Belize model Destiny Wagner, 25, made history last weekend after being crowned Miss Earth 2021. In addition to bringing the first major international crown to the Caribbean country, she also broke a 19-year record without a Black woman winner.
Before her, the last Black woman to be crowned in the competition was Kenya’s Winfred Omwakwe in 2002.
The Miss Earth 2021 crown comes after a succession of Black queens recently in major nternational beauty contests. At the end of 2019, South African Zozibini Tunzi and JamaicanToni-Ann Singh won, respectively, the Miss Universe and the Miss World. Ghanaian-born American Abena Appiah won Miss Grand International earlier this year.
“I am very excited to begin my journey as Miss Earth 2021 and promise to do my best to fulfil my reign with gratitude and love,” Wagner posted on her social networks after the announcement.
Even the country’s Prime Minister Johnny Briceño mentioned Wagner’s victory on social media.
“I congratulate Ms. Destiny Wagner on winning Miss Earth 2021. We look forward to your stellar representation of our beautiful country over the next year,” he posted.
Wagner succeeds American Lindsey Coffey on the throne, elected in 2020 also through an online competition. The format, adopted for the second consecutive year, was the solution adopted by the organization, while still navigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Miss Earth is known for having the environment at the forefront. Candidates are usually linked to sustainability practices and the winner supports and promotes causes, in addition to ecotourism, around the world.
Who is Destiny Wagner
Born in 1996, Wagner is a an author, poet, television presenter. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Pace University in New York.
She published her first book in New York City entitled ”So You Need Advice” which discussed several issues including sex, love, school, and work that women experience that are frequently considered taboo. After the success of her first book, she knew that she wanted to use her voice to not only uplift others but to amplify their voice. During the pandemic, Destiny hosted virtual poetry nights on her Instagram live @Destinyewagner. People from all over the world tuned in and participated to showcase their great talent and love for poetry.
Founded in 2003, Theopolis Vineyards is a small lot vineyard and hand-crafted winery located in California’s prestigious Yorkville Highlands of the Anderson Valley.
British-Zimbabwean actress Thandie Newton will revert to her original name ‘Thandiwe’ in what she describes as ‘taking back’ what is rightfully hers
The British-born star announced her decision to go back to using the Zulu-inspired name her mother gave her at birth. “That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine,” Newton told British Vogue in an interview published over the weekend.
Thandiwe, which means “beloved” in Zulu, was given to her by her Zimbabwe-born mother. Her mother Nyasha worked as a healthcare worker for the Shona tribe with her British-born father Nick Newton working as a lab technician, IMDB reports
The Mission Impossible II star said the whitewashing of her name started when she was a young student in Catholic school. “Where the W of her name drifted inward, out of sight and earshot, in a futile hope to make her feel less different,” British Vogue notes. Up until her recent announcement, the “W” in her name remained “missed out” from her first profile on IMDB and remained that way for decades. But, as of this writing, a Google search of the For Colored Girls star lists her as “Melanie Thandiwe Newton Parker OBE, formerly credited as Thandie Newton.”
“The thing I’m most grateful for in our business right now is being in the company of others who truly see me,” she shared. “And to not be complicit in the objectification of Black people as ‘others’, which is what happens when you’re the only one.”
Last year, Newton opened up about the blatant racism she’s experienced while working in Hollywood. “Being Black is important,” she told Vulture. “Because certainly at the beginning of my career, when it was just, like, me and Halle Berry in our age group going up for every role.” She also explained why she shares more photos of her Black mother on Instagram than she does with her white father. “Because I want Black people to feel they can trust me and feel safe with me,” she revealed. “That I’m not a representative of this Establishment that degrades people of color.”
Located in what is now Senegal and parts of Mauritania, the Waalo kingdom was one of the strongest and oldest kingdoms in Senegal existing since the 11th century. Before the invasion of the Arabs, the people practised the matrilineal system which gave women equal rights and privileges as men.
When the French arrived in Senegal in 1855 to colonize it, the first resistance force they encountered was a woman. Her name: Ndaté Yalla Mboj.
On October 1, 1846, Princess Ndaté Yalla Mbodj became Queen of the Waalo (Wolof) Kingdom after the death of her older sister Queen Ndjeumbeut Mbodj who had ruled since she was a teenager after the death of their father King Amar Fatim Borso Mbodj.
Although her ascension to the throne was easy, her rule fast became a tireless one in her determination to preserve what was left of the kingdom while protecting her people from the Moors, French and Arabs who wanted to take their lands and totally colonize the kingdom. Despite being an overwhelming task, Queen Ndaté was able to lead her military into war.
Her first major and successful task as a Queen was in 1876 when she opposed the free passage of the Sarakolé people by sending a letter to the governor expressing her willingness to defend the respect of her sovereignty.
“The purpose of this letter is to let you know that the island of Mboyo belongs to me from my grandfather to me. Today, there is no one who can say that this country belongs to him, he is mine alone.
Ndaté therefore considered himself the sole ruler of the Kingdom of Waalo and throughout her reign she would challenge the French and wage a bitter battle against them. In 1847 she demanded the free passage of the population of the Saraokés who supplied the Island of St-Louis with cattle. In her letter to the governor, she writes:
“It is we who guarantee the passage of herds in our country; for this reason we take the tenth and we will never accept anything other than that. St Louis belongs to the Governor, Cayor to Damel and Waalo to Brack. Each of these leaders governs his country as he sees fit
Ndaté will not hesitate to plunder around St Louis and threaten verbally or by correspondence the Governor. The French will demand a refund of the damage caused by the looting and Ndatté will refuse categorically and proudly.
This is how it ends up making its rights to the Island of Mboyo and the Island of Sor prevail (current city of St Louis).
On November 5, 1850 Ndaté banned all trade in the backwaters of its outbuilding and pushed the French to the end of what they could bear. Faidherbe orders a battle against the Waloo troops who this time do not resist against the technological power of the enemy
In 1855, Queen Ndaté was faced with a French army of over 1500 men who planned to take over her Kingdom, dethrone her and colonize the Waalo which would make them have total control over Senegal.
Before then, the Queen had led several successful battles against both the Moors and the French and although her army made up of both males and females was small, the Queen led them against the French. Before going to war, the Queen gave a famous speech to her army saying:
“Today, we are invaded by the conquerors. Our army is in disarray. The tiedos of the Waalo, as brave warriors as they are, have almost all fallen under the enemy’s bullets. The invader is stronger than us, I know, but should we abandon the Waalo to foreign hands?” “This country is mine alone!
The Queen’s brave army was no match to the French and she lost the first battle. She led her army to sneak up on the French and defeat them thereby starting the Senegal War of Resistance which continued way into the 20th century.
Queen Ndaté was able to fight off the Arabs and her battles led to the creation of Senegambia. She was captured by the French and exiled into the north of Senegal in Ndimb where she remained until she died in 1860.
Although by the time of her exile the Kingdom was in ruins, her son, Sidya Leon Diop took over the throne and continued the war until he too was captured and exiled in Gabon in 1878.
To date, Queen Ndaté Yalla Mbodj remains a symbol of resistance in Senegal. A statue of the Queen can be found in Dagana, in north Senegal that was made in her honor.
The tech giant has named Ojo chief marketing officer of Prime Video and Amazon Studios
Ukonwa Ojo, whose previous positions included CMO for MAC Cosmetics and for Coty, will lead global brand and originals marketing for Amazon.
She will report to Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.
Andy Donkin will move from head of global marketing for video operations to a new, as yet unannounced position, Hopkins told staff in a memo published by Deadline.
In the memo, Hopkins described Ojo as “one of the world’s leading marketing executives,” with a “two-decade track record as a builder of top global brands.”
Ojo’s “wide-ranging experience will give us a broader perspective on how to connect customers to the Prime Video brand and grow our business by marketing our content in innovative ways to develop an even stronger emotional connection with our audiences,” he added. “Over the course of her career, Ukonwa has been recognized with over 50 awards and honors for driving outstanding market-leading results and delivering creative campaigns and innovations that motivate people to act.”
At MAC, Ukonwa focused on customer engagement and product innovation. At Coty, she led P&L, brand development strategy, advertising, innovation, social/digital, design, and media planning/buying.
Previously, she was a senior vice president at CoverGirl, and held brand and general management positions at Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, General Mills Corp. and Meadwestvaco Corp.
Ojo holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Read Hopkins’ memo announcing Ojo’s hire:
Hello Team –
I’m writing today to share some news. One of the world’s leading marketing executives, Ukonwa Ojo, is joining the Amazon team as Chief Marketing Officer, Prime Video and Amazon Studios. Ukonwa begins her new role leading our global brand and originals marketing on September 21st, reporting directly to me.
Andy Donkin will be moving into a new position at Amazon, which will be announced soon; in the interim, he will continue to report to me. Andy will help Ukonwa transition into her new role and get to know the marketing team. His direct reports will now report to Ukonwa. I want to thank Andy for his significant contributions in helping to grow the Prime Video business over the last 2½ years and for his leadership of the marketing team.
As an award-winning marketer, Ukonwa has a fantastic two-decade track record as a builder of top global brands. Her wide-ranging experience will give us a broader perspective on how to connect customers to the Prime Video brand and grow our business by marketing our content in innovative ways to develop an even stronger emotional connection with our audiences.
Ukonwa comes to us from M∙A∙C Cosmetics, where she served as Chief Marketing Officer, responsible for championing M∙A∙C’s brand positioning and increasing its presence and appeal to a global consumer in growing markets around the world. She helped drive customer engagement strategies and delivered breakthrough product innovation in order to maximize consumer connection to the iconic brand.
Before joining M∙A∙C, Ukonwa was Chief Marketing Officer, Consumer Beauty at Coty, where she oversaw brand development strategy, advertising, innovation, social/digital and other areas including collaboration with some of the biggest names in the entertainment business. She also held brand and general management roles at Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser PLC and General Mills Corporation.
Over the course of her career, Ukonwa has been recognized with over 50 awards and honors for driving outstanding market-leading results and delivering creative campaigns and innovations that motivate people to act. Her recognition includes Business Insider’s Most Innovative CMOs, AdAge 50 and A List, Adweek 50, WWD Brand Builder of the Year, WFA Global Marketer of the Year List, Financial Times Upstanding 100 and Black Enterprise’s 25 Women Changing the World. She is also a member of the 2020 Class of Henry Crown Fellows within the Aspen Global Leadership Network at the Aspen Institute.
I’m proud of our incredible marketing team and I’m looking forward to the exciting possibilities under Ukonwa’s leadership.
For a virtual introduction to Ukonwa and a preview of her marketing philosophy, click here. Please join me in welcoming her to the team.
A highly-effective all-female anti-poaching ranger unit called the Akashinga is protecting wildlife and revolutionizing the fight against illegal trophy hunting.
We’re on a mission to scale our community-driven conservation model, empowering disadvantaged women to restore and manage a network of wilderness areas as an alternative economic model to trophy hunting.
Since being founded in 2017 as part of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), the Akashinga (meaning The Brave Ones in the Shona language) helped reduce elephant poaching in Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi Valley by a whopping 80 percent.
Many of the women join the program for stability and income, completely transforming their lives for the better. They are trained and equipped just like most armies, and hold their positions with pride.
In an interview with Elle, two of the army’s sergeants detail the lengths that poachers will go to, including using cyanide to kill the animals or even encountering the women with weapons when confronted.
Despite the dangers associated with their position, the women have been able to make hundreds of arrests in the last few years, and have helped bring down the elephant poaching rate by around 80%.
To learn more about the work of the Akashinga, you can visit the International Anti-Poaching Foundation’s website.
Meet Meryanne Loum-Martin, A Parisian lawyer turned entrepreneur and founder of Jnane Tamsna, The only Black woman-owned boutique hotel located in Marrakech, Morocco.
We had a chat with her to talk about her inspiring journey from France to Marrakech, lessons she learned from the challenges and the triumphs along the way, the importance of Black female hotel ownership and how she created one of Morocco’s most beloved retreats, and the incredible plans she has for creating a space where African artists and creatives of the diaspora are celebrated!
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Meryanne Loum-Martin. My father is Senegalese, my mother was French West Indian. Paris was home until I discovered Marrakech. I always travelled a lot either as a child with my parents and as a teenager and young adult alone. I am fascinated by the world and the diversity of its cultures.
What led to your path of being a Hotelier?
By pure coincidence… Since I was a child, I was fascinated by architecture and design. As soon as I could I would always travel to explore famous architects work. I went to architecture school at 17 yrs old, after my Baccalauréat, ( French A Levels) . I was totally at ease with creative subjects but was too bad in Maths to become an architect. Unfortunately it is part of the architecture studies in France. So I went to law school and became a lawyer, like everyone in my family. On my mother’s side I am 4 th generation, on my father”s 2nd generation.
But I always kept as a hobby a foot into design, advising friends on their house, etc..
In the mid-eighties my parents wanted to build a holiday house abroad but close to Europe. As the self-taught designer of the family, I asked to be in charge. This is how I came to Marrakech for the first time in December 1985 to scout for land.
Immediately I fell in love with the country, dark blue skies, the regal Atlas Mountains covered with snow, the palm groves and the rose gardens . I built and designed a house for them, convinced them to do a bigger place than what our family needed so I would turn it into a business. It opened in 1989 as the 1st boutique hospitality concept in Marrakech. It had unbelievable press coverage worldwide and the most discerning and famous clients.
As Marrakech, only had big hotels before, my first property, which opened in 1989, happens to be chronologically the one which put Marrakech on the map of boutique hospitality. Our clientele was: Giorgio Armani, Mick Jagger, Brad Pitt, Princess Caroline of Monaco, European royals, David Bowie and Iman, Sade, top models, European and American socialites, fashion stars, and all Parisian CEOs. The place reputation took off as very connected people started the word of mouth. We also had amazing features in all major magazines in the US, in Europe, and worldwide.
I had carefully listened to the complaints about the holidays on offer and made a marketing study based on well-travelled friends whose expectations I trusted.
I created a “private home” experience with the excellence of a hotel service. In 1996, – I had by then resigned from Paris Bar and my law career – I moved to Marrakech and went on to do new projects. The hotel I have now www.jnanetamsna.com I built in 2001. My husband, who is passionate about plants, designed the gardens, and I did the architecture and the interiors. We broke grounds on January 6th 2001 and opened on Dec 27th the same year with a full house. I believe building a place in 11 months and 3 weeks is a record.
What were some of the highlights and challenges that came with growing Jnane Tamsna to the point where it is?
Highlights: We are blessed that our hotel attracts wonderful people. And word of mouth has been very good. I have also been able to design and host cultural events which I love doing. Literary salons, creative writing workshops or celebrating the creativity of our diaspora, through the “ Afreeculture forum” that we launched this year. Our diaspora creativity in literature, cinema and entrepreneurship were celebrated for 4 days as Jnane Tamsna hosted conversations brilliantly moderated by authors, film screening with their directors and festive events in the evening. Among our Nigerian guests, we had the authors Taiye Sélasi, Enuma Okoro, Chika Unigwe, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and the phenomenal photographer Misan Harriman who shot the front cover of British Vogue September issue.
I am particularly happy to have now a real diversity of guests. In the last 3 years, after having been published for the 1st time in the African-American press, our clientele started to be much more diverse. And now it looks often like our own family !
For me the world of today is for example when a Norwegian family befriends around our pool an African-American family and both the adults and the children keep in touch. I love that our hotel has been such a connector for so many and for so many years. It is wonderful to know that people who met here, who all came to my own house on site for drinks, have become friends and have kept in touch, meeting abroad, sometimes travelling together.
One of the highlight I will always remember was having a famous French musician and jazz pianist on holidays with his family and discovering that a New-Yorker guest was singing at the Carlysle hotel in NY which had the most amazing jazz scene. As I have a piano in my house, I introduced them and asked them if they wanted to do a jam session. On that night I invited all the guests and my house was rocking with the best old standards.. When I am able to live this kind of moments I forget about the challenges of building, marketing and running a hotel !
Challenges: There have been many but I am the type to move forward. In the late eighties when my law career was very promising, (I had won a national competition and was representing France in international lawyers debates, the path to a bright legal career was visible) I focused on to design which was my passion and my call. People thought I was totally out of my mind ! To focus as a Black woman, on a country which was not mine, where I did not speak the language ( Arabic) and in a field notoriously for men ( construction) was certainly a challenge. I took it as an opportunity to do what I was passionate about.
I went on, taking on very tough challenges for two years, until we opened, but never being that discouraged that it would make me change ideas or drop the ball.
I was paid back beyond my wildest dreams as my design and our family property was published worldwide from Architectural Digest, to NYTimes, Vogue and within a few years, it was featured in 62 publications. My work had significant features, including a front cover. In 2001 “Harper’s and Queen” gave me the award of the best private estate in the world at an award ceremony in London.
There are challenges in every field, every job, every life, it is the way one faces it, which will make it bearable or impossible, which will make it a hurdle or an opportunity. I choose to never give up. But don’t get me wrong, there are some very difficult moments.
My constant challenge is to take into account that it is not every one who has my energy: -) … or intuition. Right now I am sitting on a fantastic new project which could really be a trailblazer for the continent. Will I find the finance for it .. ? I hope so as this would be a game changer and after this world crisis we live, we do need to create a lot of jobs.
Today’s challenge : In terms of challenges, it is not particular to our hotel, but to the tourism trade and to the world economy now. The virus has put everything on hold.
The challenge is planetary and goes way beyond my little hotel or bigger projects.
What is very important is that mankind never forget the lesson. We can live differently, we don ‘t need to waste. We need to open our eyes and be grateful for what we have. Be ambitious to grow, but not be greedy and inconsiderate. Be thoughtful about our choices. As today we are the victims of the wrong choices’ consequences .
Why Morocco? What brought you here?
Just this fact : it is 3 hours flight from Paris which was home. When my parents decided to buy a holiday home they were not interested in France or Europe. Their countries of origin were too far from Paris to go there on weekends. So what attracted us was the proximity of the most delightful exotic city.
The importance of Black female hotel ownership?
I am a Black female with a foot in very diverse circles, African American, White European, White American, English Speaking African and French Speaking African. This has given me a very diverse approach to all things. Being at a crossroads of influences has boosted my creativity. Even if other Black females have a different path as mine, I believe that females are very good with hospitality. Especially now that hospitality excellence is not necessarily attached to a corporate brand but can be carried by independently owned hotels.
As females in general and as Black females in particular, we have to constantly be better, work harder to reach executive levels in the corporate world. This constant “ having to prove ourselves” (instead of being only exhausting) has created a natural excellence for many females.
I am in absolute awe and admiration of African businesswomen. From the Nana Benz of Togo who ruled the economy 100 years ago, while being sometimes illiterate but knowing how to count, to the many African females graduating from the best Universities in the world. I am proud, happy, and elated to be a Black Female. I believe that many of us have a unique strength, we understand how both worlds work, the white world where we have gone to the best schools and our own African world. This is a very unique richness brought to us by diversity.
In the late eighties when I could feel that very individual and stylish boutique hotel would be the obvious future, I was living in a Parisian world where being a Black Female was not the conversation. I had always been the only Black in school, the only Black in law competitions, the only Black at the National School of Beaux-Arts where I went for 3 years before going to law school. I was very happy to carry the flag of Blackness as well as I could but I would be lying if I was saying that I suffered from violent prejudice. Never in my own circles. Sometimes with people I did not know like in a shop or in a post office…but these were really rare and totally minor. Today I am very happy to see that Black Female ownership is a statement. It makes me realize that indeed there were many challenges that I had to face while deciding to ignore them.
What are some of the biggest business lessons “you’ve learned along the way that serve as your ‘secrets to success “in running a company?
I believe that there might not be a universal lesson as each destination must have different challenges and hospitality is so much rooted into the essence and D.N.A of a destination. I think that the most important is to know your sphere of competence and to stick to it. I am good at creative stuff, I am bad at management and accounting. These are fields that specialists and competent persons are running for me. But when I started my business I was multitasking like a lot of new businesses have to. Then one takes the habit to control all, and to forget that this is not one’s competence. As it grows, you must let go and focus on what you know best. I am very happy now that even though I follow with a distance all aspects of the business, it is run by the best people and I can focus on creativity, intuition, vision and projection.
What is a typical day like for you?
I am working on a new project which should be a breakthrough in hospitality. The same way that my first pioneering property here, led to 1800 ones directly inspired by it in the city of Marrakech, (the N°1 tourist destination of Morocco, voted among the 1st 5 of the world 3 years ago), I do hope that my concept will be pioneering a very successful type of hospitality which will inspire others on the continent.
Right now I am working on raising finance for this new project. So my day, is a mix of working on the new project, and of running the present business. Since the lockdown, I have very often been invited to speak to conferences on zoom. I am also developing selling on line some of my porcelain collection, home accessories and luminaries. As I said I focus on creative matters. The borders are closed, so we do not expect business for a while. However, I am working on creating theme stays with future partners. My book “ Inside Marrakech” published by Rizzoli is coming out late September and I am very busy organizing virtual launches and zoom events in Black owned bookstores in the US.
How would you define good hospitality?
You have very different travelers. The business traveler needs are not the same as the millennial digital nomad’s, or the family on holidays, I would say that good hospitality is the one which understands the needs of the clients before they even formulate it. It is an attention to details which will enchant the client. It is about generosity and kindness, about flexibility and warmth. In Africa, I think it is about the visitor understanding that our gorgeous continent has a content of many layers. For generations, tourists would come to Africa for beaches or safaris. Our culture was denied its value. People thought that a cultural trip was about old churches and museums in Europe.
The rest of the world was only about outdoors. Grand Canyon in the US, Safaris in Africa or beaches..
It is time for the foreign tourist to explore and discover our modern culture, urban vibes, music, art, and the vibrant creativity of the modern African capitals.
What advice would you share with women who are the start of their hospitality careers?
I think that my strength is to have direct access to my clientele. Since my first project, I have only done projects to satisfy specific needs that I knew existed. I understand that this is a unique position that I am in. So I cannot say “do like me”. I am an accidental hotelier who never went to hospitality school… If you have gone to hospitality school, have found a job in the industry, and plan to open your own hotel or guest house one day…
To invest you need to minimize the risk. To minimize the risk you need to be sure to have the right product for the right client.
So I would carefully formulate my unique selling points. Then I would create my style, and go totally virtual on social media. Why not have an Instagram account of a virtual hotel, which would be full of ideas, events, mood boards of what you plan to do… and then when you have a lot of followers, and have established your virtual brand, then do the hotel.
Maybe there are great old buildings that are available to restore if you plan to be in a city.. and if you need an interior designer I would love to advise ! or take a new project..
What role will the diaspora play in the future of Africa travel?
The diaspora has a foot in Africa and a foot elsewhere. Most of the diaspora does not travel back home to do safaris, or stay on the beach all the time. The diaspora is often urban and will support the art , music and cultural scenes, new restaurants, city hotels, guest houses with a vibe should be supported by the diaspora when traveling back home. I also know brilliant elements of the diaspora who have gone back and started a creative business. I am thinking about studio Lani in Lagos for example. This is a perfect example of the diaspora return and impact on the creative scene.
Hotels and tourism are inseparable. In your opinion, how has the pandemic affected Morocco’s tourism sector?
Like for the whole world, the economy is on halt. It is particularly hard for a city like Marrakech which economy is based on tourism. The government has done a lot to support the population but it is getting harder and harder as we are entering the 6th month of economic paralysis. It is not only the hotels and the staff, but all that gravitates around tourists spending, the markets, the antique shops, the taxis, the local tours, really everything. It is the hardest time ever. We pray that the recovery one day will create a new trail for prosperity and health.
Website : Jnane Tamsna
Black is King or a marvelous narration of black pride that displays black beauty, strength and culture through Disney’s Lion king protagonist Simba, journey with the music of The Gift curated by Beyoncé. The film premiered the 31th of July on Disney+ and the next day on African platform like DSTV, Canal+ …
After getting amazed by these high quality visuals with dances, rhythm and researched aesthetics with the collaboration of our amazing creatives from African countries through direction, fashion and filming production we have to point out and show those references that made us lift up from our chairs.
The film was in work since 2019, proving again that Beyoncé’s NDA contracts have enough power to silence anybody. We’ve seen colors, Afrofuturism aesthetic but most importantly blackness through ages and all over the world.
Beyoncé represents an ancestor that will follow the young king into his trip and teach him about the circle of life and witness every moment of his ascending to be a king despite sadness, anger and lost of his own self, from his dreams, and his new accomplished life with Nala and their new baby. In this narrative Beyonce amplifies women gift to give life and show that women are in the center of the creation of the world.
Through African Tradition
The symbol of White
The first scene revolves around Baptism, like the birth of Simba in the circle of life. We can see ancestors, priests sagging and priestess with Calabasas washing children faces and feet, holding flowers and praying. In many African cultures white means “Purity” and also remind us of Komians women in Akan societies, these women considered as medium were able to be in contact with the spirit world and ours. They wore white, had nude feet and could see the future and always accompanies the King and royal family in their reign through protection and even afterwards, whe he passes.
The ceremony use body paint on the young king by his ancestors that solidify his status, and ritual of purification as young king, it reminds us of kaolin (White Clay) that is used in ritual and symbolize joy (Dan people with yangbah dance), peace and mourn, cultural ceremonies in Akan societies and all over west African tribes. Even the Fang of Cameroon and Myene in Gabon, the dead will cross the river of tears to become a spirit , in Gabon the Ogooue they use white clay also to represent ghosts.
But white is also refered in ancient Egypt as mourning, it symbolize death through mummification of passed pharaohs, shroud that can be seen in Nile video clip that represents “The king has died” after Simba’s naivety and fight against the image of funeral always symbolized by black in western societies.
The use of Calabasas is really symbolic, a non-edible fruit that grows in Africa and America that isused to create utensil, musical instrument (balafon, maracas, djembe), its round form is a symbol of cosmic energy and women that are the perfect recipient for holding life. For example in Yoruba’s Orisha myth, Odudua and Obatala merge like two half Calabasas form the universe and represent the duality of the creation of the world.
Snakes can be seen as evil creatures in western religious belief, but in many tribes in Benin, togo vodun, and even dogon tribe where they represent their past immortal ancestors, they are seen as sacred, protectors. The Nommo androgynous twins of dogon is a python.
African spirituality is rooted in animal source of power and image of spirit and are used to portrays divinity and venerence. We can see a bull head of batammaribain Benin and Togo, mursi women in Ethiopia, the bull was a symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt whose horns were worn by Hathor goddess of love, family and also by Odiani people of igbo.
Golden and Divine status
Many great scenes representing the masai jumping contest in suit From Kenya and Tanzania. We’ve seen lot of wraps display in plenty of scenes, represent symbol of marriage, status. The lip disc from east Africa, popular in Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique and are symbol of social status too.
The Akan crown, golds and umbrella Ohenekyinnie that means authority over his people. Omo people in Ethiopia, Guere in cote d’ivoire, mastered the art of body painting as cultural expression in Africa and flowers head pieces.
Scenes about balance reminds of Maat one of the most known goddess in Egypt, without forgetting Gods in Vodun Liza and Mawu through he portrayal of good and bad, light and dark that cannot exist without one another.
Adinkra symbol, one of the first written languages from Akan (Most popular in Ghana), is represented in this scene, and this sign is a symbol of wealth, power abundance and solidarity.
Red ochre by Himba women in Naminia mixed with cow milk is used to to protect their skin from the sun, give them a beautiful rich hydrated skin. Their thick hair symbolize fertility. In the film they are symbolising duality of male female spirits/ancestors .
We can see art from the Ndebele of south Africa, Masai jewelries of kenya, celebration of love and return back to the values of motherland that is the real royalty, not the crown and artifacts.
This visual send us far than earth, but to the creation of the world through the Dogon people, a tribe living in west Africa (Mali, Cote d’ivoire…) that refused the arrival of islam and Christianity and have a belief deeply rooted into nature, celestial bodies as the universe and their knowledges of space, astronomy till this day fascinating modern day scientist. In their spirituality the universe was created by the Amma and this God created the earth who was a women and fertilizes her to creates Nommo an androgenous twin deities and its first inhabitants to represens duality. They even have masks that represent the movement of the sun called Sirige. Beyonce represents every celestial mentioned in their tale like the stars, the sun, Sirius, Comet, Black Hole, the pleiade seven sisters to portray how the dance of all these bodies created the world like the dogon speak of in their oral tradition.
We can see green man that represents water genie in Bambara, dogon, Azuza of west Africa (Ghana, benin, togo) pygme genie male, Congo with ireyi cult Toula in Niger, also created by the foam of the sea.
We can see Kanaga masks wore by the Awa society, a mask that is used in a ceremony called Dama and establish the connection between the earth and the sky to usher the sprits and accompany the dead into the spirit world that show this vision of the creation of the world to the young king and his ancestors portrayed by the stars. They always pay homage to their first ancestors like mufasa showing his ancestors to simba.
Representation of Black Beauties
In brown skin girl, The film is pushing Black girls and woman in Disney spaces and is a real statement on universial beauty that misrepresented in its film and Disney princesses. Those girls that beauty is and always have been undeniable through their versatility and diverse characteristics, the song praises darker skin in this colorist society, an ode to black beauty portrayed through Kelly Rowland, Naomi Campbell. She portrays young girls in contemporary princess outfit thinking about cendrillon ballroom, reference to Rapunzel with huge braided hair, Beyonce included herself as Rapunzel, to celebrate versatility in Afro.
We’ve Fulani braids, bantu knots , Nigerian hair scuplture, hair from Hamer people of Ethiopia, mangbetu with lipombo skull elongation which is a sign of beauty intelligence and power making us think about Nefertiti representing beauty through ages.
Beauty universiality and blackness through the world with south/east Asia where colorism is harsh and economy allow the commercialization and encouragement of bleaching.
African Women bodies
Busiswa wearing Isicholo of zulu, is celebrating african woman curves that have been demonized and sexualized all these years reference to Saartjie Baartman a south african enslaved woman that lived a terrible life because of racism. The hips movement like the earth reminds of assiko dance in Cameroon or dances in Congo that are centered on the hips.
African Spirituality and water (Like Fela says water no gets enemy)
Water is source of life, purification to baptize, regeneration and is important in the circle of life (Ships were seen as trip to the afterlife).
Its very important in African spirituality. We’ve seen her dance with water, on water (river) mazina maganda an Uganda dance to vibrate and bring life to the water. She pays homage to african deities that are connected with water , the orishas from Yoruba mythology, that she mentionned that accompanied the young king through his fight for enlightment, we can mention Yemaya (igbo) also Mami watta in Benin, Togo, vodun, Faro in mali link to Niger river and has a strong relationship with water through music reminds of blues,in saheli tribe where water is a necessity which they are always seeking for.. We remember that the Nile was the center that explain how African migrated through the whole continent, Abla Pokou that sacrified her child to save her people (Baoule myth), water has memory and recover the truth and hold our spirituality, water and woman share life that they give. In mali they have a strong relationship with water, nobody can exist without water. The image of African women taking charges on their head in calabases walking kilometers to get safe water from well or rivers for their family.
Through Lion King
In Mood 4 eva, we can see a display of eccentricity and careless and fantasy world that reminds African dictators through presidential wealthy mandate like Mobutu and Marie Antoinette in RDC with his cheetah famous hat. Its represent the famous phrase “Hakuna Matata” which is a celebration of life. The animal prints are here to remind us of the animals in Lion King the film, we have the morning report by Zazu reference with beyonce reading her morning paper, and the flamingo scene with synchonised dancers in the pool with pink. This dream will send Simba into a world where he will only see his fantasies that scramble his perspection of reality and build his illusion of happiness to ignore his worries.
We can see Beyonce in a tree as Rafiki in Already and others scene th Lion King’s fans will love.
Black is king is a counterbalance narrative towards the hate, incomprehension towards Black people in the world ! Lets seek wealth, real royalty that are not represented by monarchy but by our community values, knowledge and love for each other.