|Country People (top) and City People by Eric Basir|
Ever since I was a child, I was sensitive to the deficit in positive images of Black people. I think it was the television series based on Alex Haley's Roots. I was only 4 years old at the time. However, I connected with the character of Kunta Kinte (played by the most excellent Thespian and Educator, LaVar Burton).
He stood his ground and made sure no one would make him—nor his descendants—forget his African heritage. He was a moral and strong man.
|An Ikere door made by Olowe of Ise|
So I embarked on creating Country People and City People vector carvings (which happen to be available as Royalty-Free through Fotolia and other stock sites). I intentionally illustrated the people with distinctly aboriginal features, accentuating the beauty of their broad noses and large lips. They are happy, dignified, hard-working and not all too different than any other folk around the world. I apologetically drew them fully clothed and modest. This too, was intentional.
I also purposely included African Islamic elements to counter the stereotypes regarding Muslims. Although the clothing worn by the characters I made are seen in non-Muslim cultures of Africa, I believe it is subtle enough to influence the viewer toward a pluralistic attitude regarding Muslims.
Country People is my favorite of the two. Simply put, I'm an organic gardener who strives to incorporate "green" or sustainable practices in my everyday affairs. I also have been reading about owls with my children. The giraffe is distinctly African and I wanted him/her to be close to the farmers.
Everything in these drawings has a meaning. Some of it is personal, with very little to do with preaching a message. For example, the train in City People: Specifically, the same red No. 2 train, which used to stop a few blocks away from my apartment when we lived in the Bronx (New York City). The portrait hanging on the wall in the house of Country People resembles a certain American president whose father was born in Africa.
All too often, we are pummeled with images and video of people with dark skin, broad noses and large lips as savage, comical and cowardly—even in this so-called post-racial American society with a handsome president of mixed African and white American ancestry.
One example is in the sequel to the Transformers motion picture. The Black-skinned people portrayed in the opening scenes were clearly utter savages. The co-star to the hero, a young Latino male, was a sex-crazed coward.
|Col. Tigh played by Terry Carter|
The examples are endless. However, I believe it is better to deliver a message instead of a complaint. Clearly, Country People and City People are a dignified counter-measure to the trend I described. Even if one disagrees that such a trend exists—or has an real impact on the minds of consumers—images which portray any human beings engaged in productive activities is welcome. I hope to continue creating more such illustrations—especially of Latino people.