Singer and songwriter Beyoncé captivated the world and left fans wanting more in July 2019 with her performance as Nala in the remake of the Disney classic, “The Lion King,” as well as her release of the soundtrack album, “The Lion King: The Gift.”
On Friday, “Black Is King,” the visual album written, directed and produced by Beyoncé for “The Lion King”-inspired soundtrack was released on Disney+.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Beyoncé called her 2019 soundtrack “a love letter to Africa,” and said she wanted to collaborate with some of the best African talent for the album to represent the beauty of African music. The importance of representing both African and Black culture is something Beyoncé implemented in the film as well.
“With this visual album, I wanted to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy,” Beyoncé said in an Instagram post.
Some of the Black history represented in the film comes from a man (Stephen Ojo) covered in a haint blue paint. The color’s name and its significance originated from the Gullah people — African Americans who were brought to Georgia and South Carolina during the Transatlantic Slave Trade — according to a Beaufort, South Carolina, travel guide. The color was believed to ward off evil spirits and was painted on the ceilings of many homes in the South, according to an article by the Washington Post.
Just like any art piece, “Black Is King” has its fair share of critics, especially for its depiction of Africa and the many African cultures not represented in it. This is most definitely a fair critique, however, I think the artist’s overall message of Black excellence and empowerment comes through.
The movie’s aesthetically pleasing shots and scenery alone make the film mesmerizing. When considering the deeper meaning of what Beyoncé means by being, “Part of something way bigger,” as stated in “BIGGER,” the first song in the movie, it became evident that the film is more than some of its surface-level beauty.
Again, Beyoncé is referencing the connection among the African and Black community who are oftentimes underrepresented. “Black Is King” acted as a platform for different art forms and cultures to be represented.
Not only is there an underrepresentation and lack of appreciation of the African and Black community as a whole in society, but recent events such as the death of George Floyd by police use of force and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement are why films such as “Black Is King” are so important.
“Black Is King” may have fallen short on representing a wider range of African culture, but the film’s timing paired with its message and representation of the Black community is what matters most in today’s world.