Series of drawings which depict Pecou’s body in T-shirts featuring public figures with powerful significance in American culture, such as rapper Tupac Shakur, Black Panther activist Fred Hampton, playwright Lorraine Hansberry & 17-year-old gun-violence victim Trayvon Martin.
For centuries Black lives have been plagued by the looming threat of death and violence. This threat once wielded as a means of control and coercion persists in contemporary times. Whether high-profile political assassinations, police brutality, health disparities, or even the results of pathological self-destruction, Black existence is fraught with the specters of death intent on inducing trauma and inspiring fear.
In this ongoing series of expressionist drawings, Dr. Fahamu Pecou confronts the death-bound narrative by highlighting the enduring legacies of iconic individuals. REAL NEGUS DONT DIE asserts that not even death can stop us. “Negus,” an Amharic word denoting royalty, uses both alliteration and subversion to reference the powerful impact that the deaths of individuals like Nipsey Hussle, Tupac Shakur, Malcolm X., Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland) among others) have had in our society. Rather than being forever silenced, these individuals have been elevated to the status of kings and queens, their deaths inspiring millions of others to stand and fight back against injustice and oppression.
REAL NEGUS DONT DIE resists the narrative of death as destruction and diminishes the finality and trauma that the threat of death inspires, the series reminds us that the work we do can have a lasting impact. It is a reminder that our lives (and sometimes our deaths) have meaning and purpose. Moreover, it compels us to see ourselves as something other than victims but rather as the kings and queens we can ultimately become.