Steve Biko was once quoted as saying : “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed”. Another famous quote of his was “Black is beautiful”. These two quotes were my inspiration for the poster and t-shirt designs that I created for a competition.
I remember seeing a bootleg copy of the film ‘Cry Freedom‘ when I was in high school in the early nineteen nineties. It was banned here in South Africa at the time, as Apartheid was still in place. But we were fortunate enough to have a very liberal and cool teacher who thought it would be good as part of a history lesson. He was spot on, as the story of Steve Biko and the events that lead to his untimely death in 1977 has stayed with me ever since.
The topic of the competition happened to be, South African Heroes That Have Made a Difference. I immediate thought of Steve Biko. While most people immediately thought of Nelson Mandela (and the winning entry featured him), I thought that Biko was a less obvious choice. In my opinion if Steve Biko had lived he may have been even more famous than President Nelson Mandela himself.
I wanted to celebrate an african hero with my design and also create something that people would want to wear often, so I didn’t want it to be too serious. I was not trying to design the next Che Guevara icon (but it would have been really cool if I had). I tried to keep the design slightly quirky by adding in the afro comb to the top part of Africa to make it seem as if he had this hairstyle and using the southern part of Africa as his beard. I embedded his quotes in and around the design to complete it.
I also entered a second design option that was a bit darker and featured Steve Biko’s portrait embedded in a dead Baobab tree with his quotes etched into the surrounding trunk as if it were graffiti.