Image via Instagram @Carsonellis

Image via Instagram @Carsonellis

#BlackLivesMatter anger fuels creativity of artists searching for justice

When a satellite from outer space spots a #BlackLivesMatter mural on earth, you know how big the movement has become.

Image via Instagram @Carsonellis

Image via Instagram @Carsonellis

Artists around the world have reacted to the #BlackLivesMatter (#BLM) movement, which has been growing steadily over the past three years as black citzens are killed, often by officials such as police, in countries like the United States (US) and elsewhere.

It was born three years ago after the death of Trayvon Martin and was expanded after Michael Brown and Eric Garner. It exploded after the killing of George Floyd in May in Minneapolis.

The #BLM movement is now so big it may be compared to movements as large as the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Women’s Movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Many artists have drawn renewed inspiration from #BlackLivesMatter.

Leon Bedore

Leon Bedore, also known as Tes One, created an artwork in response to Trayvon Martin’s death.

“Calling out the injustice became far more important than any hesitation I was personally feeling,” Bedore said, after the initial failure of the state to bring charges against Martin’s killer.

“The message is all that mattered. ‘Stand Our Ground’ marks the first time I felt so compelled to use my art to address a social issue like this publicly.”

Carly Larsson

Carly Larsson was another artist who drew inspiration from the injustice she saw in the American “justice” system.

After a grand jury refused to charge the New York Police Department officer who killed Eric Garner, she drew this image, on location in New York City’s Foley Square.

Larsson said she wanted to “record the protest, and to capture the mood and energy”.

Carson Ellis

The actions of this same jury is what inspired Carson Ellis to dig through the police database in search of unarmed African Americans who had been victims of police killings.

She picked 20 of them and did as much research on them as she could before drawing their portraits.

As a white American woman, she says it affected her very deeply.

“I cried and cried,” says Ellis. “It brought me face to face with very hard truths about being black in America, and about being white in America.

“I never doubted the existence of racism, but after this, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of it.”

Chris Kindred

As a college student in 2014, Chris Kindred began to realise that he was beginning to run low on the emotional strength it took for him to attend every protest and demonstration on his campus in Richmond.

Art became his outlet and Speak Up! was his attempt to “uplift and empower those on the ground” and gave him the energy to combat racism “at face value at every turn.”

Dáreece Walker

Dáreece Walker is another black American artist who has been deeply affected by the movement.

His anger can be seen in his self-portrait Made in the USA.

He says it announces that “I am made in the USA but somehow I’m not treated as a full American. I’m treated as a black American, like cardboard, disposable, easily replaced.”

The Provocateurs: A Master Series

The Provocateurs: A Master Series is a video series produced by Black Lives Matter Arts+Culture. In it, artists from all fields give 12-minute-long TED-style talks in a politically radical framework, detailing their journeys as provocative Black artists.

It is a programme that aims to uplift black artists, educate communities on the relationship between art, culture, and politics, and also empower communities through artistic expression and engagement.