Fellow blogger Keji from Blackness Across Borders was kind enough to nominate me for the 2018 Liebster Award. I have to say I’m most flattered to have received that kind of recognition, let alone a nomination for such a blogging reward. Also, while Keji’s blog seems to be only a couple months old, it nonetheless has a lot of thoughtful posts on social justice and intersectional feminism reflecting her experiences as a Sudanese-American woman.
So, without further ado, here are my answers to the questions Keji presented to me as part of the nomination process:
1. What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
Introverted, artistic, and hungry. I’ve always kept to myself in real life (a common trait for autistic people, I believe), I like to draw a lot, and I love my carbohydrates way more than I should.
2. What’s the story behind your blog name?
Tyrannosaurus rex was always my favorite dinosaur. In fact, it’s always been my favorite animal, living or extinct. It’s easily the most awesome apex predator to have ever walked on land. Of course, adding “ninja” as a suffix could only up the awesome factor even more.
3. What is your source of strength?
“Strength” could be interpreted in a vast number of ways, but since I use this blog mostly for art and occasionally writing, I will interpret it to mean “inspiration” since it’s a major fuel for my creative output (to say the least).
The inspiration for individual pieces can come from all over the place. Sometimes it’s things I have read in books or the Internet. Sometimes it’s photos or other people’s artwork that I have seen. Occasionally it might be experiences I have during my day-to-day life. Often, I develop mental images of the artwork I want to create when listening to music on my iPhone (which can range from hip-hop, R&B, metal, pop, film and game soundtracks, to “world/ethnic” music).
As for the recurring themes in my artwork, dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures have been a lifelong passion for me going back to age four. My mom tells me that the names of the dinosaurs were among the first words I ever said aloud (I read far more than I talked in my earliest years). These days, dinosaurs seem to have taken a backseat to the human subjects in my art, but I will never lose all interest in them. And yes, I’m looking forward to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this summer, as well as the game Jurassic World: Evolution.
My interest in Egyptian and other African history is a more recent development. It had its genesis when we spent a few months covering ancient Egypt in second grade. Back then, I was fascinated by the idea of one of the world’s oldest civilizations developing in Africa, a continent I knew at the time for its exotic wildlife (unfortunately, most white people in the US probably grow up associating Africa with safari animals before they consider its human inhabitants). Computer games like Pharaoh and Age of Empires continued to fuel my interest in Egypt in the years since, but it was in my middle school years when I realized that the people of ancient Egypt, much like the wildlife that featured in their pantheon, would have been African too.
At the time, I had discovered the prevalence of white supremacist activism on the Internet. To see their ideology not only survive but even thrive online was a shocking and horrifying experience for me. There was a whole subculture of these guys putting forth claims about natural “racial differences in intelligence/behavior/aggressiveness”, the kind of pseudoscientific propaganda that gets peddled under the banner of the “alternative right” or “human biodiversity” these days. Since these racists asserted that Africans were naturally incapable of advanced civilization and that the continent’s current economic struggles were a consequence of their “low IQ” (as opposed to the legacy of Europeans’ oppressive and pillaging imperialism), they emphasized that the ancient Egyptians would have been “Mediterranean Caucasoids” rather than African (or “Negroid” as they put it). What I did was Google whether that was actually the case, and I found arguments backed up with data to the contrary. That, however, is a discussion for another day.
From that point on, my interest in ancient Egypt not only intensified, but it also spilled over into other kingdoms of pre-colonial Africa such as Kush, Mali, Great Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia. However, Egypt remains a special focus of my artistic output because so many people out there don’t recognize it as African in the first place. Everyone takes it for granted that Kushites, Malians, Zimbabweans, etc. would have been dark-skinned Africans, but the Egyptians still get portrayed as European- or Arabian-looking in movies, book illustrations, and other media, often with Arabic music playing in the background. Part of the blame may lie in the current tendency to conflate North Africa with the Middle East (a consequence of the region’s conquest by Muslim Arabs centuries after the fall of pharaonic Egyptian civilization), but you can’t deny that anti-African racism has also contributed to this desire to white- or tan-wash Egypt’s ancient, indigenous heritage as well. This is a portrayal I am determined to counter with my own art.
Finally, I must admit to a special weakness for African and Afro-Diasporan women. The girls in Destiny’s Child were among my earliest crushes, but I seem to gravitate more towards darker-skinned women these days. I believe it’s an “opposites attract” thing for me personally.
4. What do you want your legacy to be personally and/or professionally?
I would have to say I’d like to be known first and foremost for my creative output, as would most artists and writers. Those are the achievements I take the most pride in.
5. Describe one kind thing you’ve done within the past 24 hours.
Draw, of course. I’ve finished one piece with a Carthaginian priestess holding a Barbary sheep, and another with a Zimbabwean queen juxtaposed with a kudu antelope. The next drawing I have in the works has a Shilluk queen from South Sudan leaning against a hippopotamus. All of these are part of an art series I’m working on which pairs up women from across Africa with native wildlife.
6. What new thing did you learn today and how did it make you feel?
There is a species of bacteria which excretes gold after consuming toxic metals. Who would’ve known germ shit would have been so valuable?
7. What 3 traits do you wish others would see in you?
The adjectives I would consider the most flattering to me would be honest, compassionate, and intelligent. I can’t say those are necessarily accurate descriptors for my personality, but they’re what I would like to be.
My blog nominations
Questions for Nominees
- What motivates you to write or blog about your topics of choice?
- What experiences or upbringing influenced your view of the world (e.g. political ideology, religious beliefs or lack thereof, other opinions, etc.)?
- How has your view of the world changed over the last decade?
- What would you say your favorite movie, book, game, or entertainment of any other medium would be?
- What do you consider to be best in life?
Rules for nominees
- Write about the nomination on your blog, thank whomever nominated you, and write about their blog too.
- Display the image of the award on your blog post.
- Answer the questions the nominator asks you.
- Nominate 5-10 blogs you think deserve the award, or at least some recognition.
- Let the nominees know about their nomination.