Drawing While Black
The different ways in which the media portrays a particular group, communities, ideas or topics are essential to the building of an identity of an individual. People are influenced consciously or unconsciously by the things they see, read or listen to. The portrayal of black people in the mediums of art such as paintings, drawings, illustrations, comics, cartoons has stirred controversies because the race is either portrayed as ghetto, poor and rarely ever in control of their own stories, which begs the question of influence via media on black people if the essence of the people is never fully captured.
In his recent video The Story of O.J. from the album 4:44, Jay Z takes a stand on the representation of black people through images of racist archetypes as well as images of slave auctions, lynchings, and burning crosses. Black artists all over the globe have taken up the torch to create a different reality from the one they live in now and so is the social movement #DrawingWhileBlack.
On the 15th of September, the movement started on Twitter to appreciate black artists and showcased a plethora of talented artists. One of the participants, Obaseun Ogunkeye describes the effects of the hashtag saying, “It’s made me realise that children, like the boy I was, need other people to look up to, who look just like them, who know and can teach them how to express themselves artistically…”
The movement which wouldn’t be needed in an ideal society exists skin colour and origin have hindered the progress of a given race who are equally talented as any other race in the world. Ogunkeye when asked on what it means to draw while black says, “It is a declaration that I, as an artist, have the ability, the imagination and the drive to create entire worlds with my own two hands, and I will not be ignored because of the circumstances of my birth or the hue of my skin, in industries that have historically done just that.”
Another participant of the movement, Yasmin Damulak who describes her major inspiration as women and hopes to use her art to: “Portray the strength of the African woman and the everyday challenges we face.” Damulak describes the effect of the movement as great, “In the space of two days I’ve gotten a bunch of jobs and quite a bit of support from strangers. It’s refuelled my drive for digital art…” she says.
Another participant, Omojo Ajilima-Isaac says, “Race and skin colour has never been an issue for me as an artist.” On the other hand, Renua Giwa-Amu describes drawing while black as, “An acknowledgement of the fact that blackness is significantly mis/underrepresented in mainstream fine-art.”
The struggles of these artists are different. For some, it has given them a voice and justifying their artistic purpose. For others, it only fuelled an identity they know and are comfortable with.
At the end of the day, it has created different effects and conversations in the lives of artists, upcoming artist and the general public on a sector of the art community that is barely seen. Hopefully, it will also plant seeds of the need for diversity of representation in media.