Fashion All The Rage At "Black Panther" Opening Weekend

Black Panther, African Fashion, African Americans, Comic Books
Leoneda Inge

You can count on comic book superfans to dress-up like their favorite characters for a big movie premiere.  But the opening weekend of "Black Panther" has brought out new fans and new ware. The “Afrocentric” tone of the film has many moviegoers wanting to dress the part, from African-inspired jewelry to authentic Kente cloth.

Exotique is an African boutique on West Main Street in downtown Durham. During recent days, everybody seemed to be shopping for the same thing – an outfit to wear to the opening weekend of “Black Panther.”

“I found this cute little, I guess semi-crop top. I like the blue and the gold. So I am going to wear that with some skinny jeans and some boots!” said an excited Kalia Robinson, from Durham. "I have got some earrings at the countertop as well, some bronzy earrings. So I’m ready!”

Before shopping at Exotique, Robinson purchased a “Black Panther” hoodie from Target.

"They had the hoodie with the continent of Africa on there, it was really nice. They had a lot of kid stuff too, for 'Black Panther' and the 'Wakanda Tribe'," said Robinson."I wanted to be a little more stylish, flashy, authentic!"

Lola Olufolabi, a native of Lagos, Nigeria, has owned "Exotique" for 12 years. She shows off several pairs of pants, tops and wrap skirts made with fabric from West Africa. She calls it the “good” cotton. And then there’s the stand where almost all of the cloth for head wraps is gone.

“I have never experienced anything like this one. Since January, second or third week in January people have been coming in to find something to wear for this," said Olufolabi. "Most people want something African. Some want something really smart. But everyone wants to go in and celebrate, and celebrate culture, African pride!”

Critics have praised “Black Panther” for being a “momentous” event in pop culture history, bringing together comic-book science fiction and African folklore. And it’s the connection to “the Motherland” and to the fictitious un-colonized country of "Wakanda," that’s excited so many people. Over the weekend, the movie brought in nearly $400 million worldwide

Black Panther, Comic Books, Race, African American
Credit Leoneda Inge
Rhumel Anderson, left, and her daughter, Imani attended a pre-screening of 'Black Panther' in Durham, NC. Rhumel Anderson made the skirts especially for the event.

Ray Terry is the Box Office Manager at Stadium 10 at Northgate Theatres in Durham. We’ll excuse the fact he was wearing a “Flash” t-shirt.

“We’re going to have it (Black Panther) in three screens," said Terry, as he motioned moviegoers to the correct theatre. "This is going to be a huge, huge showing for us at this theatre.”

One reason the Northgate Mall Theatre was so busy is because the African American fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, hosted a pre-screening. And there were several people wearing blue and white dashikis.

“So, I am wearing an African shirt with some designs on the front and a black leather jacket to go with the movie theme," said Daniel Harwell. He and his wife, Melanie Townsend, came in from Rocky Mount for the movie.

"This was bought special for this event!" Townsend said, with a big laugh."We’ll probably re-use it for some costume in the future, but we did buy it special for this."

They bought their outfits off Amazon. And then you have the Anderson family of Durham. They loved the movie.  I loved Rhumel Anderson’s outfit. An African inspired skirt, black t-shirt and a denim jacket.

"You know what, I made this. I made this for both me and my daughter," said Anderson. "It was that important to me.”

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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