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We might be late but we’re definitely not disappointed. Beyoncé’s third visual album ‘Black is King’ takes viewers on an inspiring journey, delving deep into both the culture of Africa and her diaspora.

A celebration of blackness against the backdrop of The Lion King; ‘Black is King’ tells the story of an African prince who is cast away before returning to reclaim his rightful kingdom. The familiarity of this narrative makes the film an enjoyable watch for any Disney admirer. It is, however, the honest and glorious portrayal of the continent and black artistry that makes it so special. Co-directed by Kwasi Forajour, Ghanian creative director of Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment team, the film is an amalgamation of black artists, dancers and speakers from both sides of the Atlantic. 
Black is King could be called the black diaspora’s love letter to Africa, as Beyonce attempts to reach back to her own sense of African heritage. After multiple screenings I find myself discovering more and more of its beauty, excitement and grandeur. There are plenty of aspects this film does well in and some to be critiqued; but let me give you a few refreshing examples of success from this body of work. 

Colour palettes, landscape and the beauty of Africa

For years the world has been sold two immovable images of Africa as either a place of pristine beauty solely for the consumption of safari hungry travellers or a continent in poverty without any context of the history that caused these problems. Rather than a fetishised image of Africa, Black is King speaks to the jewels of Africa found in its urban communities and gorgeous landscapes. With black skin draped in hot pink; Beyoncé in oversized navy denim jeans and box-braids cascading metres below her against purple velvet curtains; and African dancers in colourful urban spaces among their communities, there is no doubt the film wishes to show the true beauty of the continent and its people. 
Beyond what Band-Aid might like you to think, Africa is a producer of lots of successful artists and the film takes us to many places like the National Arts Theatre in Lagos in “Keys to the Kingdom”, showing Africa’s modernity and consistent commitment to artistic production.  

Celebrating black artists and creatives 

Movements for social change have successfully brought to light some of the deep inequalities we face in all industries when it comes to racial justice. We owe some of our greatest genres like Northern Soul, House and Grime to the legacy of black artists all over the world. As Beyoncé looks toward this project to search for her African heritage, we see a culmination of the arts from Africa, America and the Caribbean tastefully pulled together in a showcase of brilliance.

Musical producers and singers like Major Lazer (Jamaica), Pharell Williams and Jay Z work hand in hand with African artists such as Shata Wale (Ghanian), Tiwa Savage (Nigerian) and WizKid (Nigerian) to inform and educate whilst also displaying the global tastes of black talent. From London to South Africa, Beyoncé and Kwasi Fordjour create a tapestry of rich stories fuelled by a passion to tell the world what the community has always offered: greatness.

Celebrating black women

According to the UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths, Black mothers were five times more likely to die during pregnancy than their white peers. Some believe this is due to implicit racial bias and social inequality, which makes supporting and uplifting black women not only important, but detrimental. Beyoncé has always positioned herself as a matriarch and like a maternal figure she offers the stage to strong black women of all shades to live in the glory of their melanin.
‘Brown Skin Girl’ is the film’s wholesome cheerleader for racial celebration and equality. Set to the theme of a Debutante Ball, a western tradition marking a young woman’s entrance into society, Beyoncé wishes to fill historically white spaces with black faces and it is truly beautiful to watch.
Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and Kelly Rowland are just a few of the many women to unapologetically grace the screen accompanied by Beyoncé’s affirming anthem. Just as beautiful is the film’s representation of the women of the Himba tribe who are shown helping each other cover their hair in red clay, a process called Otijize, to protect themselves from the sun.
The film’s representation of African maternal traditions and the contemporary black woman asks us to acknowledge the strength and beauty of these figures. Refreshing and completely diverse: that’s what we like to see. 

Conclusion

Black is King is a bold attempt at speaking to the pride of the Black Diaspora. A beautifully crafted piece of work informed by renown black creatives and their interest in reclaiming their African heritage.
Beyoncé and her team score huge points with me for the amount of diverse global talent from far and wide. Although many critics highlight the lack of East African representation in the film, Black is King still resonates with many. With global movements like Black Lives Matter finally being acknowledged, we look towards these celebrations of blackness to remind us of the bigger picture. A picture of our legacy, ancestry and inherent power of storytelling. 

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