On the Visual Design of Birnin Zana, Wakanda’s Capitol

Design & Designers, Geek out!, Movies & TV

All the “best of 2018” movie lists I’ve seen remind of how much I loved Black Panther. So, I’m stealing an early start to the Martin Luther King Day weekend and reading about the design of Wakanda’s capitol city.

It’s called Birnin Zana and nicknamed the Golden City, although neither name appears in the movie. The Birnin Zana we see on the screen is the creation of the movie’s production designer, Hannah Beachler.

In a CityLab interview with Nicole Flatow, Beachler recounts her starting point:

“You know what’s keeping us together: the connectivity of people, not the connectivity of users. We’re not users; we’re people, but we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re users,” she said. “So I took all of that, and I just chucked it out of Wakanda, because the people were the most important thing about it, and we’re forgetting it. And I think that’s why people responded to Wakanda on this massive level: people.”

CityLab Marvel Studios Wakandan Street View

Marvel Studios; via CityLab.

The first impression of Birnin Zana is of course the skyscrapers, but if you look closely, there is water and ample greenery, too. The skyscrapers don’t seem to block the light too badly either.

Wired Marvel Studios City from Above

Marvel Studios; via Wired.

And if you really look, you can see greenery both in and on the buildings.

fxguide Marvel Studios Royal Landing Pad

Marvel Studios; via fxguide.

Vanity Fair Marvel Studios City Concept

Marvel Studios; via Vanity Fair.

Ahh! Nice.

Many of the building shapes hark back to traditional African aesthetics; also the surface detailing is rich and striking. In an interview with Collider, Beachler talks about the influences for her work:

“I started poking around and looking at really modern architects who have designed in Africa, all over Africa, east and west Africa. And someone who I really fell in love with was Zaha Hadid, who has passed away, but she is one of the foremost architects. So I started looking at her. Her architecture is very voluptuous and very flowing, very organic. So I thought this would be good. And the more I started digging into Senegal and Nigeria and finding things, while not necessarily futuristic-looking, very modern in their sensibilities as far as the way they’re putting together their elements and the colors that they use. I was struck by that. So I took a lot of that in. And a lot of it does come from Nigeria. I think in Kenya, Uganda, Johannesburg was another one, where no matter where you go, you really do see that they’re always keeping in mind the tradition.”

Los Angeles Times Marvel Studios City Concept Low-Built Area

Film Frame / Marvel Studios; via Los Angeles Times.

Collider Marvel Studios Wakanda City Concept

Marvel Studios; via Collider.

Beachler also created a 500-page “Wakanda Bible” for the actors to study, including the history of Golden City and names for all the buildings. The records hall held special meaning for her:

“Because [Wakanda residents] know everything about their past”—a privilege that real-world African Americans don’t have—“and [that] will never go away again in this city.

“I felt that way because I never knew my history. I didn’t know my ancestry, I didn’t know how far back it went …That was truly the most important thing to me. I don’t have that, but I could give it here in this fantastical world.”

I wish we got to see it, but I don’t think we do. (If you’ve spotted the records hall, let me know!)

Anyway; gorgeous through and through, isn’t it?

Now, I’m a city girl and have been almost my entire life. However, my concept of a city is different: all urban areas back home are typically so roomily built I’ve heard that if we were to follow some particular EU directive the whole country of Finland wouldn’t have a single city. (No idea whether that’s true, though.) Add my introversion to the difference in our respective urban population densities, and I suspect I would need a lot of alonetime were it possible for me to visit the Golden City.

Other than that, I LOVE everything we see: Color! Fantastic public transit (maglev trains, streetcars), but with people and their needs (and not cars) clearly at the focus. Traditional crafts and art that live very comfortably next to high-tech. Street vendors of almost every stripe – especially the food vendors make my mouth water every time I see them.

I do wish we could have a real-world Wakanda, for many reasons, the fabulous design being just one.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Discoveries: INFJoe Cartoons

Books & Mags, Thumbs Up

Artist and introvert Aaron Caycedo-Kimura set up a creative persona for his insightful comics. As INFJoe, he shares the joys and frustrations about being an introvert.

I first ran into the comics through his book Text, Don’t Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life.

Illustrated Introverted Text Dont Call

The book cover describes it like this:

“Introversion is no longer taboo, but there are still many misconceptions out there. People think we’re just shy or anti-social. That we don’t want to have close relationships, that we’re all cat people, or that we don’t like big parties. (Okay, the last one may be true.)”

And, boy, do INFJoe Cartoons deliver! As an introvert married to another introvert, I find so much to relate in the comics. Below are some of my favorites.

Introvert Togetherness:

INFJoe Introvert Togetherness

“I LOVE being alone. Together.”

#Introvert Inclusion:

INFJoe Introvert Inclusion

“Sometimes we want to be left alone. Sometimes we want to be included. Most of the time we want to be included with the option to be left alone.”

I’m Busy Working Here:

INFJoe Im Busy Working Here

“Staring off into space I’m bored. Talk to me.”

“Staring off into space = I’m busy working here.”

Love ’em! Especially the one about being alone together. There’s so much comfort in knowing at gut level that your partner knows exactly what it’s like to be an introvert, too.

Read more INFJoe comics or shop the INFJoeCartoons store.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Book Donation to Ferguson

Books & Mags, This Is Important

We’re in the middle of Banned Books Week (September 27 – October 03, 2015). This year I didn’t do a project like last year, but my BBW reading did make me raise my eyebrows.

According to the American Library Association, there are disproportionately more attempts to remove books by authors of color and books with themes about communities of color from libraries and school curricula. Eighty percent of the 2014 Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books reflect diverse authors and cultural content.

Ferguson Book Donation

Earlier this year, I sent a book donation to Ferguson, MO public library as my appreciation for the work they did following the shooting of Michael Brown at the end of 2014: the duology Proxy and Guardian by Alex London. Having seen the latest ALA statistics for challenged books, I’m doubly glad I sent books with a POC protagonist.

Disclosure: Author Alex London was in my class at library school. I wasn’t paid or perked to mention his books, though; just passing along a good thing.

Free Omnibus of Dork Tower by John Kovalic

Bits in Spaaace!, Books & Mags

Earlier this morning, John Kovalic tweeted this:

It is the first Dork Tower collection, published in 2000, and Kovalic is basically giving it away this December. It’s available as watermarked pdf on DriveThroughComics for free; a dead-tree version can also be ordered (and it seems to be on sale for now). You do have to create an account, as checking out as guest is not possible. For 164 pages of Kovalic goodness, though, it’s not much to ask.

For me, this is perfect since I’ve read Dork Tower on and off over the years but never from the beginning. Thanks, John!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Discoveries: ElfQuest Avatar Maker

Bits in Spaaace!, Geek out!

Warp Graphics, the publisher of ElfQuest, released a beta version of their ElfQuest Avatar Maker.

I promptly made a version of myself, and Husband did, too. They look very nice combined into one:

ElfQuest Avatars Together

Love it! In addition to the face, eyes, hair, etc., you can choose a background. Too bad that the Evergreen background basically looks like there’s a spruce twig stuck to the elf’s hair; I would’ve chosen it otherwise as a nod to my northern roots. Ohwell. The Spring background is very nice, too.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Discoveries: John Kovalic Mugs

Geek out!

Mugs with illustrator and cartoonist John Kovalic’s work are available from society6, including this very realistic Dork Tower comic:

DorkTower1249c Writers Write

Dork Tower by John Kovalic.

Hear, hear! I can attest the same applies to creatives.

I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of these before! I will definitely get a present or two.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Banned Books Week 2014: Quotes and Links

Books & Mags, This Is Important

As a follow-up on my Banned Books Week 2014 post, I’ve collected a few interesting and thought-provoking quotes and links below.

Weird Al Yankovic, Neil Gaiman & George R.R. Martin support the banned comics week:

Neil Gaiman Banned Books Week 2014

Neil Gaiman.

Photo from Neil Gaiman’s Google+ profile.

Neil Gaiman is also quoted in the Comic Riffs feature of The Washington Post:

“Say you’re a kid in a school district [that banned a book] and there’s not a local Barnes & Noble and you don’t have 20 or 50 bucks in disposable income. …

“That book is gone. It was there and now it’s not. The fact you can buy it on Amazon doesn’t make that any less bad.”

(The Washington Post / Michael Cavna, Sept 24, 2014)

Barbara Jones, the director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, on why we need gay characters in literature:

“Many of us at one time or another have belonged to a minority. Maybe you grew up a man with many sisters. Maybe you’re the only one who likes a juicy hamburger in a crowd of vegans. Left-handed? Night owl? Deaf? At some point you may have looked to the left and looked to the right and wondered, ‘Where are others like me?’

“Banned Books Week is an annual reminder to embrace the freedom to seek ourselves in books. The First Amendment awards each and every single person the right to read and speak freely. Celebrate the characters that help us discover ourselves.”

(Huffington Post Books, Sept 22, 2014)

In Defense of Banned Comics: 10 of Our Favorite Challenged Works by Robert Tutton at Paste.com. Almost identical to the CBLDF list.

Malinda Lo’s analysis of the most banned/challenged books in the U.S. shows that diverse books are disproportionately targeted for book challenges and censorship:

“I think it’s important to note that the reasons for a book’s challenge may be beside the point when the result is a broad silencing of these minority perspectives. Though some might protest a book’s explicit language, the real result is closing off dialogue and preventing readers from experiencing stories and lives outside the mainstream.

Recent academic studies have shown that reading fiction leads to increased empathy, which suggests to me that it’s more important than ever to make sure books with diverse perspectives are widely available, not censored. I hope we can remember this during Banned Books Week, which takes place Sept. 21–27 this year, and every week.”

(Diversity in YA, Sept 18, 2014)

Maddie Crum’s article puts book ban/challenge information from ALA as graphics (Huffington Post Books, Sept 22, 2014).

Author N.K. Jemisin’s reading of the above supports Lo’s findings:

Edit: Here, finally, is my complete collected ElfQuest set (albums 1-8) and my Banned Books Week library loans.

Banned Books Week 2014 ElfQuests
Banned Books Week 2014 from Library

Banned Books Week 2014: September 21-27

Books & Mags, This Is Important

Long post warning. TL;DR – Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign for the freedom to read. It highlights the value of free and open access to reading and information. This year, the banned books week focuses on comics and graphic novels. Below are some basic information and links, and my thoughts and a commitment.


Banned Books Week