But the response from Africans has been less than enthusiastic, with many online questioning how the movie would portray the diversity and beauty of the modern African continent. Some criticized the short trailer for feeding into the cartoonish "Wakanda" version of Africa that has grown popular since the release of the widely acclaimed Marvel film Black Panther.
Others said the images of Black people in loin cloths and covered in animal pelts were not representative of what Africa looks like right now.
In an op-ed published by CNN this week, Moky Makura discussed these criticisms, writing that many were waiting to see what Beyoncé would produce when the film is released Friday, July 31.
Makura serves as executive director of Africa No Filter, a pan-African group that works to bolster a diverse range of African voices and take down stereotypes about the African continent.
"With its imagery of face and body paintings, feathers and animal fur, in celebrating our African traditions 'Black is King,' perhaps a little naively, missed the pulse of how many young, urban Africans — both on the continent and the diaspora — want to see themselves. They want to be presented in a more contemporary way, as global citizens representing a dynamic continent. Beyoncé picked the right story — but may have given it the wrong framing," Makura wrote.
"But why, some might reasonably ask, do chalk markings on black faces, naked male torsos and a preponderance of animal pelts provoke uncomfortable reactions from some Africans, when that is very much a part of our history and in some cases our existing cultures?" Makura added. "The trap that Beyoncé's trailers fell into is the stereotypical (albeit visually compelling) story of a primitive continent that hasn't advanced much, which frustratingly still dominates too many Western perceptions."
Makura goes on to say that while it is not as bad as the pessimistic, poverty and crime-stricken view of Africa generally propagated by news outlets, the trailer still was not representative of the realities of everyday Africans.
Makura was not alone in her dislike of the trailer.
I can't be the only African who hates how Americans misrepresent Africans in series and movies. If you're going to have something African in your shows PLEASE DEPICT SOMETHING REALISTIC. We are tired of the disrespect. This is not 600bc.
— Rufarorwashe???????????????? (@rue_hk) June 29, 2020
Another fantasy movie about a place that does not exist. Like Wakanda. Disney go f **k yourself and your propaganda. I think America has had enough of this idiotic, anti-white tantrum.
— Carmine Sabia (@CarmineSabia) June 29, 2020
Yall romanticize Africa so bad yet would barely want to go there ????
— Nick (@Nick1sTheName) June 29, 2020
Others tried to share what African cities like Lagos actually look like.
This is Lagos in Nigeria, Africa… by Steven Ndwuku pic.twitter.com/McgKFTxki0
— Say Your Grace???????? (@GraceManuelB) June 30, 2020
Some Africans spoke to The Washington Post about how disappointed they were with the trailer and how it portrayed modern African countries.
“There is this constant joke that Africans wake up and see animals running around. People are so surprised to know that we go to the spa,” Grace Bassey, a 19-year-old Nigerian, told The Post.
The Post referenced other comments from unnamed Africans who said things like “This narrative is getting boring” and “We don’t wake up with white chalk on our faces or live in blue huts.”
“Africa has grown beyond what you just incorporated, Beyoncé,” another person said.
The criticisms of Beyoncé were almost immediate and expanded far beyond just a dislike of the trailer.
As many have noticed, the film will be available in the United States by the end of the month, but no release date has been announced for any African countries.
The Post noted that while Beyoncé has performed in Africa, her last three tours had no stops on the African continent.
There is a broad array of cultures and ethnicities among the continent's 54 countries.
“We have this beautiful vision, this piece of art, but it might show a broad representation of the continent without actually streaming over here,” Stephanie Boateng, a filmmaker in Accra, Ghana, told The Post.
Beyoncé's mother Tina Knowles-Lawson has come out to defend the film.
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#Repost @hova_bey.carter with @get_repost ・・・ Joshua and Blitz are Ghanaian, KC is Nigerian, Hannah worked on Lemonade with B, Trevor is South African…There's way, way more involved in the making of Black Is King but 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 is simply using African cultures for gain are wrong because 1. She makes less with her Afrocentric content. 2. She's actually taken the time studied African costumes and such and didn't just throw this together. She's worked with actual African dancers, film makers, directors etc on this project so for some African Americans and Africans to say it's a facade is truly discrediting the work of their own people. 3. While people whine about her not touring in Africa yet beg for more African representation in entertainment but are mad that they're getting it from one the world's greatest stars is strange to me. They'd rather have B come and they spend their money for a show once or twice every few years rather than have someone of African descent work with African creatives to create art that celebrates them that will last forever and it be done at no cost to them.) #Beyonce #Beyoncé #BeyonceKnowles #BeyonceKnowlesCarter #QueenB #MrsCarter #Jayz #jigga #jiggaman #Hov #Hova #KingHova #ShawnCarter #TheCarters #beyonceandjayz #Jayonce #MrCarter #JayZandBeyonce #beyhive???? #hovandb #JayandB #african #nigeria #blackexcellence #heritage #ghana #africa #director #
Knowles-Lawson called out those who said it was inauthentic, writing on Instagram that the superstar performer "makes less with her Afrocentric content" and has "actually taken the time studied African costumes and such and didn't just throw this together."
"She's worked with actual African dancers, film makers, directors etc on this project so for some African Americans and Africans to say it's a facade is truly discrediting the work of their own people," Knowles-Lawson wrote.
"While people whine about her not touring in Africa yet beg for more African representation in entertainment but are mad that they're getting it from one the world's greatest stars is strange to me. They'd rather have B come and they spend their money for a show once or twice every few years rather than have someone of African descent work with African creatives to create art that celebrates them that will last forever and it be done at no cost to them," she added.
Beyoncé has not addressed the criticism but wrote about the making of the visual album in a lengthy Instagram post.
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I typically keep comments short and sweet, but I just watched the trailer with my family and I’m excited. ????please don’t get me hype???????? “Black Is King” is a labor of love. It is my passion project that I have been filming, researching and editing day and night for the past year. I’ve given it my all and now it’s yours. It was originally filmed as a companion piece to “The Lion King: The Gift” soundtrack and meant to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry. I could never have imagined that a year later, all the hard work that went into this production would serve a greater purpose. The events of 2020 have made the film’s vision and message even more relevant, as people across the world embark on a historic journey. We are all in search of safety and light. Many of us want change. 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. 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. I spent a lot of time exploring and absorbing the lessons of past generations and the rich history of different African customs. While working on this film, there were moments where I’ve felt overwhelmed, like many others on my creative team, but it was important to create a film that instills pride and knowledge. I only hope that from watching, you leave feeling inspired to continue building a legacy that impacts the world in an immeasurable way. I pray that everyone sees the beauty and resilience of our people. This is a story of how the people left MOST BROKEN have EXTRAORDINARY gifts.❤️✊???? Thank you to Blitz, Emmanuel, Ibra, Jenn, Pierre, Dikayl, Kwasi and all the brilliant creatives. Thank you to all at Disney for giving this Black woman the opportunity to tell this story. This experience has been an affirmation of a grander purpose. My only goal is that you watch it with your family and that it gives you pride. Love y’all, B
She called the project "a labor of love" and said she spent the past year "filming, researching and editing day and night." She explained that the project was originally a companion piece to The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack and was "meant to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry."
"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," she wrote.
"I spent a lot of time exploring and absorbing the lessons of past generations and the rich history of different African customs. While working on this film, there were moments where I’ve felt overwhelmed, like many others on my creative team, but it was important to create a film that instills pride and knowledge," she added.
Nigerian blog YNaija reported that Beyoncé worked with artists from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa on the film.
Now, fans are eagerly awaiting the film's release to see how it portrays the continent and the diverse communities of the people living on it.