Getting to know the work of visual artist Fahamu Pecou takes more than glancing at his seemingly hip paintings in hit TV shows such as Empire and Black-ish, or in galleries around the world. Pecou entices his audience by using facets of contemporary Black culture that are popularized and hyped. Although his audience may initially believe Pecou is romanticizing negative aspects of Black culture, he is in fact addressing issues of Black masculinity and hip-hop culture through the vehicle of his artwork.
This past week Morehouse College had the opportunity to have Fahamu Pecou share his artwork and his journey. Many Morehouse students and administrators discovered that the purpose of his work was extremely pertinent to a value which Morehouse prides itself on, Black consciousness.
Through parody and satire, Pecou exposes how stereotypes of Black men shape Black consciousness. One of his most famous collections, “Hard 2 Death”, exemplifies Pecou’s efforts surrounding black consciousness. This collection plays out the stereotype of Black men who sag their pants, as well as Black men who attain their style from a younger and more hip generation. Pecou shows the absurdness of the act of sagging by depicting himself in layers of underwear with his pants hanging down to his knees. In some of his other works, he portrays himself in children wear to show the twistedness of how older generations bite off the style and culture of younger generations. Another one of Pecou’s famous collection that surrounds Black consciousness is “All Dat Glitters Aint Goals”. In this collection, Pecou paints himself in an exaggerated manner, wearing chains and flexing his tattoos. He calls into question the way hip-hop culture measures one’s self-worth and long term goals. In one of his paintings, “Heir Conditioning”, Pecou depicts himself with tattoos of the words “What Next”. Pecou is questioning the values that hip-hop culture deploys to the Black community and our society as a whole. Paintings like these are staples of what Pecou stands for.
Stereotypes of Black men continue to perpetuate the negative perception that society has about them, as well as influence the youth. Because of this, it appears that the Black consciousness lacks a centralized promising identity. Pecou continues to utilize his work to draw attention to issues surrounding black consciousness, as well as question the way society perceives Black masculinity and hip-hop culture.
Fahamu Pecou’s visit with Morehouse students was an affirming connection between the two sides. Pecou and Morehouse are both striving for the similar end goal, which is to strengthen the Black consciousness, but they are using different avenues to arrive there. Morehouse is furthering the cause through education, as Pecou is doing the same through visual art.