Sunday, May 21, 2017

Badin: A New Royal Portrait

Compare Gustaf Lundberg's original to Eric Basir's reimagined portrait
Before and after: Reimagined portrait by Eric Basir
It has been almost 200 years since the death of Sweden's forgotten Black Prince, Badin. He was intentionally and unintentionally emasculated and buried in racist stereotypes until 2017 when I released the historical fiction graphic novel Badin and the Secret of the Saami.

Adolf Ludvig Gustav Fredrik Albert Badin, né Couchi, known as Badin, was Queen Lovisa Ulrika's adopted African son. She adored him and was undoubtedly his soulmate. Although he was just a child, in him she saw a little bit of herself: Eager to learn and a stranger in a strange land (she was born in Prussia—a large area now part of several western European countries).

The above (left side) portrait by Court painter Gustaf Lundberg is most likely a partial fabrication. That is, the feathers and quiver were probably added after the sketch of Badin was complete. Such embellishments were common for all royalty in 18th century Europe. Intrinsically, the choice of the feathers and arrows are rooted in gross stereotypes of African (and other non-white) men as lustful savages ready to rape and pollute the white race. The late Allan Pred's The Past is Not Dead explains this in more detail.

As of recently, there is no historical documentation I could find which points to Badin having a fascination with archery or feathers. However, there is proof that he was an avid reader, writer and chess master. So the chessboard is appropriate. However, as part of my full frontal assault on the stereotypical and racist portrayal of this intelligent and honorable Swedish man, I recreated this famous portrait for the graphic novel, Badin and the Secret of the Saami.

So I chose to enhance the ideas behind Badin's literacy and genius by replacing the chess theme with one of writing. I also freed up his Masonic uniform and crown by removing the feathers. Now those familiar with his membership in the Freemasons can be interpreted without distraction. It is possible that Lundberg resented that Badin was a Freemason and added these items to debase Badin.

I would hope more  artists would "reimagine" Black figures in Europe. They were great men and women—and they lived under great scrutiny. It is our job to elevate them—and when appropriate—redeem them through new stories to inspire new generation.

This new portrait is displayed in the first act of the Badin and the Secret of the Saami graphic novel

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