Black is King is a visual album to Beyonce’s The Gift, soundtrack of Disney’s Lion King remake. The title Black is King is self explanatory as the film depicts blackness in all of its kingship. In the opening scene, Beyonce is holding her newborn baby boy. This is clearly symbolic and it invites viewers to feel reborn and view our blackness through a royal lens; revealing that there is more than one way to be black. The diaspora is evidence of this.
The original is based in Africa, however Beyonce takes each viewer across oceans to display the depth and wealth of black culture, starting from her very own back garden. She heads over the Atlantic to Johannesburg and Namibia, in Southern Africa and from there over to Ghana, West Africa and back to the Grand Canyon in the United States. The tour is complete in an hour and twenty five minutes. It is accompanied by visuals, songs and impeccable cinematography.
Black faces are seen throughout: Shatta Wale and Tiwa Savage, who reside in the continent, were the local African appearances. Kelly Rowland, Jay Z and Pharell also popped up as well as the Black British prodigy Naomi Campbell in what is a reunion of the diaspora in the heart of where it all began, Africa.
The visuals delineate the regal essence of what it means to be black, rather than labeled as such. I believe this was shown by the many outfits, colours and hairstyles that Beyonce wore. This, in turn, painted moods and emotions which were strongly supported by a sense of black pride. Blackness can range from coloured paint on your body to bedazzled headpieces to colourful clothing, each staples of Sub-Saharan tribes, Carnival, and the African diaspora, respectively. The range of hairstyles, which looked amazing on all the black women, acted as an indicator that our hair shouldn’t and won’t be policed.
Water as an element was used throughout Black is King and was a direct representation of the geographic of being black and of black history; especially with the Transatlantic slave trade, where many of our ancestors had their blood shed and drowned in the waters. When the camera zoomed out and Beyonce was by herself in the middle of the ocean, I could have cried. She highlighted finding the root of blackness through nature, which many of us do when given the chance to visit our motherland. The use of water also interlinks with the religious reference Beyonce made when her baby was placed in a basket on the water. He was placed in the hopes that he would be received on the other side, which he gladly was. Beyonce placing her baby in the basket was symbolic of Moses.
Biblically, Moses was the Israelite child placed in a basket on water who grew up as Egyptian royalty, and eventually led his people out of the hands of Egypt, where they were being held as slaves. “Go down Moses” sung by slaves is inspired by this story in Exodus in which he stood before Pharaoh and asked him to “Let my people go”. The song “Otherside” set the Moses scene, and upon the reception of the baby, the film transitioned into the song “My Power”.
The diaspora is inherently our power. The more united we are, the stronger we are despite where in the world we may be located. All things considered, Beyonce took us on a journey of black self discovery, with which each of us can at least partly identify. We are constantly reminded that Black is truly King and we must never forget that.
Written by Lucy Gborie