Obi Arisukwu is a Nigerian-American cartoonist and he is renowned for animating some of the best moments of popular black culture in cartoon illustrations. Sometime in September an Australian newspaper was lashed at for publishing a cartoon of Serena which was created by and Australian cartoonist. The act was seen as racist and insensitive.
Shortly after, Obi was summoned by so many letters in his inbox to create a cartoon of Serena Williams. He said, “It was like I was the champion of black illustrators.” You know that heroic feeling you get when everyone calls on you for your hand work.
Barely two weeks later, he posted a cartoon illustration of Serena leaning back mid-serve. Her face showed pride and determination while there was a collage of women behind her. He is known to have produced several works that bring smiles to faces while striking the chords of thought in the heart.
Obi was in interview with OkayAfrica, we bring you a summary of some of the revelations from this interview.
How do you pick what to illustrate?
“Black magic, really. I’m inspired by a lot of stuff that us as Black people do. There are some people if I had more time I would draw them. I would definitely say I’ve been wanting to do Lebron James, Queen Latifah… I also want to draw other cultures, as well. I would see other people drawing faces and figures but there was no meaning behind it. I thought, ‘How can I be different? How can I tell a story with my art?’ The Serena one tells a story. The Colin Kaepernick one tells a story. The Beyonce one tells a story.”
When did you notice people had begun recognizing your art?
“The biggest hit was the Childish Gambino ‘This Is America’ [piece]. That went viral. Within 24 hours it went viral and had 30,000 likes in one day. It was insane to me. I didn’t know what to do. When the ShadeRoom posted it, it was crazy, when Will Smith re-posted… it was one of those things that happened so fast, when it comes to my success on social media. I have to celebrate the little moments because I’ll keep moving. My cousin is the one who’ll tell me “Will Smith just reposted you, we gotta celebrate.” It hasn’t hit me yet. I have a goal in mind and until I reach that goal, I’m not worried about the rest of the stuff.”
You always have headphones on while drawing, what kind of music inspires you?
“I listen to rap. I listen to Drake a lot, Kendrick, Run The Jewels, LE$, Tobe Nwigwe, Chloe and Halle, Childish Gambino, Solange, Biggie, Jay, classical music, it depends on what zone I’m in. Lately, I’ve been listening to Travis Scott’s Astro World. It has a melody that keeps me going. I like to listen to music by artists who are very creative as well. I can hear that creativity in the music.”
You keep talking about focusing on your goal, what is that goal?
“I want to have my own animated series and inspire other people of color to do the same thing. I tell people I want to be like Steve Harvey. He has so many things going on. The book, the show, the movies… when it comes to cartoons, animated movies, video games, YouTube streams… I want to be that person.”