Lupita Nyong’o on learning isiXhosa: ‘The clicks are no joke’

The Oscar-winning actress says Xhosa is one of the hardest languages to learn.

Black Panther star Lupita Nyong’o says it took her months to learn how to speak isiXhosa for the movie.

The Academy Award-winning actress and another of the blockbuster’s cast, Danai Gurira, were in South Africa a few days ago for the film premiere in Johannesburg.

The film has received rave reviews, and the cast has been praised for their pronunciation of difficult isiXhosa words. But Lupita says learning the language was not easy.


Some cast members Lupita Nyong’o, John Kani, Danai Gurira and Connie Chiume of the movie Black Panther are pictured at the South African Premiere at Monte Casino in Fourways, 16 February 2018. Picture: Refilwe Modise

“The clicks are no joke … It was quite the challenge because it is one of the hardest languages on the planet,” Tshisa Live quoted her as saying at a round table discussion.

Danai was lucky enough to spend time in SA learning isiXhosa for a semester. She says she appreciates the fact that the language was hard to grasp at first.

“I love it for that. I love how specific and unique and beautiful it is.”

Local cast members, John and Atandwa Kani, were also on hand to help them learn Xhosa. John, who plays King T’Chaka, convinced Marvel to make isiXhosa the language spoken by the people of Wakanda.


Atandwa and John Kani at the Baxter theatre after a performance of Sizwe Banzi is Dead. PICTURE: Siobhan Cassidy

Lupita says the father and son remained on set throughout the film to help them

“We had Atandwa come in. We had John Kani. But Atandwa was really our go-to guy. The songs, translations and all those things, Atandwa was our guy,” she told journalists.

Dani added that the cast was eager to learn the difficult language.

“We worked really hard and we tried to speak Xhosa as much as we could. I was like: ‘I can say that in Xhosa! I have learnt it’. We did that in every scene. [The producers] would say we could do an [alternative scene], one in Xhosa and one in English. We were pushing for it all the time.”

Black Panther has been a major success at the local and international box office. It earned more than R6,5 million at the South African box office and over $201.8 in the US since its release on Friday.

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