“There is this constant joke that Africans wake up and see animals running around,” said Bassey, 19, who studies international relations in the southwestern state of Ekiti. “People are so surprised to know that we go to the spa.”
At a time of global reckoning over race and representation, the 70-second trailer for “Black is King” — a film inspired by the superstar’s work on the 2019 Lion King remake — has sparked backlash abroad.
The project is set to the soundtrack that Beyoncé produced last year, which features artists from Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Cameroon.
“I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our REAL history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books,” Beyoncé wrote in an Instagram post.
The events of 2020 — the renewed focus on police killings, the death of George Floyd — make that message more relevant, she added. (The singer recently wrote an open letter to Kentucky’s attorney general urging him to charge the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.)
“I wanted to present elements of Black history and African tradition,” Beyoncé said on Instagram, “with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy.”
A debate ensued in the comments.
“This narrative is getting boring,” one user wrote. “We don’t wake up with white chalk on our faces or live in blue huts.”
Another added: “Africa has grown beyond what you just incorporated, Beyoncé.”
Some pointed out that Disney Plus, which will begin streaming the visual album on July 31, is not yet accessible in African nations.
Others noted that Beyoncé’s last three tours reached Europe, Australia and South America but not Africa. (She has played a handful of shows on the continent, most recently at a charity event in Johannesburg in 2018.)
The contention follows years of frustration over Western media’s frequent depiction of Africa as a homogeneous entity, said Stephanie Boateng, a British Ghanaian filmmaker in Accra.
The continent has 54 countries and myriad cultures — Boateng has spent months researching 17th-century Ghana for a film project — and creators with noble intentions can miss important nuance.
“We have this beautiful vision, this piece of art,” Boateng said of Beyoncé’s trailer, “but it might show a broad representation of the continent without actually streaming over here.”
The performer’s publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, did not respond to requests for comment.
Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, defended “Black is King” on Instagram, highlighting that her daughter worked closely with creative partners from Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
“My point in posting this is simply that those who are criticizing the film (before they even see it) saying it’s unauthentic, upset that B doesn’t actually go to Africa or say that Bey…