Representations of Grief in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever


Grief is a common theme used in various Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and TV shows. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has an intense and profound representation of grief, focusing on the lives of female characters Shuri, Queen Ramonda and Nakia after T-Challa’s death. The different ways each character processed grief influenced their decisions, personalities and lives. Through its message, the film honored the late actor Chadwick Boseman’s legacy as the Black Panther.

Throughout the sequel, grief significantly shaped T’Challa’s sister, Shuri. Her grief was first seen during the funeral of the late King T’Challa, as she broke down from the guilt of not being able to save her brother. Shuri once again experienced significant trauma a year later when the underwater Talokanil civilization revealed itself and attacked Wakanda, killing her mother, Queen Ramonda. Instead of being dictated by vengeful motivations, however, Shuri chose to act nobly and accept her role as the guardian of Wakanda. Only after acknowledging her grief — by performing the Wakandan ritual of burning funeral garbs — did she move forward and grow from her grief into a mature heroine. While she could never fully recover from the loss of her family, Shuri’s values were permanently altered by her grief. She became a leader who was wiser and more understanding as a result of her suffering.

Unlike her daughter, Queen Ramonda’s role as leader of Wakanda did not allow her time to grieve. Ramonda found solace in the Wakandan belief that her son was with their ancestors in the afterlife and his spirit was watching over her and Wakanda. When faced with attacks from the outside world while recovering from her son’s death, she led herself and her nation without timidity or weakness, showing her strength. Queen Ramonda’s early acceptance of her loss allowed her to rule reasonably and fight for the protection of her country. Despite all her pain, Ramonda’s role as an honorable mother and queen showed that grief and suffering do not define a person. Rather, grief can strengthen one’s character. 

Nakia, T’Challa’s significant other, processed her grief by reprioritizing her goals and leading a new life in Haiti, where she wanted to help the underprivileged. Despite her character’s desire to always protect those she cared for, Nakia’s grief led her to isolate herself from Wakanda. With her independence, she built a school in Haiti that utilized Wakandan teaching practices for sustainability and improving the community. She continued T’Challa’s goal of aiding those in need through her work and carried on his legacy as a leader dedicated to change. Nakia’s reaction to her grief represented how accepting grief can lead to positive change in one’s life.  

The characters’ grief of losing T’Challa paralleled the grief the actors felt for their co-star Chadwick Boseman. The sequel and its plotline were a way for the cast members to honor Boseman and his legacy. 

“Going onto this new project without him is incredibly difficult,” said Letitia Wright, who played Shuri, in an interview with Newsone. “The love that Shuri had for her brother […] was the love we had for each other offset.” 

Lupita Nyong’o, Nakia’s actress, used her character as an outlet for her grief. 

“Even just talking about “Black Panther” in the midst of still grieving Chadwick, it was really complicated emotionally to do. Ryan wrote something that so honored the truth of what every one of us was feeling, those of us who knew Chadwick,” Nyong’o said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “He created something that could honor that and carry the story forward. By the end, I was weeping.” 

Through various character depictions of grief, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever highlighted the importance of accepting and honoring one’s grief. The movie’s message was inspirational to both the actors and the audience by providing a space for them to express their sentiments.