For the last seven days, millions of people across the world have rallied together in a bid to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and secure the lawful charging of George Floyd’s killers in America.
Palestinian artist Shirien Damra’s colourful portrait of George Floyd, which has since gone viral, is not the first piece she has created in support of the movement. Damra, who works as a freelance designer, has long-used her illustrative work to stand in solidarity with countless social injustices. When the video documenting the death of Ahmaud Arbery began circulating online, people became drawn to her potraits – which inherently take away the violence and traumatic imagery that is so often attached to the victims’ names after their passing.
“I was afraid that people would only see the video and remember his soul being taken away from him,” Damra told ELLE.com in a recent interview, where she explained that the choice to use pastel colours and delicate floral reefs was also a way of ensuring that no harmful stereotypes were placed on the victims. “I wanted to not only have the art for myself to process, but also in the hopes that other people that are facing similar things can identify with it and help them process, too. I want to use my art to reimagine what we want in this world,” she added.
As a Palestinian Muslim immigrant from a family of refugees, Damra has long stood in solidarity with minority communities, including her own. Whether she’s using her illustrations to stand up for Black Lives Matter, Sudan or Indigenous Peoples’ Day – her portraits often help amplify the cause and are in-turn shared by thousands upon thousands of influencers, models and musicians in the process. Since creating her portrait of Arbery, the Georgia NAACP contacted her directly to create a piece specifically for his family.