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A Battle or a Conversation: Imagining Africa and Its Diaspora in Beyoncé’s "Black Is King" and "Lemonade"

Raphaëlle Efoui-Delplanque


Pages 199 - 218

DOI https://doi.org/10.33675/AMST/2022/2/9


open-access

This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

Creative Commons License


In her visual albums "Black Is King" (2020) and "Lemonade" (2016), pop artist Beyoncé engages with audiovisual representation as a way of "rewriting" existing narratives of Blackness and re-presenting the African diaspora and the African continent. The albums navigate a contentious space in which feminist empowerment mingles with sexual objectification and conservative gender roles, oppression is countered by hyper-capitalist consumption, African and Afrodiasporic cultures are mobilized or appropriated, and powerful counter-narratives are made in ways that can seem like hegemony reproduced. In this paper, I argue that a determinant factor of the ability to navigate those complexities is the notion of "community": its representation, its scope, and its tensions. Both formally and in content, Beyoncé and her co-creators’ audiovisual narratives stimulate a reflection on how to make the individual collective, the personal political, and how to unite disparity into “the Black diaspora” as a community and an addressee. Beyoncé’s Afrodiasporic projection requires strong authorship and the creation of a unifying myth. The ensuing narrative and profitability imperatives provoke the question whether Beyoncé’s visual albums can truly be sites for the envisioning of the African diaspora as a community marked by diversity, tension, and negotiation.

Key Words:African diaspora; music video; counter-narratives; community; translating Blackness

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