• Olisa Tasie-Amadi

Beyoncé’s Black is King’: Cultural Appropriation or Appreciation?

After massive success with Beyoncé’s album, “The Link King: The Gift”, which appeared to feature many notable artists from West Africa like Shatta Wale, Tiwa Savage, Mr.Eazi, and Wizkid; she soon announced her upcoming Disney production film “Black is King”, which seemed not to appeal to the likes of many for one singular reason. Was her film a well put together piece of cultural appropriation of African culture and the lives of its people?

Black is King serves as a visual piece to complement her album “The Gift'', and she certainly did not do all of it alone. Beyoncé was able to connect with the minds of much admired West African creatives and artistic personalities such as Nigerian poet Yrsa Daley-Ward, Ivorian designer Loza Maleombho, and popular Ghanian artist Blitz Bazawule. Although many see her film as portraying African Culture as a “Wakanda-like” or of oriental nature which claimed to homogenising Africa and erasing important parts of the continent’s story; She claims her work is goaled at telling the story of its people and showcasing its rich culture to the whole world.

Beyoncé’s fame and status allows her to tap into her roots with or without the permission of the next person. Much of the criticization comes from whether or not she knows the balance between simply idealizing pre-colonial Africa and dehumanizing what it really meant to be African in an older era. Not having done any shows or performances in West Africa, a place she seems to base a lot of her work off and blatant “inspiration”, is what many Africans see as the problem. She is only hand-picking the part of its culture that she sees fit which is not wrong but can also be dangerous to African history.

A nation’s identity is a pertinent piece to their day-to-day existence, without it they become simply a faceless book. Love or Hate her, Beyoncé’s Black is King which plans to debut early next year will still continue production. Even with criticism from lauded figures like Noname who tweeted “we love an African aesthetic draped in capitalism. hope we remember the blk folks on the continent whose daily lives are impacted by U.S imperialism.", It is up to Beyoncé to decide for herself and the people she’s portraying whether or not her work is hurting the African Culture.

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