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Folktales of Freetown Drawing

Habib Hajallie

United Kingdom

Drawing, Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Size: 23.6 W x 16.5 H x 0.1 D in

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About The Artwork

Embracing one’s ethnic heritage while living in an ethnocentric county of the United Kingdom such as Kent is a dichotomy. Nuanced prejudices in this petri dish of suburban British society serves to constantly remind you that if you are not white, you are different. This self-portrait returns that prejudicial white gaze. Thus, adhering to the stereotypical notion that young black men are all aggressive by nature. Taking ownership of this archaic ideology as the subject assumes such a defiant pose creates a sense of empowerment to the often undermined ethnic male. The texts used in the collaged ground provide a means of contextualising the portrait by acting as a catalyst for the expression of pan African pride. With the authentic Sierra Leonean fabric deployed as a motif for the vast natural abundance of the nation. Placing the traditional headdress of the founder of the ‘Temne’ tribe from Sierra Leone, of which my family are descendants of, I look to pay homage to Farma Tami (the afore mentioned founder). As I am the first generation of my family born in England and with the ‘Temne’ being founded in the early 16th century, I hope to maintain a connection with my heritage; which I explore in this multifaceted work.

Details & Dimensions

Drawing:Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Original:One-of-a-kind Artwork

Size:23.6 W x 16.5 H x 0.1 D in

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My practice looks to empower often marginalised minorities through the exploration of identity within portraiture. Confronting socio-political issues within my drawings can act as a catalyst for a discourse regarding the perception of various demographics as being of lesser humanistic value. Specifically, with the disenfranchised often being undermined by mainstream media; somewhat paradoxically reflecting an archaic hierarchy of status, similar to colonial ideologies. Using antique texts and maps as the canvases for my works enables me to pragmatically re-contextualise ephemera, creating a cohesion between the concepts informing the work and the aesthetic output. As I empower various figures; I simultaneously do so with the ground used, presenting them within new contexts. Placing myself or family members as the subjects of my portraits evokes a sense of immediacy, apropos to navigating the intersection of my western upbringing and familial west African culture. Informed by my Sierra Leonean and Lebanese heritage, I am conscious of representing figures that have historically been conspicuously omitted from traditional British portraiture. I call upon anecdotal references to portray scenes that are occasionally quasi surrealist representations; confronting lingering ethnocentrisms that are still embedded within modern western society. I employ delicate mark making techniques with precise strokes of the everyday ballpoint pen. This process is influenced by sketches from the high renaissance. I meticulously build layers of tonality leading to an element of photorealism. Through an almost contradictory process of using this relatively modern art medium with a classical approach to mark making: I look to celebrate authentic drawing within the digital age. At the core of my practice, I depict motifs that contradict largely accepted revisionist narratives apropos to West African Histories. The portraits investigate how identity can be constructed by historical oppression, with semblances of antiquated ideologies at the root of nuanced prejudices that I have personally experienced. Ultimately, my work looks to embolden individuals that feel as though they have been labelled as the ‘other’ in any manifestation. In March 2022 I was elected as a member of The Royal Society of British Artists.

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