Ruth E. Carter makes history as the first Black woman to win two Oscars at the 95th Academy Awards. Her second win in the Best Costume Design category – her first being for the first Black Panther film directed by Ryan Coogler, released in 2018 – Carter is recognised for her tremendous work for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, its impassioned and triumphant sequel.
A career spanning over 40 years, Ruth E. Carter continues to elevate her work in every project she graces. Expanding upon Afrofuturism in her costuming for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Carter’s collaborations with designers such as Julia Koerner, JJ Valaya and Iris van Herpen shape the possibilities of the future of African fashion, particularly in the filmic space. Working on Queen Ramonda’s (played by Angela Bassett) crown and neckpiece for this film, Koerner and Carter evolved her [Queen Ramonda] pieces to showcase her new status as the monarch of Wakanda while also weaving in the afro-futurist designs that are entrenched in Wakandan society.
In an interview with Dezeen, Carter talks about how the film is reflective of Afrofuturism: “We are our future and we are actually living afro future and making a film about it seems very organic to our process.” It is evident throughout the run of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, how Afrofuturism is intrinsic to its development both aesthetically and conceptually.
Wearing royal jewel colours for the majority of the film’s run, Queen Ramonda’s introduction sees her in a deep purple dress embellished with gold and silver to highlight her high, authoritative status as Queen Regnant. The gold centrepiece on her crown is an elevated design of her previous crown (based on the Isicholo – a South African headpiece worn by married women) while her sleek, geometric golden neckpiece contrasts to the intricate halo design of her shoulder mantle in the first Black Panther. Koerner who worked on these 3D printed pieces in particular says Ramonda’s “technologically advanced and very digital” costuming clearly reflects the Kingdom of Wakanda’s own scientifically and technologically advanced society. (Dezeen, 2022)
In addition to Wakandan costuming, Carter also developed the aesthetics of Talokan, an underwater kingdom ruled by Namor. With references to Mayan culture and Mesoamerican history, Carter also worked to create pieces that would be able to function underwater, taking in these environments as well to influence the designs of Talokanil clothing.
For the headdresses the various Talokanil wear, Carter said: “We relied on Mayan inspirations, but also the environment that they were now in underwater, so [organic materials]like coral and fish and bones became more important when creating the headdress.” (Dezeen, 2022)
Evidently, Ruth E. Carter displays her incredible abilities to create a world and its history through clothing and beyond deserves her flowers for her work on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It will be beyond exciting to see what Carter works on next.
Watch Ruth E. Carter win the Academy Award here via MCS Plus: