Disney has commissioned a mural fit for a king, and it is beautiful.
Chadwick Boseman was an American actor who brought heroes, fictional and nonfictional, to life on the big screen. We watched him play baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 43, as Thurgood Marshall in Marshall, and as James Brown in Get on Up, but his legacy is forever tied to his role as King T’Challa in Black Panther. Chadwick embodied all of what you would hope a true king would hold true, and he did it with such grace, humility and kindness. King T’Challa was not just another superhero also known as Black Panther, he was a beacon of hope for Black culture.
Black Americans found endless hope in the fictional land of Wakanda, a land that was untouched by colonialism, capitalism, or despair. In Wakanda, Black people were governed by a kind king who looked out for all of his citizens and the land was prosperous. It became immediately clear that Chadwick Boseman possessed the personality attributes given to his fictional character in real life.
Tragically Chadwick’s life was cut short at the age of 43, after to a long, private battle with colon cancer.
America collectively mourned the death of a man who meant so much to so many. It was a gut punch to communities everywhere that are still reeling from the unprecedented year of 2020.
Boseman seemed to have a deep understanding of the responsibility of his role as King T’Challa. He often surprised fans, gave speeches, and tirelessly obliged fans with the Wakanda salute to anyone who used it to acknowledge his presence. His quiet trips to children’s hospitals to visit patients fighting cancer were moments that tugged deeply at his heart, and watching him speak about it during interviews could soften the most jaded of viewers. He struggled to keep his composure while acknowledging the weight of the children hanging on to life to see Black Panther on screen, all while fighting his own private battle.
Black Panther meant so much to so many young Black boys who had yet to see a superhero who looked like them on the big screen who wasn’t plagued by trauma, or struggling with other inner demons. Boseman took the superhero Black Panther and personified him for millions, forever changing the landscape of the Avengers franchise.
It seems fitting that Disney would honor Chadwick with a mural depicting him as King T’Challa alongside a young child who appears to represent a childhood cancer fighter.
In the mural painted by Nikkolas Smith, who is a former Disney Imagineer, the child and T’Challa are looking into each other’s eyes as the child wears a Black Panther mask and the two greet one another with the Wakanda salute.
The new mural is located in Downtown Disney on the side of a building that used to be the ESPN Zone. It’s a beautiful work of art that took on special meaning for the artist, who wrote on his Instagram caption of the mural: “This one is special. My King Chad tribute is now on a wall on display at Downtown Disney. It is a full circle moment for me: my final two projects as a Disney Imagineer last summer were working on the Children’s Hospital project and the Avengers Campus. To millions of kids, T’Challa was a legend larger than life, and there was no one more worthy to fill those shoes than Chadwick Boseman. I’m so thankful to be able to honor Chadwick’s life and purpose in this way.”
Prints of the painting can also be purchased on Nikkolas’s website with proceeds going to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and St. Jude.