Earlier today, Twitter was abuzz with a an Instagram live video made by Tiwa Savage. In this video, we can see the Afrobeats queen speaking on the country’s structural decay, the strength of the people in shouldering that decay for so long and why this generation of Nigerians no longer intend to bear that burden.
Further along in her video, however, Tiwa Savage called on a handful of global personalities who she felt strongly should be speaking on this movement and joining the call to end the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). Amongst these personalities were Beyoncé. Technically, she called on everyone behind the projects (Lion King, The Gift) that linked Beyonce with the African continent, particularly with Nigeria, seeing as a bulk of the African talents on these projects were from Nigeria.
Tiwa Savage has not been the only one calling for Beyoncé to lend her voice. The conversation around Beyoncé speaking out has been making the rounds long before now and all seem to draw the narrative around Beyoncé’s collaborations with African artists to be a form of exploitation. A cultural cosplay if you will. One that ends when the braids are off and the Yoruba chants have stopped. Many believe that Beyoncé’s silence on the #EndSARS issue is proof that her affiliation with the continent only stretches as far as her next pro-Black project is willing to extend itself.
These sentiments, while grounded in an understandable place of watching many people cherry pick which part of the Nigerian identity they intend to embrace and amplify, often for economic gains, but in this regard, it is important to note that this is not the case.
Beyoncé did not cosplay Africanness. She simply tapped into a part of her identity, like creatives are allowed to, and collaborated with people with indigenous connections to those with roots. People, who are independent creative powerhouses themselves. And people she, most importantly, paid for their work. This narrative of exploitation, while true in some cases, also continues to other Africa as a place where independent creative collaborations like this are impossible and reduce the African collaborators as ever budding talents.
Yes, it would be nice and helpful to the cause if Beyoncé made an Instagram post or shared a donation link, but the fact remains that she doesn’t have to on the grounds we are demanding it of her. We can however hope she speaks out, simply because we need the world to listen. We need anyone who cares about Nigeria, to listen.
Nelson C.J is a culture writer with works in The New York Times, Xtra Magazine, OkayAfrica, Black Youth Project, AfroPunk, and a few other spaces. You can find him saving dog pictures on Twitter.