• Lorraine Ampofo

Black Is King: A Powerful Celebration Of Africa Or Exploitative Propaganda?

Black is King, the new visual album by the one and only Beyoncé, is an artistic masterpiece.

In my opinion, it should have its own exhibition in a museum amongst the greats.

Black is King comes after Beyoncé’s role in the live-action remake of the Lion King and the release of her soundtrack album (The Gift) for the movie. It tells the story of the Lion King in an unfamiliar way...

It almost reminds of the Year of Return Initiative launched by Ghana in 2019, to encourage African diasporans to come to Africa and learn of their heritage and form a new self-identity.

Beyoncé is not new to creating visual albums, she is an incredible storyteller. With the current social climate, the release of this film just doesn’t come at a better time.

Black is King takes us on a journey of empowerment and is a clear celebration of Blackness - where we as a people have come from, where we are now and where we are going.

In the first moments of the film Beyoncé says...

“Let Black be synonymous with glory...”

I felt every word of this throughout the film as Black people are shown to be rich; in culture, tradition and beauty.

This project was approached with so much respect...everything has meaning and stems from Black history or culture...

One thing, I really appreciated about Black is King is the hairstyles - short, long, dreads, braids, wigs, straight or curly; the versatility of Black hair was celebrated and showed the true meaning of ‘your hair is your crown’.

I loved the innocence, softness and beauty emphasised in the visuals of BROWN SKIN GIRL, it almost brought me to tears; especially the part where Beyoncé serenaded Kelly.

Also...how adorable was Blue Ivy in all her cameos?!

Personally, my favourite visuals were for WATER, the colours of Beyoncé dresses and her and her dancers's beautiful performance uplifted me.

In MOOD 4 EVA, she goes above and beyond to showcase opulence dripped in animal print - she spins the narrative that animal print is tacky and cheap and makes it into something of immeasurable worth.

As much as I love Beyoncé, I hope we can all agree that she is not above (a little) criticism. There is an argument out there that Beyoncé and Co. (Co. being other folks in entertainment)...

...have claimed the “Africa Aesthetic” purely for exploitation and that they are no better than the culture vultures and appropriators. Whilst this point of view is very very extreme...there might be some validity to it.

It is clear to me that Beyoncé loves Africa and its culture, but Black is King was initially made exclusive on a streaming network not available in Africa (it then aired on channels available in Africa the following day) and I wonder why when it comes to world tours there rarely ever dates for African nations. Beyoncé has drawn inspiration from Africa but it is almost like doesn’t view the African people as her “consumers”.

I personally believe that Beyoncé doesn’t and is not trying to alienate her fans based in Africa. In the grand scheme of things, we cannot discredit the effort, love and respect Beyoncé has for Africa especially in this project. She has given greater visibility to African creatives, African culture and African history. Isn’t that a good thing? Isn't it something we should celebrate and encourage?


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