Artist Dawolu Jabari Anderson is putting a new spin on the racist caricatures of the shuffling, folksy Uncle Remus and jovial, servile Mammy. His illustrations for the fictional Gullah Sci-fi Mysteries–a melange of science fiction and steampunk–turn the reviled characters into muscled, battling freedom fighters. Mammy’s broom becomes a weapon; her washboard a shield. But while the art elevates Mammy and Uncle Remus from docility, it (perhaps necessarily) casts them at the other extreme of the stereotype spectrum–aggressive, violent and animalistic. Mammy becomes Sapphire with a headwrap. There is even an illustration in the series that depicts Mammy battling Uncle Remus, castigating him for “stir’n up trouble for these good folk,” while he tries to go about the business of “liberat’n.” (Shades of the wrong-headed black woman, holding back black progress by fighting black men?)
Check out the rest of Anderson’s provocative work. What do you think?