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Posted on August 2nd, 2012, by

The development of the visual art was accompanied by the increasing role of art as a means of conveying socially important issues to the mass audience. In this respect, it should be said that the traditional role of the visual art has started to change under the impact of the emergence of pop art and pop culture which led to the commercialization of art and the development of new trends in art. As a result, visual art became focused on the mass audience which made visual art a particularly efficient tool in conveyance of the socially important messages. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the mural “Freedom won’t wait”¯ by Noni Olabisi, which reveals the problem of the oppression and sufferings of people who are in a disadvantaged position and who strive for freedom and equality. In actuality, the mural created by Noni Olabisi is a very important work which contributed to the enhancement of the ongoing struggle of minorities in the USA, including African Americans, for their rights and liberties. In such a way, Noni Olabisi proved the power of visual art as an efficient tool to draw the public attention to issues which influence the entire society and which may remain unnoticed for the dominant majority group.

On analyzing the mural “Freedom won’t wait”¯ by Noni Olabisi, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the mural is a manifestation of the position of the artist in regard to the oppression of democratic rights and liberties of the non-white population in the USA. At the same time, artist attempts to draw the public attention to the problem of the population of African countries which suffer from the lack of freedom and basic human rights which are systematically oppressed and violated. In this respect, it is possible to estimate that the artist intentionally intertwines American and African motives. In actuality, the author attempts to show that the position of African American community and the position of the population of non-democratic countries of Africa are similar because of the systematic violation of their human rights and the lack of freedom and liberties, which are traditionally attributed to the USA as a leading democratic country in the world.

Obviously, the author links modern American and African culture and put them into the context of the oppression of democratic rights and liberties. In actuality, the mural is a manifestation of the social position of the artist in regard to the oppression of human rights. The link between American and African context is very important because the author shows that the oppression of the non-white population is a historical trend which is traced throughout the history in different parts of the world. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that one of the major concern of the artist is freedom which the people depicted in the mural strive for.

At first glance, Noni Olabisi focuses entirely on the depiction of Africans who are suffering and dying for the sake of freedom. The artist depicts people in traditional African costumes, with spears as a weapon which is traditionally associated with African culture and traditions. In fact, practically the entire mural represents people who are of the African origin and who suffer from the lack of liberty. However, the artist apparently attempted to go beyond the African context since the African motives which are very strong in the mural are quite symbolic. They rather intend to evoke the historical memory of the non-white population of the USA and draw the attention of all people to problems African Americans as well as people living in Africa face in their everyday life.

At this point, it is possible to speak about the impact of ideas of African nationalism on the artist, although, on a profound reflection, it seems to be obvious that the artist rather attempts to show suffering of his people than claims to the promotion of some nationalist ideas. Basically, Noni Olabisi shows the tragedy of the non-white population which is in a disadvantaged position and the mural expresses sufferings of people. Remarkably, there is no single person depicted in the mural who is happy or satisfied. In stark contrast, it is possible to trace sufferings in faces and postures of all people depicted by the artist in the mural. This makes sufferings the main motive, the milestone of the mural.

However, suffering is not the key message of the mural. Instead, suffering depicted by the artist is rather a background to a deeper and more significant social message the artist attempted to convey to the audience. In order to make the message clear, Noni Olabisi uses the text to clearly state the main idea or demand the mural uncovers to the American society: “Freedom won’t wait”¯. Moreover, the artist explains his idea in the text that accompanies the mural: “the fight continues freedom won’t wait. How long will it take before we see the light?”¯ (Olabisi, 1992). In such a way, the author explains his work to the mass audience, which may have difficulties with the adequate interpretation of the visual images created by the artist.

In actuality, the mural “Freedom won’t wait”¯ should be viewed in two dimensions, in two contexts: American and African, although it seems as if the American context is primary to the artist. At least into consideration the historical background of the early 1990s, when the mural was created. In fact, the early 1990s were accompanied by the emergence of the new wave of the struggle of the African American population for the equal rights and liberties as well as equal opportunities for African Americans and the white population of the USA. African Americans lived in poverty stricken neighborhoods and suffered from the ongoing discrimination and oppression. In fact, they became outcasts which lived in the inner city, which became a kind of ghetto in which African Americans were enclosed and had no opportunities to set them free. This is why the claim for freedom is quite logical in such a context since it was the only desire of African American population since people felt excluded from the American society.

In such interpretation, the use of African motives is quite symbolic. In such a way, the author probably attempted to show the ongoing oppression of the non-white population from the time of slavery and lynching of African Americans to the present epoch. In this regard, an African warrior depicted in the mural symbolizes the spirit of the freedom of the African population prior to the contact with the white civilization. At the same time, faces of people suffering from pain, people hanged by someone apparently demonstrate the oppression of the non-white population in the USA. The artist attempts to show that African Americans experienced nothing but sufferings. In such a situation, the calm warrior contrasts to other people depicted in the mural, who are suffering and struggling with some invisible forces which actually causes their sufferings. In such a context, the contemporary African American with a slogan “Freedom won’t wait”¯ in his hands symbolizes the new, modern generation of African Americans who are ready to struggle for their rights and who had enough of sufferings and pain. In such a way, the artist makes a transition from the past epoch, from the origin of African Americans, through their history of slavery and discrimination, toward the present epoch, when the African American population is ready to struggle and fight for their rights and liberties.

Symbolically, the man with the slogan “Freedom won’t wait”¯ has a symbol of anarchy on his chest and the words “No Justice”¯. In such a way, the artist shows that the man, who symbolizes the modern African American community, is disenchanted with the existing justice system. His community suffered a lot from injustice and he does not believe in justice anymore. This is why he protests and claims for freedom. In fact, this man symbolizes a progressive part of the African American community that is ready to struggle for their rights and liberties.

At first glance it seems as if the freedom is the only thing they strive for, but such a view is apparently superficial because the African American community needed not only freedom but, what is more, African Americans needed equality and justice. In such a context, the slogans “Freedom won’t wait”¯ and “No Justice”¯ cannot be interpreted separately. Instead, they are closely intertwined and, in a combination, they look like a warning, as the cause and the effect. To put it more precisely, the lack of justice, social, economic and racial inequality put African Americans into a desperate position which they could not stand anymore. Being in a desperate position, they are ready to fight for their rights and liberties. In such a context, the words “Freedom won’t wait”¯ are the warning to the American society, which is apparently the target audience of the mural. It is the warning concerning the actual risk of the emergence of social protests and riots organized and conducted by the African American community in response to the systematic violation of their rights and the lack of equal opportunities compared to the white population of the USA. The mural shows and claims that African Americans are ready to fight and they have nothing to lose. In a way, the mural may be viewed as the appeal to the African American community to start an active social protest to gain the freedom of the existing racial biases and prejudices, social and economic inequality and the oppressed position of the African American community. In fact, the freedom is synonymous to equality and the artist shows that African Americans cannot wait anymore that means that, if they do not get the freedom and equal rights and opportunities, they will start the protest or even riots.

In actuality, the history of the USA in the early 1990s proved that the African American community, especially in Los Angeles where the mural was created, was ready to the protest and riots which did take place in the city and aimed at the improvement of the position of African Americans in the USA. Probably, the mural contributed in a way to the emergence of riots, although, it rather looks like a warning than an actual appeal to riots. Unfortunately, the warning of Noni Olabisi remained unheard by the authorities and the white majority in the USA.

Finally, it is possible to dwell upon the African context of the mural. In fact, the mural may be interpreted as the symbol of the oppression of human rights and liberties in Africa. Probably, the artist attempted to show that African countries suffer from the lack of democracy. The local population suffers from the violation of their rights and liberties, while human life worth nothing. In such a context, people strive for freedom which can be associated with the democracy and democratic changes which Africa needed in the past and still needs today. In this regard, the mural targets at the African Americans as well as other Americans who are compassionate to people who suffer from the violation of their rights and oppression.

Thus, in conclusion, it is possible to estimate that the mural “Freedom won’t wait”¯ by Noni Olabisi has played a very important role in the early 1990s and proved the power of the visual art. In fact, the painting was a symbol of the oppressed position of the non-white population. The artist showed that people were tired of the violation of their rights and liberties and they were ready to fight for their rights. However, this warning remained unheard by the authorities, but it was readily accepted by the African American community who started protests and riots to protect their rights and liberties and to gain equal opportunities compared to the whites.

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