Jump to content

"Black Is King" review: "There is a real danger in romanticizing pre-colonial Africa"


Recommended Posts

  • Super Administrators

beyonce-essence.jpg.7e3a645429ee2e23b3fb6f0e66d99a36.jpg


Beyonce's new visual album, Black Is King, based off The Gift for The Lion King, was an 80-minute serve. Absolutely stunning. She competes against herself. 

The videos weren't solely beautiful, they contained a message about the power and specialness of being black. 

However, it's important to note this is my impression as a privileged white male. There are messages and nuances I can't possibly grasp. That's why this review on Essence is important. It celebrates Black Is King, but offers constructive criticism. 

The article is called Why We Must Be Careful When Watching Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’

Quote

 

White supremacy has done a number on Black people with slavery and colonialism at the top, taking away the possibility for us to evolve on our own. It violently and intentionally robbed us of a past and left us unaware of who we were due to a continuous erasure of our beloved memories through the devaluation of oral and written history. It’s left us with imagined stories rooted in the white gaze. 

 

Quote

There is a real danger in romanticizing pre-colonial Africa. The glorification of kingdoms before white men met us erases the reality that Africa wasn’t exactly a paradise. African kingdoms were rife with slavery, imperialism, women’s oppression and class oppression. Not everyone was a king or even a queen. More importantly, not every Black person in African countries had the potential of being born into a royal family or accessing its benefits. 

Quote

My queen Beyoncé is a powerful transcending artist with the power to instill in us liberating imaginations. As a woman African descent, whose ancestors survived generations of enslavement, she has the right to tap into her Africanness and find her connections to the continent and her belonging to the land. But when she willingly, through her art, participates in telling romanticized African royalty stories, rooted in glamorizing Africa, she indirectly dehumanizes our Africanness. She validates neo-colonialism, entrenched in negotiating and proving our humanity by pretending we’re superhuman. One could wonder are Africans humans with dignity if they are not kings and queens, draped in gold and diamonds? Are we saying our ancestors shouldn’t have been enslaved because they were kings and queens and not simply because they were humans?

Quote

Honoring our ancestors isn’t about creating false illusions of who they were or how they lived. Being dishonest to ourselves with these royal narratives, ingrained in the elite extravaganza of the continent won’t change the fact that the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house (shout out to Audre Lorde). Black capitalism, Black imperialism, Black monarchies were never our freedom. And they won’t be even if we add Black faces to these systems. They will still oppress the Black community since they are rooted in anti-Blackness.

Read the full thing here. 

Thoughts, Exhale? Does the reviewer make interesting points? 

  • Love 2
  • Like 1

💜 Subscribe to Exhale+ 💙

Link to post
  • Exhale+

Interesting points but I feel the comment about romanticizing pre-colonial Africa is not really an argument worth making. I feel it implies that post-colonial Africa was better, which clearly it wasn't cause that's when many black folk were stripped of their cultural heritage, not to mention enslaved, massacred, stripped of their natural resources, and ruled over by colonial powers. Europe was no walk in the park in the middle ages, there were wars, famine, plagues, religious strife etc, but that doesn't mean our fairytales about princesses and castles are misleading - they're just fantasy and that's what Beyonce is delivering too. I get that she's a woke cultural icon but she's also a popstar and we shouldn't expect her content to be strictly educational or read like a textbook. It's not a standard we hold anyone else to so why should she have that burden? Just let black people be proud of were they came from if they want to, it's literally the least we can do. :beyfedup:

  • Love 4
  • Dislike 1
  • Like 3
Link to post
43 minutes ago, Haha-Hehe-Haha-Ho said:

Interesting points but I feel the comment about romanticizing pre-colonial Africa is not really an argument worth making. I feel it implies that post-colonial Africa was better, which clearly it wasn't cause that's when many black folk were stripped of their cultural heritage, not to mention enslaved, massacred, stripped of their natural resources, and ruled over by colonial powers. Europe was no walk in the park in the middle ages, there were wars, famine, plagues, religious strife etc, but that doesn't mean our fairytales about princesses and castles are misleading - they're just fantasy and that's what Beyonce is delivering too. I get that she's a woke cultural icon but she's also a popstar and we shouldn't expect her content to be strictly educational or read like a textbook. It's not a standard we hold anyone else to so why should she have that burden? Just let black people be proud of were they came from if they want to, it's literally the least we can do. :beyfedup:

Period. Dot. And i feel like that’s a black persons place to criticize at this moment. Not really Jordan’s atm. A bit disrespectful tbh. 

Link to post

I'm gonna get heat for this... Here we go. Let me start by saying that we can't minimize the horrific tragedies that the black community endures. We're also INCREDIBLY far from ever being able to make up for the ways our culture has celebrated whiteness, and we will never be able to over-celebrate the black community and their heritage and their stories. They could celebrate their culture and history for centuries, AND THEY SHOULD, but it would sadly never come close to the amount open acceptance and celebration of white people. Our culture seems to think that celebrating blackness is the same thing as hating white people. THAT COULDN'T BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. But that's what people are telling themselves... its so sad. 

All of that being said, I can see where this critic was coming from. Anytime we strip an entire group of their humanity and put them on a pedestal, we run the risk of elevating that group above everyone else. Not that people shouldn't be celebrated, but we should celebrate while reminding ourselves that we are all human and we all do the wrong things sometimes and we all do the right thing sometimes. Humanity is complex. We should also acknowledge the complexity. I think the elevation of a person without acknowledging their past faults is part of the reason why we have statues of certain people who might've been considered "good" in their time, but we now look back at them and see how horrible some of their decisions were and we should tear those things down. We grow and we learn and we evolve. So when we pretend one group is flawless, we rob them of the acknowledgement of potential to grow. That's what white supremacy used to do... They thought white people were perfect, and then that caused systemic oppression of anyone else who wasn't like them. 

I don't think Beyoncé is promoting this at all. She is simply celebrating her culture and her history as well as the culture and history of millions of other people. I just can see how the critic is saying like "let's not forget our humanity." I, personally, didn't see anything wrong with Beyoncé doing this though. She is an incredible artist and is doing SO MUCH GOOD for the black community in bringing black history and black topics to the forefront of pop culture conversations. Good for her! :mhm:

  • Love 2
  • Like 4
Link to post
3 hours ago, Haha-Hehe-Haha-Ho said:

Interesting points but I feel the comment about romanticizing pre-colonial Africa is not really an argument worth making. I feel it implies that post-colonial Africa was better, which clearly it wasn't cause that's when many black folk were stripped of their cultural heritage, not to mention enslaved, massacred, stripped of their natural resources, and ruled over by colonial powers. Europe was no walk in the park in the middle ages, there were wars, famine, plagues, religious strife etc, but that doesn't mean our fairytales about princesses and castles are misleading - they're just fantasy and that's what Beyonce is delivering too. I get that she's a woke cultural icon but she's also a popstar and we shouldn't expect her content to be strictly educational or read like a textbook. It's not a standard we hold anyone else to so why should she have that burden? Just let black people be proud of were they came from if they want to, it's literally the least we can do. :beyfedup:

I don't think that's what it was saying. I think it's saying that there were multiple eras that shouldn't be romanticized and that pre-colonial Africa is one of the many.

Link to post

I haven't watched this movie or whatever it is, but racial pride or nationalism of any color feels regressive to me. You're not your ancestors and having false fantasies about their opulence and power to feel worthy is just kind of sad, I think we should all find confidence within ourselves as individuals.

I'm European though so no one come at me with American race stuff that I have nothing to do with. :tired:

 

  • Love 4
  • Like 3
Link to post
  • Super Moderators

I think people are missing the point, the author, a Burundian woman, is not trying to bash Beyoncé, she makes it very clear:

Quote

I want to make sure you all understand that what I am about to say is not about Beyoncé as a person or necessarily her art. This is an ongoing conversation among decolonizing spaces and Pan-African theorists that no Black person has ever gained freedom by claiming to be king. 

She even starts by saying how much she loves Beyoncé.

 

I haven't seen the visual album, so I don't even know if her points are that valid or if she's just exaggerating. But for what I read on her article, I kinda see the point. For what it seems, Beyoncé is glamorizing this royalty lifestyle from Africa, as if it was the only thing why they matter, or as if that was every black person's heritage, leaving behind the "average" people that actually made up those cultures, and that most likely also lived oppressed and enslaved by those monarchy systems as well. Again, I don't know if that's true, because I haven't seen it, but that's what I understood from the review, and I don't see it like an attack to Beyoncé or anything. It's as if here in Mexico we only felt proud of the pre-colonial empires and pretended we all lived in opulence and luxury before the Europeans arrived, leaving behind the fact that there were also a lot of wars, slavery, classism, etc. Our culture wasn't made up only from the people that were part of the royalty, but also what normal, non-royalty people did in their everyday life.

And yes, as someone said, she's ultimately an artist and her art shouldn't be analyzed as a political statement or something, but in this particular point in time, and coming from someone like Beyoncé, it's hard not to take this work seriously and as some sort of statement from her, so that's why probably people were expecting a bit more. As the author herself writes

Quote

To Beyoncé, whom I love so much, thank you. The film was rich, beautiful and entertaining, but I expected more. I hoped that you would’ve engaged Africa and Blackness not rooted in a capitalistic stance. I hoped you would’ve let the world into the everyday realities of Africans. Because while we woke up to a gift from Beyoncé, filled with rich imagery, we also woke up to the news of activists in Zimbabwe arrested for protesting against the government’s violence towards the people.

Maybe this just wasn't Beyoncé's intention with this album.

I've seen other articles about actual African people complaining about Beyoncé's album, not in the artistic way of it, but the main reasons I see are the fact that she kinda generalizes the cultures as if Africa was just one, huge entity, or at least leaving many cultures without representation, and the other thing I see is people complaining because she didn't represent the contemporary reality of African countries. Again, most likely this just wasn't Beyoncé's purpose for this album. But I do understand that it would be weird, for example, if someone made a work inspired or trying to represent Latin America, but only featured Mexican, Argentinian and Colombian pieces of culture, and left out all the other countries.

Another thing they complain about is that Disney + isn't even available in most African countries...

 

So I think both sides are right. Beyoncé is free to do whatever she wants in her art, and tbh, the things she's representing in her work, even if they still miss a lot from other sides of those cultures, are still better than not having any kind of representation at all. But I also see that some people, especially the ones that actually live in Africa, may feel that this is still lacking a lot, but that's not Beyoncé's fault. And they do care about how America portrays Africa, because just like how it happens in basically all the world, America's pop culture has a huge influence in African countries too.

This other article talks about it a bit more (though this was when only the trailer had dropped)

Quote
The trap that Beyoncé's trailers fell into is the stereotypical (albeit visually compelling) story of a primitive continent that hasn't advanced much, which frustratingly still dominates too many Western perceptions. While the "Black is King" trailer captures the less harmful, more romantic aspects of the story, the other side of that same coin is the more harmful Afro-pessimistic view, which is prevalent in popular culture and media coverage. This view tends towards the "poverty is rife, violence is prevalent and disease is endemic" vision of Africa.
Although a global icon, Beyoncé's primary audience is in America, which according to a 2019 study on Africa in the US media conducted by the University of Southern California, is a country that knows, hears and sees very little about Africa. Perhaps this is why Beyoncé's efforts should be viewed as an opportunity to inform, educate and shape how this audience in particular sees the continent.

 

Quote
We can tell ourselves it doesn't matter what "they" think. The truth is that it does matter -- because Western news and popular culture still largely dominate what Africans and the world consume and consequently shape what we all believe. Furthermore, studies have shown that narratives about Africa in Africa tend to mimic Western narratives about Africa, because often the sources for these stories come from outside the continent. The irony is that often Africans are learning about themselves and each other from western sources.
Beyonce's artistic interpretation of the continent showed us that even with the best intentions, we could inadvertently be feeding the narrative monster we should be trying to stifle.

 

  • Love 1
  • Like 1

 I am a performer. I am a Mom. I am funny. I am your friend! I am Britney Jean

Link to post
  • Exhale+
5 hours ago, helloitsme said:

Period. Dot. And i feel like that’s a black persons place to criticize at this moment. Not really Jordan’s atm. A bit disrespectful tbh. 

So we have finally come the full circle where anyone can say all types of bull**** about white people but white people cant say **** about anyone else? 

Not all white people are colonial racists who murdered blacks. I come from Eastern Europe and my country never even conquered another nation in the first place, barely enslave and discriminate against a race. Will I be marked a white supremacist if I say what Beyonce is doind is over the top, completely out of touch from reality, and most importantly, a purely capitalistic move? 

Because, trust me, that's all there is to it.

  • Dislike 1
  • Like 5
Link to post

I definitely understand her point. But I disagree. If black people are to exist fluidly we need to be able to have our fairy tales too. Black people are used to seeing ourselves portrayed as slaves or criminals. We rarely see us represented as royalty so its empowering to see us in that light. I believe that we need a network of black creatives showcasing us in different ways rather than expecting one to do it in a specific way, because if that were the case it would make it seem as if there's only one way to be black when in actuality there is a myriad of different experiences. We need to come to a place where The Cosby Show, Madea, Selma, Blackish, The Chi, insecure, and BLACK IS KING can all coexist without one being dragged for how the black experience is presented, because they are ALL different black experiences.

  • Love 3
  • Dislike 1
  • Like 1
Link to post
10 minutes ago, Deyonce said:

I definitely understand her point. But I disagree. If black people are to exist fluidly we need to be able to have our fairy tales too. Black people are used to seeing ourselves portrayed as slaves or criminals. We rarely see us represented as royalty so its empowering to see us in that light. I believe that we need a network of black creatives showcasing us in different ways rather than expecting one to do it in a specific way, because if that were the case it would make it seem as if there's only one way to be black when in actuality there is a myriad of different experiences. We need to come to a place where The Cosby Show, Madea, Selma, Blackish, The Chi, insecure, and BLACK IS KING can all coexist without one being dragged for how the black experience is presented, because they are ALL different black experiences.

This is SO. GOOD. I'm blown away. :queenie:

I hadn't even thought about this angle. :katyclown: You are so right!

  • Love 3
Link to post
6 hours ago, Jordan Miller said:

beyonce-essence.jpg.7e3a645429ee2e23b3fb6f0e66d99a36.jpg


Beyonce's new visual album, Black Is King, based off The Gift for The Lion King, was an 80-minute serve. Absolutely stunning. She competes against herself. 

The videos weren't solely beautiful, they contained a message about the power and specialness of being black. 

However, it's important to note this is my impression as a privileged white male. There are messages and nuances I can't possibly grasp. That's why this review on Essence is important. It celebrates Black Is King, but offers constructive criticism. 

The article is called Why We Must Be Careful When Watching Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’

Read the full thing here. 

Thoughts, Exhale? Does the reviewer make interesting points? 

I'm so tired of this...Tired Britney Spears GIF

  • Like 1
Link to post

I thought this was a good critique. It's kind of the one thing that is ironically one of Beyonce's flaws. Her vision of things always has to be rooted in some type of perfection. Maybe its the Virgo in her. Beyonce's definition of Black is King (which I loved by the way) kind of proves this reviewer's point... Beyonce said, "Black Is King means Black is regal and rich in history, in purpose, and in lineage.”

From the reviewer's point of view, how about just finding the dignity in being Black and human? Beyonce kind of just blended all the various countries of Africa into a fantasy-culture that doesn't really exist, it's the Wakanda effect. I love Beyonce, but I actually think she struggles a bit with accepting her Blackness in a Michael Jackson type of way.

  • Like 1
Link to post

Thank you so much for sharing this, Jordan. I read the article and it was super interesting.

I appreciate that point of view, and I think it's valid, especially coming from a Beyoncé fan. The thing is that Beyoncé herself sees (and calls, and promotes) herself as a queen, so her narrative doesn't surprise me. This visual album stems, basically, from The Lion King, where she voiced Nala, a future queen lioness. I understand that she used the concepts of kings/queens/kingdoms as metaphors but also as statements of her origins to establish this idea of power and entitlement. Maybe that's what's needed at this point in history, but this article is basically saying that that narrative is flawed in itself, because it romanticizes black culture and perpetuates an opressive (and characteristically white) way of relating to others.

Beyoncé clearly meant good, but she got caught up in her own ego. What she makes still helps visualize and discuss important issues, so I hope she continues doing it (and I'm sure she will), but I also wish fans, people and the media would take their time and truly reflect on whatever she makes, instead of simply gobbling it all up because no, she's not as perfect as you all make her out to be. And it's ok not to be perfect, as it's also ok NOT to be a king or a queen.

  • Love 3
  • Like 1
Link to post
1 hour ago, Nando. said:

I didnt know beyonce's Black Is King documentary was out on discovery channel.

For beyonce's sake, its a metaphor, an imagined world, escapism, you name it.

Agree. Good take! And yes, funny, Disney+ and not the Discovery channel. Its great for the medium and I thought a great retelling of The Lion King. I actually think its classic.

Link to post

I've just seen the visual album and of course she is exalting black culture and I guess that's why she is receiveing so mixed reviews. It bothers some people to see black people in a place that "doesn't suit them" and we all know why. Some people can't deal about it. Of course the African society is facing tough problems and this is not something that we figured out yesterday and Beyoncé is not crazy. Exalting black people and black culture was the way Beyoncé used to show how we still are racist. I had to watch it until the end to understand the message and surely she delivered it to everybody. In the name of human kind: THANK YOU QUEEN! This work is awesome and its a must-see, if you feel strange about it, you should rethink your mindset, there's always time to evolve yourself.

on the run yes GIF

  • Like 1
Link to post

Boring & she’s just using the blm movement for her own personal gain. She really think she’s some messiah or something it’s nauseating. I wish the media would stop gassing her up when everyone knows none of this black is king was of her doing & it’s whatever artist director she hired. Her level of creativity peaked when she came up with Bootylicious. 

  • Haha 1
  • Dislike 2
  • Like 2
Link to post

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...

We noticed you're using an ad blocker  :badthoughts_gun_kris_genner_thinking_debating:

Thanks for visiting Exhale! Your support is greatly appreciated 💜  

Exhale survives through advertising revenue. Please, disable your ad block extension to help us and continue browsing Exhale. 🙏

I've disabled ad block