Beyoncé's 'Homecoming' is a love letter to black culture

The singer is building something bigger and more lasting than celebrity, writes Letlhogonolo Ngwato

21 April 2019 - 00:07 By Letlhogonolo Ngwato
Beyoncé Knowles performs at Coachella 2018, a show she and fans dubbed 'Beychella'.
Beyoncé Knowles performs at Coachella 2018, a show she and fans dubbed 'Beychella'.
Image: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella

It's been a year since Beyoncé Knowles-Carter's triumphant return to the stage, after cancelling her Coachella performance the year before because of her unexpected pregnancy (she gave birth to twins Sir and Rumi in June 2017).

A documentary about the production of her Coachella 2018 show, called Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, was released on Netflix this week. Beyoncé also dropped Homecoming: The Live Album on her husband's streaming service, Tidal.

In her 22-year career, Beyoncé has given us many anthems and filled arenas across the world, but over the past decade her offering has been more than her music, film or wardrobe inspiration. She has dedicated herself to the black cause in ways that, at first, were not obvious.

The documentary film is an ode to black culture and highlights the connectedness of our history. It shows that music is an intimate sign of the politics of the time and reveals the concerns of the artist making it. Homecoming is a representation of the divine feminine power in a society finally coming unapologetically into its own. It is to us what the album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was to our aunts.

Upon deeper examination of the film, I started to realise that it demonstrates the inconsistencies that exist in society; that if black culture is so cool, why aren't we, as individuals, seen that way?

WATCH | The trailer for 'Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé'

Throughout the film Beyoncé uses voiceovers, music and quotes from literary powerhouses such as Maya Angelou, Nina Simone and Toni Morrison. Angelou can be heard saying: "What I really want to do is be a representative of my race, of the human race." She compliments Angelou and takes it a step further to announce that she wants "to bring our culture to Coachella".

And so Homecoming is a love letter to black culture.

It also captures the evolution of a woman. Beyoncé takes a stand on the world stage by owning who she is and by honouring her roots. In a man's world, here is this black woman transcending all barriers, surrounded by a black orchestra and female dancers - giving us a masterclass in black expression and pride.

It is also a story of 21st-century influence. The ease with which she fuses pantsula, crump and two-step while dripping the swag for us "fifty 'leven" fans watching, is something you can't ignore. Like many fans, I was on that stage with her as I watched her from my bed. She represented me by referencing African influences in her delivery and staging. She paid homage to Egyptian queens and the pyramids. She showed pride in her Southern roots. I could relate to her - she isn't so far removed from the Motswana girl I am.

The behind-the-scenes sections with her team in Homecoming show a softer side of her. In those moments there's a spirit of ubuntu in the way she carries herself and her team.

This film is a timely rallying call to inspire a generation that has no idea of who they are, or have forgotten. Homecoming isn't just her return to the stage after a difficult pregnancy. Nnya bagaetsho! It is a feeling, it's a coming home to her people. It's an amandla moment.

What this film profiles is brand power and influence far beyond celebrity. Beyoncé publicly disrupts what we have typically considered the "norm", the things we let slide or allow to happen because they have "always been done that way". She lets everyone who cares to know that she is (we are) here.

Beyoncé makes spaces for black creatives to get noticed. Her 2018 Vogue cover is an example - she directed the process and chose an emerging black photographer to shoot it.

WATCH | Behind the scenes of Beyoncé's 2018 Vogue cover shoot

WATCH | Behind the scenes of Beyoncé's 2018 Vogue cover shoot

She also reportedly walked out of a Reebok meeting because its team was not representative of her world. We couldn’t have a better poster girl for global BEE.

Whether you like her or not, or haven ’t taken the time to understand her art, she commands our attention — she has worked herself into history. And that is the history I want to teach my children. 

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