Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo saw his paintings brought to mainstream audiences when Beyoncé displayed his work in her HBO short film. The singer’s “Lemonade” visual album aired as a one-time-only event April 23 and displayed his work in the fourth segment.
The chapter is called “Apathy” and features the song “Sorry.” According to ABC News, the artist’s body paintings – called “Sacred Art of the Ori” – cover dancers as they sway in and around a bus. Beyoncé herself was also covered in the white Yoruba paint as she recites a poem by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire.
When asked if he thinks the “6 Inch” singer embodies the Yoruba Orisha of womanhood named Oshun, Laolu believes she does.
“Oshun is supposed to be very beautiful, and I mean just in the sense of beauty alone you can already see that in Beyoncé,” the artist says to ABC News. “She is also very in touch with herself and very much about spirituality, giving, sensuality and power – all characteristics of Oshun.”
The likeness isn’t just limited to physical appearance, however. Laolu said Beyoncé was able to embody Oshun’s feelings, too.
“There are very different sides of Oshun, like her anger, which you [see] Beyoncé channel in parts of the video, like the part when she bursts open the door in her yellow dress and floodwaters come out.”
Buzz Nigeria said the now 34-year-old, who is also a musician, quit his job as a human rights attorney in Lagos to do art full-time. He told ABC he’s thrilled at what the “Lemonade” hitmaker is doing for African culture.
“Beyoncé is tapping into her roots, and it’s so amazing honestly – to see African [art] coming to the forefront and being seen by millions of people. She is telling our story of the past, present and future through her art, and I’m so happy to have been a part of it.”
But there’s at least one person giving Bey limited praise. Atlanta Black Star reported Azealia Banks initially praised the singer’s use of the African goddess in her imagery.
Banks later changed her mind and accused the Houston-born star of using Oshun as a prop.