Yung Yemi’s Afrofuturist Vision for Black History Month Series

Inspired by Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power”, Most of My Heroes Don’t Appear On No Stamps is a collection of African-American artists rewriting history through fine art “stamp” editions, lauding their own heroes. This series continues with an afrofuturist, Kaepernick-inspired portrait by Yung Yemi (Adeyemi Adegbesan), a multidisciplinary visual artist of Nigerian descent, based in Toronto, Canada. His limited die-cut stamp edition is the bust of an African hero, with subtle nods to Colin Kaepernick’s uniform on its torso. Read below for our exclusive interview for the artist, who explains his process and inspiration.

1xRUN: Can you tell us a little bit about the piece, and what’s happening in this scene? Is there anything you would like to highlight about this image?
Young Yemi:
The concept for this piece was inspired by Colin Kaepernick’s protest against systemic racism and rights violations. Looking closely at the details you can see the football shoulder pads, the number 7 chain, and the IMWITHKAP patch that all reference his mission. The idea being that standing for a cause may lead to persecution in the short term but in the end there is no question who is on the right side of history.  

1x:
How did the idea and execution come about for this image?
Yemi: 
I was just inspired by Kaepernick’s determination to stand by this cause without compromise and to see the support mount around him.

1x:
Why is it important for people to see this image on a stamp?
Yemi:
A stamp symbolizes a degree of authority. It’s a place reserved for the biggest heroes and the most important historical figures. I think as black people we need to see more of our heroes represented in this light.

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1x: What is unique about this piece compared with your other work?
Yemi:
I have created some other pieces that were based on celebrities but those were direct depictions of the person (Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monae, etc.). With this piece I chose not to make it a direct depiction of Kaepernick; instead its a character of my own creation, but it’s inspired by his message. I wanted it to be an unrecognizable face though because I wanted it to feel accessible. I wanted people to be able to envision themselves in that role, standing for a cause they believe in.

1x:
 If you could honor a historic African American with their own national holiday who would it be and why?
Yemi:
 I don’t know if I would celebrate one person in particular. But I think black women in general should have a holiday to celebrate them. I don’t think anyone in our society faces as much adversity as black women.

 

1x: If you could have dinner with any African American from past or present who would it be and why?
Yemi: 
I’d love to have a conversation with Octavia Butler. She’s the godmother of Afrofuturism and a true visionary. But I feel like she had so much more to share so to sit down and have a conversation with her would be amazing. RIP.

1x: How did you first get into art?
Yemi: I’ve been making art my whole life. My mom was a nurse and she had to work nights to support us so I spent a lot of time alone when I was little just trying to entertain myself. I used to just draw for hours cause it was a quiet activity and my mom could get some sleep. I only stopped making art for a few years in high school when I was just 100% focused on sports, but other than that I’ve been working on some form of creative outlet my whole life.

 

 

1x: Did your parents or family approve/support you becoming a full time artist?
Yemi:
My mom did as much as she could. I think it was a little bit hard for her to really believe that art could be a career and not just a hobby, so she was always worried about it. But that being said she always encouraged me and was super proud of everything I did and would do anything she could to encourage me to do things I was passionate about. 

1x: What would you consider a dream collaboration?
Yemi: I’d love to work on something with Lebron James.

1x: What artists inspire you now?
Yemi: I really love what artists like Nina Chanel Abney and Derrick Adams are doing.

1x: Any big shows or events coming up that you’d like to share?
Yemi:
 I have an Exhibition running this month at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, ON called ‘Ascension Tech’. It features some of my signature black and white digital work, but also includes photography, sculptural masks, and a video installation. 

Follow Young Yemi on Instagram at @young.yemi.