Leveraging African Spirituality and Popular Culture betwixt Africa and the African Diaspora
Keywords:africa, religion, spirituality, diaspora, popular culture, intersectionality
Ama McKinley’s article, ‘Beyoncé Serves African Spirituality in “Lemonade”’ in The Huffington Post (2016), depicts Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as ‘an artist of the Earth, using her stage and global influence to teach about the human condition, using symbology and language that is sacred and pronounced beyond a few approved circles’. This view partly epitomizes the resilience of African spirituality in the diaspora, where Beyoncé in ‘Lemonade’ invokes so much of the Yoruba tradition, grounded in African tradition, by offering a musical and visual journey through the African diaspora. African spiritualities touch on and imbue every facet of life and thus cannot be separated from quotidian, mundane thought. This article explores African spirituality as mostly concerned with the pursuit of cosmic balance and human flourishing through a matrix of worldviews, belief systems and ritual praxis. We employ Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s music albums Lemonade and Black is King; and Ryan Coogler’s movie Black Panther to explore the intersectionality of African spirituality and popular culture in the African diaspora. We demonstrate how and to what extent the religious, moral, sociocultural and popular imaginaries linked to indigenous African worldviews and the African diaspora are continually contested and negotiated.
Ackah, William, Jualynne E. Dodson and R. Drew Smith (eds) 2017 Religion, Culture and Spirituality in Africa and the African Diaspora. Routledge, New York.
Adogame, Afe 2007 Religion in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Religion, Globalization and Culture, edited by Peter Beyer and Lori Beaman, 533–54. Brill, Leiden.
Practitioners of Indigenous Religions in Africa and the African Diaspora. In Religions in Focus: New Approaches to Tradition and Contemporary Practices, edited by G. Harvey, 75–100. Equinox, London.
The African Christian Diaspora: New Currents and Emerging Trends in World Christianity. Bloomsbury Academic, New York.
The Journey of African Religious and Epistemological Ideas to the New World – Diaspora. In The Interwoven World: Ideas and Encounters in History, edited by B. Avari and G. G. Joseph, 137–49. Common Ground Publishing, Champaign, IL.
Alcantara, Amanda 2016 Followers of the Yoruba Faith Reflect on the Impact of Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’. Online: http://remezcla.com/features/music/beyonce-lemonade-yoruba/
Allred, Kevin 2019 Ain’t I a Diva?: Beyoncé and the Power of Pop Culture Pedagogy. The Feminist Press at CUNY, New York. Online: https://www.feministpress.org/books-a-m/aint-i-a-diva
Badejo, Diedre 1996 Osun Seegesi: The Elegant Deity of Wealth, Power and Femininity. Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ.
Bravo, Tony 2018 Grace Cathedral’s Beyoncé Mass Draws Faithful Crowd of 900-plus. San Francisco Chronicle, 25 April. Online: https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Grace-Cathedral-s-Beyonce-Mass-draws-faithful-12865544.php
Brody, Richard 2018 The Passionate Politics of ‘Black Panther’, 16 February. Online: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/the-passionate-politics-of-black-panther
Course, Melissa 2014 ‘Beyoncé is my Religion’: A Look into Beyism. Religion and Pop Culture, 12 November. Online: https://medium.com/religion-and-popular-culture/beyonce-is-my-religion-a-look-into-beyism-2a4a54d134a6
Crenshaw, Kimberlé 1991 Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review 43(6): 1241–99. https://doi.org/10.2307/1229039
Frazier, E. Franklin 1939 The Negro Family in the United States. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
The Negro in the United States. Macmillan, New York.
Frazier, Franklin, and C. Eric Lincoln 1963 The Negro Church in America. University of Liverpool, Liverpool.
Ginsberg, Gab 2020 Beyonce Releases ‘Black Is King’ Visual Album. Hollywood Reporter, 30 July. Online: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/beyonce-releases-black-is-king-visual-album-1305320
Gomez, Michael A. 2005 Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Hall, Gwendolyn M. 2005 Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
Hall, Stuart 2005 Notes on Deconstructing the ‘Popular’. In Popular Culture: A Reader, edited by Raiford Guins and Omayra Z. Cruz, 64–71. Sage, London.
Herskovits, Melville J. 1941 The Myth of the Negro Past. Harper & Brothers, New York.
Hopkins-Jenkins, Amber E. 2012 Beyoncé as a Political Figure? Rutgers Today, 9 January. Online: https://www.facebook.com/RutgersU/posts/220072088079270?comment_id=1255608
Hucks, E. Tracey 2012 Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Jackson, Lauren 2020 Beyoncé’s Knowing Ethnic Splendor in ‘Black is King’. The New Yorker, 3 August. Online: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/beyonces-knowing-ethnic-splendor-in-black-is-king
Joseph, Chante 2020 Black is King Review – Beyonce’s Love Song to the Black Diaspora. The Guardian, 31 July. Online: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/jul/31/black-is-king-review-beyonce-disney-plus-lion-king
Kehrer, Lauron J. 2017 Beyond Beyoncé: Intersections of Race, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary American Hip-Hop ca. 2010–2016. BA thesis, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, New York.
Lambe, Stacy 2020 Beyonce Scores the Most 2021 GRAMMY Nominations Without Releasing an Album. ETonline, 24 November. Online: https://www.etonline.com/beyonce-leads-2021-grammy-awards-with-9-nominations-156819
Lyubansky, Mikhail 2018 The Racial Politics of Black Panther. Psychology Today, 20 February. Online: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-the-lines/201802/the-racial-politics-black-panther
Manning, Patrick 1990 Slavery and African Life: Occidental, Oriental, and African Slave Trades. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Marsh-Locket, Carol P., and Elizabeth J. West (eds) 2013 Literary Expressions of African Spirituality. Lexington Books, Plymouth, UK.
Mazrui, Ali 1989 The Africans: A Triple Heritage. Little Brown & Co, London.
Mbiti, John S. 2015 Introduction to African Religion: Second Edition. Waveland Press, Illinois.
McKinley, Ama 2016 Beyonce Serves African Spirituality in ‘Lemonade’. The Huffington Post, 27 April. Online: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/beyonce-serves-african-spirituality-in-lemonade_b_9774668
Mendelson, Scott 2018 ‘Black Panther’: All the Box Office Records It Broke. 19 February. Online: https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2018/02/19/black-panther-all-the-box-office-records-it-broke-and-almost-broke-in-its-242m-debut/#71ca96971953
Mudimbe, V. Y. 1988 The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge. Indiana University Press, Indiana.
Okoroafor, Cynthia 2016 All the African Influences in Beyoncé’s Visual Album, Lemonade, Explained. Ventures Africa, 26 April.
Olupona, Jacob K. 2000 African Spirituality: Forms, Meanings and Expressions. Crossroad, Spring Valley, NY.
The Spirituality of Africa. The Harvard Gazette, 6 October. Online: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/10/the-spirituality-of-africa/
Paris, Peter J. 1994 The Spirituality of African Peoples: The Search for a Common Moral Discourse. Fortress Press, Minneapolis.
Pierce, Yolanda 2016 Black Women and the Sacred: With ‘Lemonade’, Beyoncé Takes Us to Church. Religion Dispatches, 3 May. Online: http://religiondispatches.org/black-women-and-the-sacred-beyonce-takes-us-to-church/
Platvoet, Jan, James Cox and Jacob Olupona (eds) 1996 The Study of Religions in Africa: Past, Present and Prospects. Roots & Branches, Cambridge.
Raboteau, Albert J. 2004 Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Ray, Benjamin C. 1976 African Religions: Symbol, Ritual, and Community. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs.
Roberts, Chris 2017 Beyoncégraphica: A Graphic Biography of Beyoncé. Aurum Press, London.
Segal, Ronald 1995 The Black Diaspora. Faber & Faber, London and Boston.
Showalter, Brandon 2017 Christian Leaders Decry Beyoncé’s Ode to Pagan Fertility Cults at Grammys. The Christian Post, 15 February. Online: https://www.christianpost.com/news/beyonces-ode-to-pagan-fertility-cults-at-grammys-decried-by-christian-leaders-175072/
Storey, John 2006 Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction. University of Georgia Press, Georgia.
Tan, Avianne 2016 Meet the Nigerian Artist Behind the Yoruba Body Art in Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’. ABC News, 26 April. Online: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/meet-nigerian-artist-yoruba-body-art-beyoncs-lemonade/story?id=38678748
Taraborrelli, J. Randy 2016 Becoming Beyoncé: The Untold Story. Grand Central Publishing, New York and Boston.
Thompson, Robert F. 1983 Flash of the Spirit. Vintage Books, New York.
Wallace, Carvell 2018 Why ‘Black Panther’ is a Defining Moment for Black America. New York Times, 12 February. Online: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/12/magazine/why-black-panther-is-a-defining-moment-for-black-america.html
How to Cite
Equinox Publishing Ltd.