Written By: Kikesa Kimbwala
Inspired by his observance of solidarity displayed by activists and allies during the recent protests against racial violence and police brutality, Tayo weaves a fabric of the United States as represented through its disenfranchised identities who stand united. The black and white monochrome establishes a shared visual plane between each subject, and projects an isolated red, white, and blue flag. This serves to dull visible divisions of race, gender, and culture, and unite these protagonists in the action of pulling the United States towards justice, equality, and a more unified nation, against a symbolically unpictured antagonist of passivity
Heading this “tug of war” are two Black men, the most frequent and visible victims of racial profiling and police brutality, donning a durag and chain, exposed in their muscularity, and unapologetic in their Blackness. Faces glistening in blood, sweat, and milk that forge their own topography of pain and protest, these men are fiercely engaged in their own liberation.Between portrayals of white allyship is an especially striking image, Tayo’s favorite of the collection, depicting three Black islamic women who form their own invulnerable unit. These sisters are an intersection of targeted racism, misogyny, and islamophobia, yet are resolute in the collective strength forged in the practice of their everyday lives. Much like the Black woman staunchly placed as the concluding image, they are the unwavering anchors of the movement towards collective liberation.
Among the many representations of disenfranchised American identities is an homage to victims of perceived aggression in the shape of Trayvon Martin, a white-passing biracial, bisexual woman who personifieis not only the complicated history of African American genealogy, but of LGBTQIA+ identities as shared by the nonbinary person of color who proceeds her, followed by members of the Latinx and Asian diaspora. Each is identifiable by their specific facial and bodily expression, i.e., the white man is pulling hardest because, in his traditional social positioning, he has a responsibility to.
Within this assemblage of distinct intersectional identities, one might be compelled to navigate the complex dynamics between these varying, and often divisive, levels of privilege. However, Tayo is adamant that the message of E Pluribus Unum, and the current socio-political moment it references, is one of unity, egalitarianism, and collective liberation.
“They are the same flesh and blood, pulling against inaction and indifference, pulling for more than themselves.”
Omotayo “Tayo” Kuku, a child of joy by namesake, embodies the spirit of empathy, unity, and diversity that defines his America. Born in Nigeria, Tayo came to the United States as a child and quickly learned that the petty distinctions between being African and African American do not alleviate you from the circumstances of being a Black man in America. It is this dismissal of trivial divisiveness that characterizes his most recent work, E Pluribus Unum, illustrating the unity and solidarity required of the fight for collective liberation.
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