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In addition to her voicing Nala in the live action Lion King, Beyoncé expanded her artistry by executively producing the beautiful album, The Gift. The album featured artists and rhythms from all over the Africa continent to help tell the story of the Disney classic. While the musical compilation went on to win awards, Beyoncé didn’t stop there. A little over a year after the film’s releases, Beyoncé teamed with Disney + to produce a visual experience for fans across the world. Black Is King, showcased traditions, cultural symbolism, and unique fashions working together to uplift the Black community. While many appreciated the looks Beyoncé wore during the hour and a half long film, the traditional costumes have a deeper meaning. Here are six of her iconic looks and their cultural significance.
While Africans were stripped from their homelands and sold all over the world, there were certain rituals that allowed them to develop a community of shared experiences. Due to the harsh realities of slavery, most African Americans weren’t allowed to gather in large groups for ceremonies, including funerals. To pay respects to the dead, family members and close friends found the light in a dark situation. Instead of wearing black to mourn their loved one, slaves looked at death as a form of freedom from the physical chains they were bound to on Earth. The term “homegoing” was born from this concept and many African Americans opted to wear white to honor and respect the life that was transitioning to the other side.
In many religions, the bull is depicted as a sacred animal. Many gods have been described to have a human body with the head of a horned creature. The animal represents strength, honor, and dignity and demands respect. Perfect bulls were often selected by religious figures and kept in a private sector as a form of sacrifice to the mighty gods they worshipped.
Braided styles are embedded in African and African American culture. They are seen to uplift culture, a tool for survival, and a symbol of status. Beyoncé showcased many traditional styles including cornrows, box braids, and braided updos. She sat heavenly in an angelically lit frame that showcased a formal Congo hairstyle. The skull-like braids are a common style used to elongate and highlight the face while confirming a high status in society. Other hairstyles shown in the film included cornrows which were commonly used to braid maps and resources into the heads of slaves.
Beyoncé displayed her beautiful body covered in paint throughout the entire film. A man who was assumed to be a spiritual figure and/or teenage Simba was also covered in a vibrant turquoise color. In Africa, body paint serves multiple purposes. It can be used to celebrate life, mourn the dead, protect young warriors, or as a daily uniform to signify status. Oil, clay, and chalk are some of the natural ingredients used to make the vibrant liquid coating. While other cultures believe that revealing too much skin is unacceptable, African cultures look at the skin as something to be honored, decorated, and appreciated like art hanging on a wall.
Like many religions across the globe, the African diaspora has unique gods and goddesses that they worship, pray too, and look toward for spiritual guidance. Cultures on the continent honor numerous feminine spiritual beings for specific elements of their lives. Oshun, Oya, Yemaya, and Ala are just some of the goddesses called upon by the African community. Their presence brings peace, fertility, abundance, and wisdom. They are often depicted with a heavenly glow shining on top of their extravagant and delicate garments similar to the ones worn by Beyoncé in the film.
Turquoise was seen throughout the entire film. Whether it was worn by Beyoncé or painted on her costars, its power was felt through the screen. Much like everything else in the visual album, the color represented much more than its beauty. Turquoise is known as the stone of evolution according to sagegoddess.com. It encourages positive change and structure in one’s life and given to a person to help ease emotions and bring comfort to the spirit.
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Toree Weaver is an AfterBuzz TV host with a passion for glamour and kingdoms. When she isn’t modeling or dancing, she can be found binge watching shows from Gossip Girl to Game of Thrones.
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