From Stereotype to Superhero: Gullah Sci-Fi Mysteries Reclaim Mammy, Uncle Remus

Mam-E The Avenging Uncle Remus


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?

H/T Afropunk

  • ladyfresh

    His work is excellent. He is part of the same collective as Robert Pruitt, who currently has an exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Otabenga Jones & Associates. They both make provocative work (everyone in the collective does).

  • RectPropagation

    Man, it started off so awesome.
    “turn the reviled characters into muscled, battling freedom fighters” – Awesome

    “Mammy’s broom becomes a weapon; her washboard a shield.” – AWESOME
    Oh man, I would just hurl money at a heavy-set, black woman who’s a superhero.

    But then you look at the covers and it’s these characters fighting other black people or Seminoles. Why? WHY?! Why would you take these characters, give them strength, power, and their own stories and then pit them against each other? Why make Mammy anti-liberation?

    I just don’t see the point of this if Mammy is actually pro-slavery. If it was Mammy, Uncle Remus, etc. fighting against slavery and imperialism I’d be all over it but even just the idea. (Yes, I know that the text for that issue says that she’s just against Uncle Remus’ methods but in another it says she’s anti-abolitionist.)