feature: art hoe collective talks “lemonade” and black artists reclaiming appropriated music genres

April 28, 2016

After much anticipation and speculation, Beyoncé finally released her 6th album and 2nd visual album “LEMONADE”. The internet went wild over the stunning visuals, star studded black femme cast, and pro black message. The film touched base on infidelity, the intersections of gender and race, and the resonance of african culture in the south, all within its hour and five minute timeframe. The visual album is broken down into twelve stages that represent the cycle of healing. Healing from the wounds her significant other inflicted as well as the wounds inflicted by white supremacy and misogynoir. Starting with intuition and ending with redemption, Beyoncé illustrates the nuances of black female pain and how that affects our lives.

Though her apparent issues in her relationship were brought to the forefront, the album speaks on the healing of black women in a world where our right to exist is constantly met with resistance. Beyoncé featuring black women, who have been constantly ridiculed on a mass scale, being unapologetically black in her video is a testament to that message. Serena Williams flaunting her body, when her body has been subject to so much ridicule, Quvenzhane and Blue Ivy being carefree and young black girls when the world has harshly criticized them for their blackness since they came into the public eye; Beyoncé is mindful of this. In “Forward” she gives a voice to the mother who have lost their sons to the hands of the violent racist system we are forced to live in. The mothers of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin are all seen holding pictures of their sons. These scenes bring to light the issues of power, privilege, love and loss. People often understand the killing of blacks in America as a race issue but very rarely recognize it for the feminist issue as well, not just black men hurt, we all hurt, where is our justice? This along with her song “Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar serves as an appropriate backdrop to the converging of the black femme experience across generations. Jay Z’s grandmother Hattie White is seen saying in the video, “I’ve had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” This is something all black femmes can relate to, we’re given the sour and pungent aspects of life and every time we find a way to bring the sweetness out of it.

In this album Beyoncé also pay homage to the musical roots of the South. In “Daddy Lessons” a country song and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” a rock song, she reclaims these genres that have been so heavily whitewashed and scrubbed of their African American roots. Country and Rock stem from the blues, swing, and jazz, that was born from blacks in the south. With her visuals she bridges the music with interludes by reciting poetry by Warsan Shire .These poems corresponding with each emotion in the healing process, and illustrates pain and how it passes through each of us. Beyoncé bridges the gap between music and literature throughout the album, using heavy gothic imagery and putting black women in the forefront of that vision. Putting black women in the forefront, putting our pain in the forefront, and giving us the tools to heal. So much of the harm that is dealt to us is done so thoughtlessly and with the notion that we’ll be okay because we’re strong. Black women have become emotional punching bags for men on the presumption that we can handle it, too often it’s forgotten that we are human and we break. The intersections of being black and a woman and how the world treats us for it.

The scenes where a group of black women come together to pick and wash produce from the garden in colonial garb takes us to a time when enslaved Africans would come together with the scraps slave masters would give them and create a feast from it. This was the birth of soul food, a uniquely African American cultural aspect, they were given lemons and made lemonade. Beyonce’s visuals use a lot of black diasporic spiritual imagery, from wearing all white which enslaved Africans would wear in the name of worship, to wearing yellow and gold which symbolizes the goddess Oshun. Oshun, is the goddess of music, love, and rivers in Vodun and West African religions. When Oshun is angered she sends down rain to flood the earth, her maniacal laughter heard while water destroys everything in it’s path, when her anger is appeased she call the waters back. As well as being the goddess of love and sensuality, she is the goddess who has suffered the most, this is why Beyoncé uses her imagery in the album. Beyoncé emerging out of water from a flooded room, then channeling goddess’s wrath when she laughs wildly while destroying everything in her path before and during the song “Hold Up” only solidifies her allusion to her African past and the goddess Oshun. Black spirituality is very prevalent in this album, and used as a tool for healing. In “Love Drought” Beyonce is seen by the water with other black women watching the tide wane, she has been appeased and is ready to heal, Oshun has stopped the floods. This reconciliation with black culture is an integral part in healing as black women as we reclaim our identity that has been stolen from us.

By Sandra and Gabby of Art Hoe Collective*, AFROPUNK contributors


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“This piece started out as an exploring the perfect feminine poise and construct, particularly the choreographed molds of women in 1950s infomercials. Through the choreography I discovered a much deeper resonance with my Asian American identity. I ask the question: can racially-marked bodies do art for art’s sake? In a way, my involvement in performance art represents a rebellion against the hyper-sexualized dragon lady stereotype and Asian American “model minority” myth.” – @allthatjasss

“Sometimes we hide behind masks, expectations and layered exteriors because of fear, doubt and a host of other reasons. This piece is about exposing your true self. This piece reminds me…Take off your cool, relax, be you.” – @banana_peppers

“Something that bothers me is that sometimes women feel the need to change themselves in order to feel more loved, forcing themselves to be more delicate and tame. Trying to change the world one art piece at a time (hopefully), I’ve been exploring and portraying the message that women should aim to embrace their feminine individuality, letting them know that they are intimidating, powerful, and beautiful and shouldn’t limit themselves to please anyone else.” – @natsajan

She uses poetry through explores themes of sexuality, early / young womanhood, identity, relationships and culture. By @cinniie

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“Though Black men are often criticized for violent performances of hypermasculinity through hip hop and rap, this music is also one of the few outlets where Black men are encouraged to be frank about their emotional wellbeing. “Blackboyblue” is an experimental film that considers the complex relationship between Black masculinity, hip hop music, and emotional expression of vulnerability.” – @flyidafly
Full video HERE

“Diversity represents everything I am and what I’m fighting for, especially for the cultural diversity in my city. This piece represents how African Americans are always stolen from and never credited. The pieces showcases the definition of cultural appropriation along with some thing that is constantly stolen from us, our hairstyle and aesthetics.” – @Nitimueth

This post is in partnership with the Art Hoe Collective.

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*Sandra’s Instagram
*Gabby’s Instagram