On July 31, 2020, Disney Plus (+) premiered Beyoncé’s ‘Black is KING’. Unfortunately I haven’t had enough free time to just sit down, relax, and watch, but in the near future I have to make the time. I was, and still am in high anticipation of getting to watch this film, with no interruptions nor distractions. Lena Waithe stated “Beyoncé is King”. The expression holds to my understanding as Beyonce holds the title for expression of ROYALTY. To me Beyoncé as an artist continues to set standards and bring initial awareness to black culture while always trying to bridge ties to Africa. Beyoncé is constantly connecting, and that is what distincts her from any musician let alone artist that is still surviving. Beyoncé brings an aesthetic that continually makes you think. Beyoncé created this film from the inspiration of The Lion King and she wrote and directed this visual album. VISUAL it is. And real ones know, most of these songs featured in this film have been released for months if not years. We were dancing to Beyoncé’s ‘Already’ at my nne Ozioma’s Igba Nkwu traditional ceremony in August 2019. However, the way Beyoncé promoted for the culture by highlighting all over Africa from musicians to actresses and actors, fashion designers, makeup, you NAME it and that is what makes me most proud of this film that I have yet to watch.
With anything comes opinion and open criticism. Of course Beyoncé’s fans and followers were in complete awe of the film, but the most criticism had come from Africans. Should you be surprised when the film is being catered toward the continent, probably in their neck of the woods? From what I’ve read, most of the film was shot in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Some Africans had critiqued that it did not show the full beauty of Africa. This could be true. Listen, there are 54 countries within the motherland. To display all 54 countries let alone a good 20 countries would have been difficult putting into circumstance our current state of the pandemic and not knowing when the film started in filming. Many East Africans did not feel well-represented throughout the film, which holds valid as the original film of the Lion King was structured in East Africa. Some Africans also thought that the film displayed Africans as how the Western world imagines us by the constant animal print and face paintings. One African expresses that she is tired of the animal print…”that is not how we dress for goodness sake…climbing in trees, etc. I think this is how the Western world likes to imagine Africa. So it’s for their consumption, not ours.” Some of the fashions another critic mentioned were mostly created from high-end White designers as opposed to highlighting more Black and African designers within the continent. Ironically the timing of the release of this movie was after the George Floyd murder, but some people defending this exact critique is that the film was made before the tragedy deaths of Breonna Taylor to Ahmaud Arbery, and what we are currently still dealing with now.
Despite mainly highlighting three countries, various countries throughout the film were well represented. You have Adut Akech from South Sudan, art from the Dogan tribe of Mali and masquerades from Nigeria, dance primarily from West Africa as Jelili Atiku takes the streets from Nigeria (did you see Beyoncé ZANKU?!….Naija people, how did she do?), contemporary art from Cameroon, musicians like Busiswa from South Africa, Salatiel from Cameroon, Yemi Alade and Mr Eazi from Nigeria, actresses like Lupita Nyong’o from Kenya, and Nandi Madida and Lindiwa Dim from South Africa. At the end of the day, no one disagrees with the artistry that was displayed throughout the film. Many consider ‘Black is King’ as a masterpiece with excellent art direction. Something as proper afro-centrism.
Based on what I’m able to see and hear, I’m extremely proud of Beyoncé and her pan-African solidarity as she tries to portray her vision in an extension of Lion King by this visual film.
I look forward to sitting down myself and actually internalizing the film.
BRAVO Beyoncé! 👏🏿👏🏾 This film made me PROUD, for the CULTURE. ✊🏾✊🏽✊🏿