By Shalela Dowdy
Africa is the birthplace of life on Earth. It is a land the world has continuously taken from throughout time. The gold, the oil, the diamonds, and even the people have been ripped from the Motherland. The results of nonstop tragedy give a false appearance of a poverty-stricken land; which is the furthest thing from the truth.
Africa is rich in culture, history, and resources.
In the visual album Black Is King, Beyoncé brings to light the beauty of Africa by telling the spiritual ancestral version of a king’s journey. In turn, it helps shift the paradigm on what Africa truly is and its contribution to the world.
Beyoncé tells the story of Black Is King through the usage of high fashion, poetry, African artists, and African mythology. In the beginning of the film, we’re introduced to a young Black king about to embark on a journey with ties to the circle of life. Before leaving, he interacts with an elder; learning about his place in the circle and the importance of always maintaining it. This segment places special emphasis on the importance of balance and how it’s a vital part of the circle of life.
One of the first areas of interest upon initially watching Black Is King is the extraordinary fashion shown throughout the entire film.
The fashion curator of the project was Zerina Akers, who played a huge role in the 60+ looks Beyoncé wore throughout the visual album. One signature accessory that stood out to me was the various types of sunglasses that Beyoncé wore. From the body paint to the bling to the African-inspired hairstyles, Beyoncé’s switch-up game was strong. There were literally no two looks that came close to one another.
Over the course of the visual album, audio from The Lion King movie along with poetry by Warsan Shire and Ysra Daley-Ward is interwoven between each song. Shire also had poems featured in Lemonade.
Lines such as “Let Black be synonymous with Glory” highlight the significance of Blackness; placing emphasis on leveling it out and equating it to its true value.
One of the great things about this project is simply the music created in honor of The Lion King. Beyoncé collaborated with African artists, giving additional exposure to creatives such as Tekno, Lord Afrixana, Mr Eazi, Yemi Aladai, Salatiel, Saint Jhn, and Tiwa Savage. There is no way to tell the story of Africa without utilizing the native musicians of the land.
Beyoncé leverages African mythology to assist with the journey of the king. There’s even a quick scene where she’s reading Black Gods and Kings during the “Mood 4 Eva” video.
Throughout Black Is King, Beyoncé appears many times in the form of African gods and goddesses, more specifically Yoruba Orisha. These characters each play a role in the journey of the king.
- Obatala – Deity of humankind, spiritual purity and moral uprightness
- Yemoja – Mother of all Orishas, giver of life
- Oshun – God of fertility, love, and sensuality
- Obba – Goddess of domesticity and marriage
- Oshumare – God of direct movement
Black Is King is truly a phenomenal masterpiece that eloquently depicts the journey of our Black kings. Beyoncé takes the plot of The Lion King and adjusts the narrative to tell a story that effectively honors the ancestors and beauty of Africa. The circle of life is one that is never ending, and to adequately complete the journey, you need the guidance of the elders and ancestors.
Through the completion of this journey, we truly know that BLACK IS KING.
Black Is King is now streaming on Disney+.
Header Image: Beyoncé