Beyonce: Here's a timeline of pop star's references to Nigerian culture

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Beyonce: Here’s a timeline of pop star’s references to Nigerian culture

In February 2011, Beyonce was featured in photos that pay tribute to Fela Kuti. It was the beginning of a beautiful love story.

Few artistes come in every generation that turn the increaingly mundane into a spectacle, at least for as long as they have your attention. Beyonce is one of them.

This weekend, the star provided a moment, with her performance at the Coachella Valley Music Festival. It was a performance that combines her stage craft with another thing that the mother of three brings to mind; Nigerian culture, and more specifically, the Yoruba goddess, Osun.

ALSO READ: Beyonce is bigger than Coachella

Beyonce’s fascination with Nigerian culture is not all new, which is why we decided to go through the singer’s references and nods to the spirituality and expression of a deeply symbol-driven way of life.

February 2011:

Beyonce Knowles takes photos for March issue of the French magazine L’Offciel Paris.


The shoot and the cover is intended to pay homage to the Nigerian musician-activist Fela Kuti.

December 13, 2013:

Flawless” off the singer’s surprise fifth studio album, features an excerpt from Chimamanda Adichie’s TedX Euston talk, “We Should All Be Feminists”.


We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller“.

We say to girls: “You can have ambition, but not too much, You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you will threaten the man

Sometime in, 2015:

On a Genius annotation for the song, “End of Time”, American record producer and singer, The Dream revealed that he made a Fela-Inspired album with Beyonce that never saw the light of day.

We did a whole Fela album that didn’t go up. It was right before we did ‘4’


The Dream says they made something that was “different sounding”, about twenty songs.

“She said she wanted to do something that sounds like Fela. That’s why there’s so much of that sound in the ‘End of Time.

June 22, 2016:

Nigerian illustrative artist, Laolu Sebanjo’s drawings are featured in the music video for “Sorry”, off Beyonce’s 6th studio album, “Lemonade”.

Senbanjo refers to the intricate white designs as “The Sacred Art of the Ori


In my language, Yoruba “Ori” literally means your essence, your soul, your destiny and also comes with a mantra. When I work with a muse, the muse, their Ori, and I become one.”, he said.

My Art form is physically drawing what’s on the inside, what’s in your soul, and your essence and being; on your canvas which is the skin. It’s the deepest most spiritual experience I’ve ever had with my Art as an artist. It’s amazing and energizing. The connection is phenomenal

September 4, 2016:

In the video for “Hold Up”, Beyonce dons an autumn yellow dress as she gallops down a downtown street in black glory.


Yellow is a colour associated with Osun. The goddess is also known for a raw instant anger that Beyonce channels by damaging public and private property.

February 2, 2017:

The Carters release maternity photos, inter-spaced with lyrics from a poem, in a collection titled “I HAVE THREE HEARTS”. The poem was written by Somali poet, Walsan Shires for Beyonce’s visual album, “Lemonade”.

I’m watching life inside me grow,” the poem begins. “There’s life growing inside of me and I’m beside myself with dreams.”

It invokes the poetry and another softer, more motherly side to the Amazon persona depicted in the Lemonade video.

February 12, 2017:

A pregnant Beyonce performs at the 2017 Grammy Awards in a gold ensemble inspired by Osun, the Yoruba goddess of fertility and the Osun River.


Osun is the mother goddess and is associated with pregnancy, fertility and answering prayers.

ALSO READ: What does it mean to be a culture vulture?

Sitting on a platform and surrounded by dancers, Beyonce personified what one would expect the benevolent mother to be. It is one of her most popular nods to the goddess.

February 12, 2017:

Beyonce releases the video for “Love Drought“, off her “Lemonade” album.


It references the Igbo Landing, where 75 Nigerians revolted against slavery and chose to drown in Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia.

May 21, 2017:

The Carters have an African-themed push party for their twins.

ALSO READ: 5 foreign artistes influenced by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti

Fela’s music was a staple at the party. Guests dressed in traditional Nigerian designs.


Queen Bey herself was bare-bellied, save for an elaborate henna design sitting dead centre. Pregnant women in Nigeria and the rest of West Africa have been wearing henna on their pregnant bellies for ages.

April 14, 2018:

Beyonce performs one of the best sets in contemporary times, with some parts inspired by Nigerian culture, at the 2018 edition of the Coachella Valley Awards.

The band and a large part of the set design are in yellow, a colour associated with Osun, as are gold and copper. The band interpolates a saxophone-driven melody from Fela’s “Zombie”.


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