Beyonce Knowles is a multi-talented megastar with a strong work ethic and a passion for Black African culture and representation. But could she be unlawfully and unethically profiting from the intellectual and artistic work of Black African people?
Following the great box office success that was ‘The Lion King’ live remake, Beyonce released a 14-track album, “The Gift”. In this album, she featured a host of Black African artistes and heralded this as her love letter to Africa.
She recently released the music video for one of the tracks titled “Spirit”. The video featured Beyonce in her natural state; taking centre-stage amid black dancers. The setting resembled that of an East African desert, with scenes of mountains, fountains, and a stream.
Take a look.
Beyonce’s Spirit Music Video
The video pulls inspiration from the nomadic cultures of East Africa, with tribal jewelry and loose airy fabrics making a cameo.
From the background to the outfits, to the routine, every single element of this music video is symbolic and can be another iconic and culturally significant moment for Black people and pop culture.
So what’s the problem?
All the accolades we can ascribe to Beyonce and her diligent creative team all fall to dust when we consider one thing; it has all been done before.
In 2018, South African artiste and producer, Yannick Ilunga, released an 18-minute visual album to accompany his EP, La Maison Noir: The Gift and The Curse.
The artist who goes by the stage name Petite Noir dropped the visual album in September of 2018. And here is the thing, the video features themes nearly identical to those in Beyonce’s video.
See for yourself.
In an Instagram slideshow, an account called Diet Prada made frame by frame comparisons of the two videos. The post highlights instances of plagiarism in the fashion and entertainment industry.
Check it out.
View this post on Instagram
It looks like those costumes were just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s a side by side comparison of @Beyonce ‘s “Spirit” + “Bigger” extended cut directed by Jake Nava vs. South African musician @petitenoirkvlt ‘s “La Maison Noir: The Gift and The Curse”, directed by artist @rharha_nembhard and released in May 2018. With almost 2 million views on YouTube, the 17-minute film revolves around a cosmogram from Petite Noir aka Yannick Illunga’s native Congo, referencing the four elements of fire, earth, water, and air. It also symbolizes rebirth. In the visual journey through the formative stages of the musician’s life, themes of resistance, migration and women’s rights are also explored. As founders of the Noirwave movement, husband/wife duo Illunga and Nembhard’s work seeks to write a new narrative of the contemporary experience, uniting all people of African descent, across the continent and beyond. Dieters and Beyhive that are about to go off in the comments, please remember to be constructive ❤️. • #beyonce #spirit #bigger #rharhanembhard #petitenoir #noirwave #southafrica #congolese #cosmogram #musicvideo #visualalbum #thelionling #jakenava #cinemtography #director #creativedirector #film #costumedesign #havasupaifalls #landscape #desert #waterfall
Maybe she was inspired?
The music video of Spirit seems to borrow a lot of its visual cues from La Maison Noir. Although it is very possible to be inspired by the work of another artist, there is such a thing as acknowledgement.
Failure to acknowledge the source is the line between inspiration and imitation. Using the intellectual property of another artist without going through the proper copyright and licensing procedure is in fact stealing.
Lina Iris Viktor, visual artist and friend of Petite Noir took to Instagram, re-posting the slideshow by Diet Prada.
To accompany the slide show, a part of Viktor’s caption read:
“Moreover, so ironic that all the films, musicians and participants who appear to champion and support the African continent now and all of its offerings, also feel entitled to steal from African artists in the process. I say ‘steal’ as it is NOT ‘inspiration’, nor ‘borrowing’, or a ‘homage’ to blatantly lift another’s work without their permission.”
Maybe it’s a one-time thing
This is not the first time Beyonce has been accused of plagiarism. Last year the official ‘On The Run Tour II’ poster mimicked a scene from Touki Bouki.
The picture sees Jay-Z and Beyoncé sitting on a motorbike embellished with a long-horned bull’s skull. This bike is similar to the one that Mory and Anta, the lead characters of Touki Bouki, ride on.
While multiple articles from reputable organisations reported on the Senegalese film’s influence on the poster, Mr. and Mrs. Knowles-Carter have given no such credit. The On the Run II tour did not even make its way to the Africa it was so ‘inspired’ by.
Like the Touki Bouki incident, it is unlikely that Beyonce will respond to the plagiarism allegations. Petite Noir has not yet commented on the matter although entertainment news outlets have reached out to him. Also, Beyonce has enough clout to ride it out and get away with the plagiarism without it becoming a scandal.
Nevertheless, it is important to know who we herald as the heroes of representation. This is not in any way to promote cancel culture. It is just for you to know that your heroes and icons are not perfect.
Beyonce, like every other person, artist, leader, or champion, are all human. They are prone to mistakes and purposeful unethical acts. And once given power, there is the tendency to tread on the less powerful.
In summary, be wary of who you idolise and be ready for disappointment.
Source: Mail & Guardian
For more news on Beyonce, check out news of her rumored future in Disney.