My Englyph series of works features text that is reconfigured in my Englyph writing system. For an earlier Englyph project, I limited my color palette to the "primary" colors: red, blue and yellow.
For my "Pan-African" project, which will debut in the legendary neighborhood of Harlem, New York, I have selected a limited palette, as well: red, black and green. I found these colors appealing and appropriate, given Harlem's rich history.
Some research on the colors revealed a fascinating story centering on Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The Pan African flag was created by the UNIA in response to the fact that African-Americans did not have a "flag" which heralded their mother country (or continent, in this case).
This fact was highlighted in a popular song from 1900 called, "Every Race Has A Flag But The Coon," which was a source of discomfort for Garvey and his colleagues. After the Pan African Flag was adopted by the UNIA, Garvey declared,
"Show me the race or the nation without a flag, and I will show you a race of people without any pride. Aye! In song and mimicry they have said, "Every race has a flag but the coon." How true! Aye! But that was said of us four years ago. They can't say it now...."
My project uses both this quote and the chorus of "Every Race Has A Flag But The Coon" as the starting point for the work.
I have created five unique archival inkjet prints, each 18 inches by 24 inches in size. Two prints are based on the lyrics to the song, and three have Garvey's quote as their foundation. In addition, the project consists of this Web site with an interactive online artwork, documentation and a music video featuring my interpretation of "Every Race Has A Flag But The Coon."
Tim Roseborough, September 2011