pierre bennu– illustrator + filmmaker + DJ + puppeteer + storyteller + archivist = polymath

There are so many works of art and writings that I am inspired by and committed to sharing here on NBD and Pierre Bennu is one of them.  This work entitled THE SERIES ‘1987’ has evoked in me something new or rather old! These pieces and the writings that go along with them bring up the wonderful trips to NYC when I was younger visiting from Toronto, Ontario, Canada just prior to me making the leap and moving there on a more permanent basis.  These images and the storytelling transport me back to a time when the world was alright with me.   Please indulge me and take a little time to view the work and read the commentary also by Pierre Bennu they go together so beautifully.  PRINTS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE HERE : exittheapple.com/shop-with-us

Screen Shot 2019-04-06 at 5.22.08 PM“Yardie” from the series ‘1987’ Before TV was 24 hours and everyone had air conditioning, folks used to hang outside of their building. The block I grew up on felt like a magical intersection of many carribean islands – you could walk down the street & hear the music change as you passed from one building to another: soca calypso, dancehall, rockers. The Rastas were at the building near the corner. They taught me to play box ball & we’d always have great conversations. There was only one person in their circle who didn’t have locks… but he still wore a wool knit hat all year round. No matter how hot it got, or how much soccer he played, he never sweated & that hat never left his head. I alway thought of that as a magical power.

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“The Last Fly Girl” from the series ‘1987’ Everyone had a crush on Imani’s older sister. She was a “fly girl.” She never spoke to any of us directly so you can image my surprise when she said “Hi Pierre.” For one magical moment everyone else on the bus disappeared. She knew my actual name! She smiled & walked away probably because I took too long to answer. Out of her burgundy bubble goose coat flew a few tiny feather fragments that trailed behind her as she got off at her stop. I walked the length of the bus trying to catch them silently telling myself that if I caught one I could made a wish.

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“Kalel” from the series ‘1987’
I remember smell of the plastic apron-like costumes & the sound they made when you walked. I was in my early teens in 1987 & slowly moving out of that side of the costumed ritual.  I remember the armies of children that would knock on the door & the magical feeling of being able to hand out candy.  I remember being affected for the 1st time by seeing black children in white masks, as opposed to wearing one. Superman, Batman, WonderWoman, Joker, Luke Skywalker, He-Man, Strawberry Shortcake, Spiderman and all of his amazing friends. I had been one of those children.
I had been making my own comic books for at least 3 years at this point but it wasn’t until this Halloween on the other side of the door, that I felt that what I was doing might be important.
This was also the year superheroes became tragic figures to me. Superman’s given name on Krypton was Kalel. Clark Kent was his government name. Only as Superman was he in any way valuable to society – otherwise they barely saw him. He didn’t want to be worshiped he wanted to be accepted so much so he hid himself from the world in plain sight. He became invisible. Kalel wore a mask.

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‘Brother X’ 
from the series ‘1987’
In the 80’s my mother worked as a home nurse in NYC. Many times her work took her into rough neighborhoods. One story that stuck with me was when she got lost trying to find a particular building in the projects so she asked this brother from the Nation for directions. Not only did he escort her to the patient’s apartment, but also offered to wait outside in a visible spot during her entire visit, and walk her back to her car to make sure she got home safely.  He asked for nothing.
I remember what the bothers of the Nation symbolized, particularly in that era. For many of us (at their best) they were a personification of discipline, duty & fearlessness.They carried no weapons but were respected & feared. They also offered an alternative to the ideas of Black masculinity being offered to us by the streets & in pop culture. I am thankful to that brother, whose name I don’t know, for keeping watch over my mother that winter day.

Screen Shot 2019-04-06 at 5.38.16 PM“The DJ” from the series “1987”  The DJ was the soundtrack of a movement. The DJ was the shaman, the religious leader. The DJ give the preacher permission to MC. The DJ called out to you and you called back. The DJ’s clergy carried crates. The DJ was the holder of the drum, the drum that unified, the drum that silenced the screams and sirens and horns. The DJ changed reality. The DJ time traveled & resurrected ancestors that left us their sounds on plates the darkness of the many night skies between us. The DJ looked at no one. The DJ was ageless. The DJ came from nowhere and returned to nowhere like the silence between sounds. The DJ sometimes wore furry Kangol hats. The DJ made me smile.

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“Door Knockers” 
From the series “1987”
Growing up I always thought the term “door knockers” had a deeper metaphysical meaning. I figured the mind was the door & the earrings were the knockers. I remember all the magical music we ingested and the spells we cast with words that seemed to have no value outside of our tiny circle. We had no idea our collective joy & expression would inform the world.
I remember the smell of wave cream & pink oil in homeroom. I remember the sound of our laughter & the gods of that era who didn’t live to see today.

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“Peanut” from the series “1987” Every neighborhood had a ‘peanut’. Peanut was the youngest kid in the group who didn’t say much but observed everything. Peanut was the quiet watcher. I remember the culture of playing outside & the tribes we made. It was an unspoken rule that peanut was everyones responsibility. Peanut was the personification of compassion in the crew. I remember the sounds of the beads in her hair & the faint smell of bubblegum.

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“Luv Ski” 
From the series “1987”
Some memories appear in my mind like ghosts. I don’t clearly see the faces but I can tell you everything about that moment in time. It was another reality w/ different rules & dangers. There were folks who the world at large will never know but were gods in the realities we lived in.

 

I thank Pierre Bennu for allowing us to share his work here at NEVAHBLACKDOWN! be sure to check out the website and shop!

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We are a group of passionate artists and creatives who believe in telling and sharing inspiring stories.

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