Almost two years ago, I was starting my master’s program and it was a very challenging time for me. I was in a lot of pain, and at the core of that pain, I felt so lost. On the day of my flight, one of my best friends pulled up to the airport and gave me a bracelet engraved with the words “Remember Who You Are.”
I received the message from the level of consciousness I was at then and wore it almost every day during my studies. Fast forward to last summer those words took on another meaning for me as I started my journey of going back to my spirit so I could reconnect with myself. For me it’s those moments of alignment that remind me everything is truly connected, and we are all divinely guided, protected, and supported.
“Life is your birthright.” – Beyonce
Beyoncé’s latest visual album, Black is King, can also be referred to as another visual masterpiece by the artiste extraordinaire herself. This body of work is rich in spiritual imagery and symbolism. Water to represent life and transformation, green to represent growth and nature, the full moon representing powerful moments and the ancestors who guide us and are with us as we traverse the circle of life.
The film stems from Beyoncé’s involvement in last year’s live-action reimagining of The Lion King. We had thought we were only going to get her as Nala (Simba’s love interest/key to finding his way back), and we were satisfied, but in true Beyoncé fashion, she gave us more! An accompanying soundtrack album curated by her, featuring some of the best musical talents in Africa and excerpts of symbolic scenes from The Lion King story. The Lion King: The Gift is described as “a love letter to Africa” in a way that is most authentic to the beauty of the musical landscape of the continent right now and not just her interpretation of it. As a visual companion to The Gift, Black is King retells the story of the Lion King focusing however on longing for identity. The journey of discovering who you really are despite who you’ve been told you are, who you think you are, and what society says you are is one that hits home for Beyoncé, for me and for millions of people across the globe.
“You are welcome home to yourself. Let black be synonymous with glory.” – Beyonce
The journey of finding your way back to yourself is one that is worth telling because daily we are faced with distractions that take us away from our higher self, from who we truly are. However, I truly believe it is a major part of our collective experience here to come back home to self. In this space, we will find peace, we will find joy, we will find ease and we will find true love. For Beyoncé and the millions of black people who make up the African diaspora, the journey of learning who they are includes them questioning how blackness has existed in the past, what it looks like in the present and what it could look like in the future. This is the journey Beyoncé takes us on in Black is King – the journey of black belonging.
For my fellow Africans reading this thinking, ‘well I’ve never had to question where I am from geographically or embrace and celebrate my blackness because everyone around me looks like me even my oppressors, and I’ve certainly never had to think about the ancestors because that’s just witchcraft’ – you’re entitled to that opinion. This rests on the level of consciousness and openness you choose to bring to understanding this film. It’s true that as Africans we have a different set of problems from over 400 million people living in poverty to corrupt leaders looting public funds, illiteracy, unemployment, and gender inequality, so the thought of learning yourself and its importance can come off as a privilege, but this does not mean it is not important to our liberation because the Atlantic slave trade, then the Scramble for Africa by the colonizers, had us or who was left of us as a people on the continent give up more than just our lives. We gave up our belief systems, our social structures and control over our economies leaving us in a cycle of dependency with our colonizers. We gave up our standards of beauty, the value of our own education systems, and much more. So as Africans, our search for self and black belonging in the world we are currently faced with may not look like Beyoncé’s, but this doesn’t mean we can’t apply these universal lessons to our experience.
“History is your future, one day you will meet yourself back where you started but stronger.” – Beyonce
With Black is King, Beyoncé imagines a world in which black people are not bound by the negative global perception around blackness, she reimagines The Lion King story and lets the narrative unfold through music videos, dance, fashion, natural settings and raw black ass talent from Africa and the diaspora with the continuous message of remembering who you are. Black is King is here to remind us that black is regal. Black is rich in history, purpose and lineage. Beyoncé is a visual thinker, and in my opinion, one of the greatest healers and storytellers of our time. This is truly her purpose. A powerhouse, whose journey did not start today, we’ve seen her journey of self-discovery and watched her transcend her art. That longing for certainty of identity and purpose in this lifetime is one not exclusive to Beyoncé alone, and I believe there is a shift in consciousness happening for many people exploring these same questions. Though we might not be the majority, we are searching for the path to begin this journey and that is a great step.
“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty”
– Nina Simone
This quote popped into my head after my first watch of Black is King. I agree an artist has to reflect the times and situations they find themselves in. They have a choice to do so or not and as a standing member of the Hive, boy am I glad that Beyoncé Knowles Carter chooses to do just that.
Honorary mentions to Shatta Wale, Moonchild Sanelly, Nija, Burna Boy, Yemi Alade, Mr. Eazi, Tekno, Wizkid, Salatiel, and Tiwa savage – you did what you had to do and delivered *chefs kiss*.
When she’s not trying to think of ways to get out of the matrix, Dijabae is a communications professional and stylist with a passion for the creative arts because she believes through art be it fashion, film, photography, music or painting, our stories are told and preserved in the most authentic way possible. As a curious Gemini she is always researching and learning, trying to understand herself and the world we live in better. To her, knowledge will bring about true freedom so to freedom mes chère.