The Owuo Atwedee Adinkra (“the ladder of death”) symbolizes mortality and the transitory nature of existence.
So far, in the 1001 Black Men series of drawings, I have focused on depicting the Black men I encounter in my daily life in the East Bay. I draw the men I meet or who simply catch my eye.
For the next week or so, though, I’d like to change course. The next several drawings depict men of African descent who have died during the last 12 or so months. Although I never met any of the Black men memorialized in these posts, my deep feelings of connection to their artistry, their activism, their achievements, and–in some cases–their suffering made the news of their loss feel local and personal.
You will notice that, in each of the drawings in this grouping, I use compositional and symbolic elements taken from early North African and Mediterranean portraits of the saints. I was influenced, in particular, by some of the Coptic Christian paintings of Ethiopian Icons.
Each figure is surrounded by a halo. Also called a nimbus and sometimes shaped as a triangle, it can be either an outline or a solid shape. Though often associated with sacred images, the nimbus/halo has historically been used to depict figures of importance, including saints and holy figures as well as military, political, or cultural heroes.
With each post, I will include a brief excerpt from a recent biography or obituary.