Okeeba Jubalo: The Serengeti Lion
Okeeba Jubalo is a black entrepreneur, poet, publisher, creative director and artist whose art strives to make an undeniable statement. He is a “Serengeti lion” whose work is not what some may find elegant, but proves powerful and creative.
On February 17th, Jubalo launched his impactful art show “The Dirty Dozen: Jim Crow Fantasies” in Atlanta at the Westside Cultural Arts Center.
“Unfortunately, in this scene, you have zoo lions and that Serengeti
lion and my work is that Serengeti,” Jubalo said about his art on a news show called Georgia Power, filmed on Clark Atlanta University’s campus. He went on to describe how the “zoo lion” is the black art that is docile or safe, the black art that does not show its teeth. His art seeks to show the truth no matter how threatening it is. “The truth has to be threatening,” he said.
In what seems to be a very turbulent time in this country, Okeeba opened his exhibit free to the public, to view, digest, and reflect on the days of Jim Crow, which was an era of American History where segregation, discrimination, and violence against black people were the societal norms. His exhibit is comprised of twelve detailed mix media pieces. He wanted to make art that the viewers could touch and see the texture of.
Jubalo’s art seeks to make people “uncomfortable”. He says that “the truth is uncomfortable”. His art does not seek to fit into exhibitions that would want his work to be cookie cutter, in order to not offend anyone. He pointed out that even certain black art festivals are conservative and do not want art like Jubalo’s in their museums. Through it all his art sells, small pieces selling for thousands of dollars. This shows that there is something truly incredible about his art, according to the ever-growing artistic community.
One unique part of every piece in the Dirty Dozen exhibit, is the stamp on each piece, “Because nothing is ever official in this country without a stamp.” These creative touches left spectators, on opening night, in awe.
“The Son,” a piece that was a part of Jubalo’s Trinity collection, showed three black people drawn how African Americans were drawn back in the Jim Crow era. However, the teeth of the son were gold, which one could say represented the youth in today’s time. Each piece had intricate details, important dates, names, and history behind it.
Another piece in the exhibit simply had the word “Leader” and a mirror on a door surrounded by African American leaders, implying that the person standing in front of the mirror is also a leader. Jubalo’s goal of sparking conversation, thoughts, and contemplation on controversial matters was successfully accomplished. Evidence of this can be seen in the reaction from people who viewed the exhibit.
“My favorite piece was “The Leader Within”, because it motivated me to become something and want more out of life. As I saw the names on the door I felt moved because I know that my African American people fought hard to give me the opportunity to succeed in a world that wasn't designed for blacks and other minorities. I felt blessed when looking at the mirror on the door, because I saw my reflection and it reminded me that I'm my own person and it starts with me being able to make changes within myself. It also gave me a thought that I am capable of making history, changes, and [I can] better the community like those who have paved the way for me. His artwork was very impactful, empowering and motivational. It made me think of how colorblind America truly is,” said Jordyn Scruggs, a student who visited the Jubalo’s exhibit.
“The art show it was very thought-provoking, empowering, and inquisitive. You could see and somewhat feel the struggles and triumphs of those in the Jim Crow era.” said Kendra Howard, another student.
Once personally interviewed over the phone about his exhibit and his own life experiences Jubalo offered even more insight into “The Dirty Dozen: Jim Crow Fantasies” and himself as an artist.
What inspired you to create the Dirty dozen?
“Basically, a lot of my work has been centered around telling our story, the African American story…that’s pretty much the driving point behind my work…telling our story in a very honest way”
What inspired you to create art initially?
“I’ve always been artistic…it was like my way of dealing with a lot of frustrations that I had going on in my life as a kid…my dad died when I was ten years old…it helped me escape the frustration, the things that I was going through…it became my driving point in my life. Once I went to school for it, I pretty much focused on how to turn it into a career.”
Which piece is your favorite piece?
After a few minutes of contemplation, he said, “My favorite piece would beeee…the Selma, Rose Wood, and Black Wall Street pieces…but all of them pretty much come from a really good source for me…but I’d say those three, probably.” After a slight pause, he continued, “It’s like trying to pick which one is your favorite child, you know what I’m saying? Alllll of them…it’s kind of a hard question to answer…”
What message do you want people to take away from “The Dirty Dozen: Jim Crow Fantasies?
“One of the biggest things is beginning to ask certain questions about their role in America and starting to really, really think about what’s going on…being able to start conversations…I want people to really self-reflect about what’s going on around them…”
If you could describe your art in one word, which word would you use?
In “The Dirty Dozen: Jim Crow Fantasies” every piece seeks to speak the reality of the black experience. His art is one way he strives to keep the black community aware of the struggle, the pain, the strength and the royalty that all are encompassed in the black American experience. He unravels the American conscience and seeks to show truth in its rawest form. “The Dirty Dozen: Jim Crow Fantasies” is open until March 20th for anyone who would like to view Jubalo’s impactful work.
Photos: NobleSol Art Group
For more information about Okeeba Jubalo please visit www.OKEEBAJUBALO.com