I almost cried the first time I saw Black Panther. As an African, I had never imagined watching a movie featuring an African country in a powerful and positive way on the big screen. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw the Tuareg architecture and heard the sounds of the balafon, kora, vuvuzela and the vocals by Baaba Maal.
When I moved to Brooklyn in 2010, I used to wear my malian outfits during eid and people would stare at me. Eid is a muslim holiday refering to Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. Eid Al-Fitr is the celebration marking the end of Ramadan. Eid Al-Adha coincides with the end of the Hajj pilgrimage and is celebrated in honor of Ibrahim (Abraham)’s will to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son.
Back in 2010, I couldn’t tell if people were staring in admiration or disgust because nobody said anything. For the Black Panther opening, I wanted to show African pride by wearing a boubou dress. That night, everybody kept telling me how nice I looked. I was so proud to see more people in the U.S. appreciating African fashion and style.
As I was watching Black Panther, every scene Shuri played reminded me of myself. She would say something and I would think “damn that sounds like something I would say”. She is dark skinned, smart, skinny and funny and such a nerdy bae. Representation Matters!
I had to build my cosplay from scratch because when the movie was released, Shuri costumes were not available yet. I decided to start with the neck piece and the arm bands. I used foam sheets, hot glue and paint. The first neck piece I made, was blue and relatively small but I was happy that I was going in the right direction. After all, cosplay is all about trial and error just like many other creative activities. I ordered the gauntlets on Amazon and bought white face paint at my local art and crafts store to do the face make up.
In June 2018, I wanted to finish the whole costume in time for WinCon. So I made a better neck piece that was not choking me and with more accurate colors. I made a top from a dark blue tank top. I painted the top black and sewn in two yellow gold lines in the front. I used the same yellow gold fabric to make the skirt/wrap. For the panther buckle, I used foam sheets and silver paint. I bought dark blue leggings and to add a personal touch, I decided to style my hair in a wash n go and add a headband I made from fabric my mother sent me from Mali.