People please, sssstop crying

Friday, February 25, 2011

I just watched E-News (as one does) and saw that there's an apparent hoo-haa about Beyonce's latest cover on the French fashion Bible, Koran and Torah put together, L'Officiel.  I then ran to my computer, did a bit of research and saw that there are some rather unhappy folk who are "upset" that Beyonce, according to them, is emulating or channeling the severely offensive tactics of white Americans in early 19th Century theatre and performance - Blackface, where white people would paint themselves dark brown and act the fool while portraying black people.

I think that these images:

Have very little to do with that old school mentality that inferred that the black man and woman was only servile and existed to give credence to the notion that white is right and any other race is beneath that supreme realm.  Beyonce is black for god's sake and she painted her face as a way to pay homage to and channel Fela Kuti (which good living artist of today hasn't?), and I guess referenced Nigerian cultural nuances in her dress and makeup.   Some are saying this is degrading to real Africans, HOW? Because it shows just how dark we are? That some of us paint our faces all "tribal"? Even if that was pure fabrication, I still would'nt be offended because the execution of the idea, which Grace Jones amongst other artists has done, is incredible.  If this was a white person doing this, I think I would be a little offended because being black is not about skin colour, it's a state of mind, to paraphrase Biko. 

Only black people (a term you could debate all night but basically any black person including mixed ones), can relate fully to what connects a lot of black people around the world, and because of that, there is a certain "ownership to blackness" that only black people can own.  It's exactly the same thing as black people calling each other the niggas, a semantic "privilege" that only belongs to black people.

I didn't mean to get so deep about this but I'm glad I have.  That is all I have to say. I think she looks amazing because she is boldly portraying the unapologetic and gaudy beauty of Africa and African women.  The fact that she left the rest of her body in her natural colour, makes more of a statement about the black race in relation to the rest of the world. If you don't get it, that's fine but don't jump on a silly bandwagon that claims to never listen to a Beyonce song again because of this. Wipe your tears! I really wish I could write out the venomous sound of a Nigerian woman full of contempt, that dragged out Mmmmcccccxxxxhhhhhww!


Miss.LV said...

I've really enjoyed reading your blog:)

Milisuthando Bongela said...

Why thank you miss LV

Serisha said...

The last pic in particular has a very strong visual reference to the Senegalese return to source film, "Hyenas".You are so right, it's totally about reclaiming these stereotypes and assigning power to them.

Kgomotso said...

i have to disagree with you (and TRUST, i rarely do!)First, blackface was not only done by white people, in fact it was mostly done by black people, red lips and was highly offense then as it is now, decades after the "buckwheat generation" has dies off. but aside form that, Beyonce IS black, she IS already a descedent of Africans.she does not need to be darker to be more African.doing this is actually stupid, having been to Africa she should know we come in all different shades of lovely.she need only to be her lovely self to portray african beauty.painting herself darker and in "traditional makeup" was really just pointless and would have made sense to me for her to just wear african clothing, she is already an AFRICAN- american woman tough, no extra pigmentation required.

Sabu said...

i think people need to chill, i love the pictures and i think Beyonce knows enough about the history of black people to know that if it wasnt for the black musicians before her time she wouldn't b where she is now - these images are art peices presented as trinkets of homage to those who paved the way for her as well as her muscial counterparts.
besides we (as black folk) never question why they photoshop MANY black men and women to make them look lighter on magazine covers but the moment we make them darker we are up in arms?
hai! we must actually figure out what we are fighting against here..lets not just blow steam.

Anonymous said...

I don't think all people are just crying and this issue is bigger than Beyoncé so whilst there are some interesting things there in your point of view it is far too narrow.

'Well... makes a lot of assumptions without ever trying to show that she has sort to at least find out more context for the images.. She talks a lot about Beyonce this and that.. but that is less the issue - many believe that Beyonce really is but a prop. The real issue is who conceptualised this and sold it to B's people..? - who came up with the makeup motif..? who decided on the fashion choices - who came up with the strategy to market this as the African Queen..? Beyonce? I doubt that very much.. As someone who is heavily involved in styling and fashion yourself - I would guess that the guest stars are largely like mannequins that ideas pre-thought are thrown unto - of course fashion maybe different but I know for films the stylists and make up artists in discussions with the director go for a particular angle and essentially the actors wear it.. So SORRY lady whoever she is I don't buy it.... I too can Mtscheeeewwwwww...' hehehheeee..

Milisuthando Bongela said...

Joseph, you kinda make it sound as if Beyonce isn't her own person but a mannequin who had no choice in this matter. If this was some other random unknown "mannequin", I would take your point, but I'd like to think that B didn't just say "Ok white people, dress me as you wish". This is a statement that she too is taking because of who she is. I think that this is a statement of empowerment for African imagery because it's almost always left in the hands of white people to interpret or present. I think she is using her blackness as an advantage to convey a powerful message about African styles of dress in a way that's not curio like or touristy - it's a communication of a strong African identity and aesthetic through fashion. And Kgomotso, yes black people may have used black face too but it was always done in a "being the entertainment" context where it was for comedy. THIS does not look stupid or funny, it is artistic and beautifully done. I'm really battling to find the derogatory in this.

pixiebugg said...

I think what irked people about this was that they had to put black face on B to make this artistic statement why.If they wanted to show case the many tones that black people come in then they could have just gotten other beautiful black models to be in this shoot,i mean we have Iman,Naomi,Tara thesew woman represent the different shades of black and they would really showcase black beauty better instead of strategically picking a light skinned black girl painting her face with really weird and muddy looking black face.I dont even think the pics are all that artistic i would have appreciated the pics better if they had just stopped at the traditional garb.

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