Decoding Cranes In The Sky: Radical Softness As A Weapon

Soft subtlety rules in Solange’s video, capturing a regal black femininity and its exquisite state of beauty.

Leah Abraham
April 26, 2017

Like many girls who love to savour a bit of Solange’s art concept/photography music videos, I have been crazy bowled over by the video/visuals and creative direction for CRANES IN THE SKY.

It has clouded my daydreams, with ethereal images of radiant melaninated women in  muted brown bodywear spread across each other, intertwined. In Solange’s creative collaboration with Spanish art Director Carlotta Guerrero, Cranes in the Sky showcases a majestic and regal coming into being of Black womanhood and its beauty.

Solange has sought to revere Brown femininity, celebrate and elevate African-American female identity, perhaps so that Black/Brown women may assume a position (or a seat more fittingly) at the table of femininity and beauty. Using vibrant colours, subtle tones, translucence, textures, landscape and movement, she affirms of herself and Black/Brown women that they are regal, goddess-like, and can collectively explore softness, strength, intimacy and vulnerability whilst grappling and/or coming to terms with raw emotions. Though the specificity of these emotions are not exact, the aesthetics speak to and present the image of soft Black/Brown femininity in order to rightfully replace gross misconceptions of the Black female identity in America, with legitimate self-authored ones.

Carving out the spaces of dissonance in a way that’s both subtle and remarkable, we watch beautiful muted images of Solange and her sisterhood dressed impeccably, styled in simplistic statement pieces, whilst Solange herself croons about her attempts to read/write/run/dance away the bitter pain.

Beauty and womanhood of the Black identity are reflected both visually and viscerally, with Solange accentuating the royalty and regality of her Black femininity. Royal purple’s, Golds and pastel pinks are tastefully and gorgeously accented and matched against coffee/cinnamon tones, every photo vivid as the next – each can be taken and digested as a shot in itself.

Images of Black sisterhood and the strength of its bond, are transplanted with images of singular Solange, dazzling in an amazingly structured pastel memory foam jumper looking exquisite, whilst honestly sharing her state of emotional vulnerability. The video wants to capture depth and intimacy in sisterhood - its strength, grace and beauty - whilst also confessing to the indescribable feeling of being lost/alienated as a women of colour living in America. If any of you are attentive on the interweb and have tuned into Lora Mathias’ concept of Radical Softness as a weapon, then perhaps like me you may identify that Solange is working within this concept.

By removing the guard of her emotions, unwinding herself from the protective layers she normally wears, she is making a move of resistance against a culture that states that Brown women are prohibited from expressing the full state of their emotional conditions - including its complexities and contradictions. In that she presents the strength of vulnerability and emotional connection, Solange unwinds herself from the dress, much like she strips down to reveal herself intimately and personally. It’s a beautifully subtle frame which makes for a compelling visual double entendre.

Get lost in the Metaphysical….

“I tried to make myself busy, I ran around in circles think I made myself dizzy.”

The track, whilst confessional of her melancholic struggle, is matched with cinematic frame photos of Solange and sisters positioned centerstage in stunning landscapes. Watching Solange attempt to get distracted in ethereal surroundings and whimsical qualities of nature, landscape, texture, form and beauty mirrors her struggle to distract herself from her disdainful feelings. It carries forth a message that we are entitled to celebrate our trials of surviving, developing and coming into being of our Black/brown womanhood, whilst being unafraid to open up and and embrace the full extent of emotional vulnerability.