cultural activism

Nigeria: Beyoncé, Davido, and the #EndSARS pile on

By ‘Tofe Ayeni

Posted on November 19, 2020 16:01

Nigeria Police Protest
A woman takes a selfie with a banner showing the names of victims of police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Monday Oct. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Many social movements have taken to going online to achieve a critical mass, with Nigeria’s #EndSARS being one notable example. The force of cultural activism along with celebrity culture can help social movements by drawing much-needed international attention to current situations. But is there a fine line between cultural activism and cultural appropriation?

In 2019, American singer and songwriter Beyoncé released the soundtrack to the remake of Disney’s Lion King. The album, ‘The Lion King: The Gift’, was produced and created by her. It predominantly featured black artists, and there was a noticeable number of African artists.

In 2020, she released The Gift’s visual album, ‘Black is King’. The visuals focused on African culture, from Beyoncé drawing parallels between herself and the Yoruba deity Osun (Oshun), to the hairstyles featured, to the traditional African dances.

READ MORE Beyoncé’s new film ‘Black Is King’ is stirring up controversy

Although she faced some backlash from Africans who accused her of cultural appropriation, it was quickly met with arguments about the difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation; Beyoncé included African artists in the videos and on the album, rather than simply taking their style, dances, and history, and ensuring they got paid.

However, when Nigerians needed Beyonce’s voice the most, many felt that she was not there.

Cultural appreciation VS Cultural appropriation

Many A-list celebrities have profited from Nigerian culture in recent years, as it continues to grow in popularity globally. But where were those same celebrities when #EndSARS was exploding over the internet?

READ MORE Nigeria: #EndSARS movement avoids pitfalls of ‘leadership’

Although most argued at the time of ‘Black Is King’ that Beyoncé was appreciating the culture and shining her spotlight on African artists, it was generally agreed that her silence on #EndSARS was not acceptable.