Why We are Convinced of Beyonce's African Roots

BEING DRAPED IN ONE OF AFRICA'S FINEST DESIGNERS, MAKI OH, AND GETTING BODY PAINTING BY LAOLU, HERE ARE SOME REASONS TO BACK OUR SPECULATIONS ABOUT BEYONCE'S AFRICAN ROOTS

The beyhive (a group name for beyonce's fans) would certainly back me up when I say "Lemonade" is unarguably Beyonce's best work so far! The 60-minute project as we would like to tag it, contains lyrics that clearly narrate in depth a story of negative marital experiences from speculations up until acceptance. Describing Lemonade in but a sentence, here is what we've chosen, A visual yet strongly vocal and verbal display of Africa vis-a-vis its artists, tradition and culture all wrapped around a pen, telling a story of marital difficulty which may or may not be tied to Beyonce. 

She reads Somali-Brit poet Warsan Shire’s poetry in the film. Shire’s work is adapted for all the spoken word interludes between songs. (Throughout the film, Beyoncé quotes from “warsan versus melancholy (the seven stages of being lonely),” “For Women Who Are Difficult To Love,” “The unbearable weight of staying (till the end of the relationship),” and “Nail Technician as Palm Reader”.

The black ballerina in the video for “Freedom” is 21-year-old Sierra Leone-born U.S-raised Michaela DePrince. She dances with the Dutch National Ballet and is the only dancer of African origin in the company. In 2013, she gave interview with DanceTabs and spoke about ballet and race:
“I suspect that the resistance to raising black ballerinas through the ranks might be due to an old-fashioned way of looking at beauty,” said Michaela in a 2013 interview. “Our ideal of a perfect ballerina is based on Russian ballet with its willowy blondes. If a director does not appreciate the aesthetics of African beauty, he will not want to promote a black ballerina to the status of prima, because the prima is supposed to be the most beautiful dancer. She represents the aesthetics of classical ballet, which right now are Eurocentric.” 

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The video for “Sorry” includes some of the film’s most visually spectacular shots of Beyoncé and her dancers in Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo’s “afromysterics” facial markings. The body art on the women is the sacred art of the Ori — ritual body art from the Yoruba people by Senbanjo – a lawyer turned artist. When Senbanjo’s art appears, it marks Beyoncé beginning the spiritual ascendance from anger to healing.

In an interview with OkayAfrica Senbanjo explains further, “Art can be used to translate ideas. The Sacred Art of the Ori is basically about connection between the artist and the music. What I basically did was to connect with the different people that were painted in the video, and connect with them on the art. And also on a spiritual level. The connection is what I want people to take away.”

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She payed tribute the Mangbetu tradition of Lipombo (skull elongation) achieved through head wrapping to elongate the skulls and weaving the hair into an ever lengthening basket crown—the style denoted a person of high status in the community. The Egyptians also did it and served as an inspiration for hairdresser Kim Kimble who calls it the “Nefertiti crown.” She braided onto a milliner’s cap and braided around it into this form.

The funnel-shaped coiffure which ended in an outward halo, originally symbolic of high social status, was considered exceptionally attractive, and took a lot of time to create. Of the ornaments that embellished the hairstyles of the Mangbetu, and related ethnic groups, combs were reserved for women.” [Sieber R., Herreman F., 2000: Hair in African Art and Culture, Prestel].

In “Freedom” Amandla Stenberg wears Nigerian designer Maki Oh’s Teardrop Adiré dress. Amaka Osakwe is a Nigerian fashion designer and creator of Maki Oh. The womenswear label is housed in Lagos and has been worn by A-listers, Michelle Obama and Solange.

For the production of Lemonade Beyonce went with a variety of talent including Uzo Emenike or as you may know him – MNEK. The Grammy-nominated Nigerian-British singer (currently known for collaborating with Zara Larsson on “Never Forget You”), songwriter, and producer is of Igbo descent. He has a songwriting credit on “Hold Up”. The visuals for the “Hold Up” were produced by Nigerian Onye Anyanwu. Wielding her baseball bat (aptly-named “Hot Sauce”)on the streets of NoLa attacking cars, police surveillance cameras, and asking: “”What’s worse, looking jealous or crazy? Jealous or crazy?!”

Beyonce went from being accused of cultural appropriation to being a strong voice in "black wars" and now aiding African cultural preservation, helping people know there is more to Africa than the defamatory inherently comes with being black. So, welcome Beyonce, we the Africans accept you totally, so feel free to visit!