An Impressionism-style take on the Brits that have influenced the UK’s Black History

by Adobe UK Team

Posted on 10-31-2018

To mark October coming to a close, Adobe Stock celebrated Black History Month by challenging three up and coming illustrators to each create two pieces of art featuring the people they believe have shaped, and are shaping, the UK’s black history.

As part of our History and Memory Visual Trend, we have tasked these illustrators to recreate these icons combining old-world art styles with new technology. Our third and final illustrator, Keeks The Label aka Kia Amoa, has taken her inspiration from the Impressionist movement of the 19th Century to create two illustrations of her heroes using Adobe Stock and Creative Cloud.

Olaudah Equiano, Benjamin Zephaniah & Neil Kenlock

**Adobe: Who have you chosen to feature in the first of your two illustrations?

Kia: I’ve focussed my first illustration on men that I think have influenced black British history the most – from left to right, Olaudah Equiano, Benjamin Zephaniah and Neil Kenlock.

**Adobe: Why have you chosen these particular individuals?

Kia: Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), was an African writer and ex-slave who bought his own freedom and promoted the abolition movement with an autobiography of his life published in 1789.

Benjamin Zephaniah is a British dub poet, writer, activist and lyricist that has been celebrated for great literary works that celebrate Jamaica and UK’s culture. Interestingly, Benjamin is dyslexic and left school without not being able to read or write, before his successful career took off in literature.

Then I have photographer Neil Kenlock, who arrived in the UK from Jamaica in 1963. Neil documented anti-racism protests and demonstrations in the 1960s and 70s, before launching the UK’s first black glossy magazine called ‘ROOTs,’ and then founding Choice FM, the UK’s first radio station catered for the black community.

Each of these men has achieved something incredible – whether it be contributions to the end of slavery, renowned literature or popular culture.

**Adobe: How did you go about creating the illustrations?

Kia: I used Adobe Stock image assets to reveal the occupations of each of the people portrayed – a book for Olaudah Equiano (ID: 73415248), a pen for Benjamin Zephaniah (ID: 883398) and camera for Neil Kenlock (ID: 53190252).

Mary Seacole, Shirley Bassey & Dianne Abbott

**Adobe: Tell us about your second illustration?

Kia: My second illustration features some inspirational black British women.

Mary Seacole (1805-1881) is the woman on the far left. She was a mixed-race nurse who travelled to Cuba, the Bahamas and even further, learning about herbal medicine and applying European medical ideas to the methods. When she heard about a lack of facilities in Crimea during the war, she applied for a place as an army nurse and was refused. Unphased, she funded her own trip and set up the ‘British Hotel’ which looked after sick officers, leading her to become known as Mother Seacole.

In the middle is the welsh vocalist Shirley Bassey, best known for her powerful voice which was recorded for Bond theme songs Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever and Moonraker. She was the first Welsh person to get a UK number one in 1959.

The final person I’ve depicted is Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Stoke Newington and Hackney, and the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons. Diane is known for founding the London Schools and Black Children initiative and having controversial opinions.

**Adobe: What made you want to celebrate these individuals as part of Black History Month?

Kia:_ “I wanted to capture both male and female heroes from different eras, past and present, all of whom come to mind when I think of the UK’s black history. There were so many great characters, so it was a hard decision, but these icons have all inspired me in some way, shape or form!”_

**Adobe: How did you go about creating these illustrations?

Kia: As with my first illustration, I used Adobe Stock to create elements of the artwork relating to each of the women – the nurse’s cap for Mary Seacole (ID: 63823047), the microphone for Shirley Bassey (ID: 82014385) and the ballot box for Diane Abbott (ID: 52849613).

**Adobe: Final question – why Impressionism as your artform of choice?

Kia: I chose my art style as for me, it contrasts with surrealism and to highlight the icons about their heads, which depict the icons successfully turning their dreams into a reality.

Check out other two illustrators’ artworks of some of the UK’s black icons, London-based Dorcas Creates and Josh OB, who took their inspiration from the 1950’s Pop Art movement.

Do you have anyone to add to this list? Let us know who you think has influenced the UK’s Black History at @AdobeUK! Or fancy creating your own artwork with Adobe Stock? Sign up to our free trail to get 10 free images:

Topics: Illustration, 2018 Visual Trends, Benjamin Zephaniah, Black British Women, Black History Month, Diane Abbott, History and Memory, illustration, Keeks The Label, Kia Amoa, Mary Seacole, Neil Kenlock, Olaudah Equiano, Shirley Bassey, visual trend, UK, UK Exclusive, Creative EMEA

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