When 24-time Grammy winner, Beyonce announced plans to drop a musical film and visual album, most of her fans had arguably little idea of what was in store.
Actually, the feeling must have been more edgy for different African artists when it was official that the artist planned to work with creatives on the continent.
The musical, Black is King produced by Disney Plus, aimed “to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry.
“The events of 2020 have made the film’s vision and message even more relevant, as people across the world embark on a historic journey,” Beyonce said in a video message posted on Instagram in June this year.
“I believe that when black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our real history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books,” she explained.
The musical roped in Africa’s great talents. Among them were Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, South Africa’s Busiswa, and Ghana’s Shatta Wale.
Malawi too shone through Connie Chiume.
Chiume is half Malawian. Her paternal roots are in Usisya, Nkhata Bay. Because of this, she fondly calls herself a Salawian.
“I play Simba’s mum and as you know, mothers are always supportive. So she has always been there,” she says about her role in Black is King.
Chiume says it was so exciting to be part of such a big project.
“From the time I was told about I will be working on Beyonce’s music video, I was excited. She is a big name, whether we like it or not and I am sure a lot of people look out to be associated with her. It was an absolute pleasure,” she tells Society.
Directed, written, and executive produced by the American singer, the film is motivated by the popular Lion King story. It tells the story of how a young African prince was ostracised from his kingdom following the death of his father.
With the guidance of his ancestor portrayed by Beyonce and that of his childhood love, among others, the prince goes through a journey of self-identity while growing up and to reclaim his throne.
The story is told through different black voices of today including Chiume.
“This means that as an African, the world is beginning to recognise our talent, culture, beautiful sceneries, humbleness, our ubuntu as we call it here in South Africa and talent plus skill,” notes Chiume.
“It also means that the opportunities are here now for everyone and it will help us can grow industry. I don’t think it’s a matter of what Africans can learn from this film. It’s a vice versa thing and they have a lot to learn from us.
“For the people working with us, Africans, I think they are beginning to see the real us, not the propaganda stories which used to be spread around Africa in film and other things where you only see the images of sick people, war and all the negative things,” she emphasizes.
While the film is a celebratory memoir for the world on the black experience, Chiume believes the story informs and rebuilds the present.
“We need to tell our stories more but then it’s difficult without support. If our governments, corporates and people who have money could support this industry it would create more jobs and put our countries on the map,” says the 68-year-old actress.
Black is King musical serves as a visual companion to the 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift—an album Beyonce made for last year’s remake of The Lion King.