Beyonce has become a master of symbolism. She hides references to classic Black film, television, poetry, protest, and magic in plain sight, reworking them into a modern context. So of course, when dropping the promotion for the On The Run Tour II (OTRII) with Jigga, she revealed a gem lost to time in the way of the iconic 1973 Senegalese film Touki Bouki.
It took a true cinephile to spot the reference to Djibril Diop Mambéty’s classic. Which, in this case, was London-based photographer Etaju Shaw.
Touki Bouki was a film of its time, incorporating French New Wave elements and Mamety’s own afflictions into a dissection of fantasy. A couple wants out of Dakar, in the film, a city they’ve never been to and can only imagine. Thus, the city breathes with them becoming a phantasm in symbiosis with their own inner worlds. Dazzling and dangerous, the two rip off anyone and anything standing between them and their new world.
In 2013, Diop’s niece Mati made a documentary on the two actors who brought the couple to life (Magaye and Mareme Niang) called Milles Soleils (A Thousand Suns).
These metaphors— the dangerous couple, outlaws in love —are central to the Carters artistic milieu, driving their demure public life and rambunctious private one. Jay-Z’s infidelity birthed two modern classics in Lemonade and 4:44. And, maybe, one more in Solange’s A Seat At The Table. But maybe more prescient is the metaphor of the film mapped to their lives. Maybe they are looking for a place, too, that they can only imagine.
The classic is available in full on YouTube if you want to step your game up. Oh, and the On The Run Tour’s second coming is in full swing. Hope you’ve got your coins ready.