The Carters’ cry, «I can’t believe we made it» is not just a plain, joyful celebration of their success – it is also an acknowledgment that beyond personal success, there are other victories to be won.
«My mother taught me the importance, not just of being seen, but of seeing myself,» Beyoncé said to Vogue US in September. In her well-publicised interview, pop icon Beyoncé celebrates the fact that «not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer.»
Indeed, several other magazines have also featured black women on their covers recently. What is more, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue UK, Edward Enninful, is – for the first time in history – a black man. All this in the same year that – for the first time in history – Hollywood produced a blockbuster with a black hero, Black Panther. Taking place in Africa, almost all of the cast is black, and it is also directed by a black director.
But, isn‘t it the opposite that should amaze us more?
How come only now – more than one hundred years after the invention of cinema – the cultural industry is hiring African American professionals and adjusting photographic techniques to the requirements of persons with skin colour darker than that of an average Caucasian?
Conquering the Louvre
This is the context in which Beyoncé and Jay-Z – the African American pop idols with the stage name The Carters – promoted their newest projects: the On The Run II Tour and the album Everything Is Love. They‘ve «opened doors» for their fellow African American artists – their juniors, but also seniors. The tour poster is a direct reference to one of the most important African films ever made, Touki Bouki (1973), a feature film by Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety.
Now they‘ve conquered the Louvre – a temple of European culture – as the shooting location of the video «Apes**t», from their Everything Is Love album, declaring plainly in the lyrics that «I can’t believe we made it».
In their video The Carters are the ones with power. They have appropriated an elite space and challenged the dominant mode of looking at Africans. And as several reviewers eagerly noted, most of the artworks featured in the video are those portraying Africans: from Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1819) to Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s Portrait of a Negress (1800) – a painting that in its time of creation was one of the few art works to showcase a black person as the sole subject.