But other than giving the famous ‘Beyhive’ fandom an excuse to get Blizzard’s multiplayer game, could the parallels actually mean good news for the future of Overwatch and its diverse cast of characters?
On Doomfist, Beyonce and Overwatch Cultural Appropriation
doomfist’s painted skin is a reference to yoruba body painting, specifically the work of laolu senbanjo who worked on beyonce’s “lemonade”! pic.twitter.com/IquWUp8spi
— ☀️ronnie☀️ (@norrriey) July 13, 2017
The connection from Doomfist to Beyonce came shortly after Blizzard made the character’s cosmetic skins available on the Overwatch PTR (Public Test Region). Among the list of epic skins is a skin called ‘Painted’ which shows Doomfist covered in a series of intricate, white, painted lines that look absolutely phenomenal.
One Twitter user noted that Doomfist’s Painted skin is based on Yoruba body painting, something which comes from Western Africa, including Nigeria, where the new Overwatch character is from. The user also drew parallels between the skin and the work of Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo who worked with Beyonce on her Lemonade visual album, helping the superstar performer put together the ‘Apathy’ section of the feature.
So, Avatar and Spirit.
Red orisha, like Ogun, are quick tempered and harsh.
Blue orisha, like Yemoja, are cool, gentle and compassionate. pic.twitter.com/WniOG5OLYi
— Andrien Gbinigie (@EscoBlades) July 13, 2017
Although Overwatch developer Blizzard may have looked at Lemonade for reference, as many were quick to point out in the replies to that tweet, Yoruba body painting existed long before Beyonce worked with Senbanjo. Yoruba art has been around since 1300 BC (over 3,000 years ago) at least.
So no, the Beyhive may not need to clamor to Overwatch just yet. But Doomfist’s skins – including Painted – are good news for the game. In a thread of tweets by Andrien Gbinigie, the product marketing manager for Assassin’s Creed Origins said that “moreso than any character before him, most of Doomfist’s skins really highlight and celebrate his heritage.”
Painted is also joined by legendary Doomfist skins, Avatar and Spirit, which are based on Orishas (“various manifestations” of the Yoruba supreme deity). Red Orisha are “tempered and harsh” while Blue Orisha are “cool, gentle and compassionate,” Gbinigie explained.
Overwatch has been hit with accusations of cultural appropriation previously, with the Native American skins for Pharah in particular being criticized. Game director Jeff Kaplan has previously confirmed that Blizzard would like to make a character form every region of the world and so it’s understandable if fans have significant concerns that the developer will muck it up and fail to portray all of these different cultures in a respectful and appropriate manner.
Doomfist, though, could represent a step forward. This week, Blizzard is being praised for the care that it took in making Doomfist’s heritage clear and showing it off in-game in a beautiful and brilliant way. The developer may have made some very disappointing missteps with its approach to cultural diversity in Overwatch in the past but this could suggest that Blizzard is finally taking the time to get it right.
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