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Can you recognize the faces in these combs?

Artist celebrates freedom activists through Afro comb

Nosmot Gbadamosi | 6/21/2016, 9 a.m.
It's a well recognized image. Today's modern hand fisted Afro comb. One artist has used its symbol to celebrate black ...
Nigerian artist Fred Martins has used the image of the Afro comb to celebrate key African and African-American activists who were jailed fighting for freedom and equality. With a 6,000 year history, the ubiquitous Afro comb has had global cultural influence. Afro combs date back to ancient Egypt, where a 5,500 year-old one was excavated from a grave at a cemetery in Abydos, Egypt. (Courtesy Fred Martins)

— It's a well recognized image. Today's modern hand fisted Afro comb. One artist has used its symbol to celebrate black activists jailed fighting for freedom, fairness and social justice.

Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Fela Kuti amongst others have had their images digitally crafted onto Afro combs, set against a bright orange background. The images, shared on social media, tallied over half a million views in the first 24 hours.

Arrested 200 times by different regimes - Fela Kuti was jailed during current president Muhammadu Buhari's initial term as Head of State in 1983. The Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer was sentenced to five year's imprisonment by a military tribunal. He was found guilty of illegally attempting to export £1,000 in foreign currency at a Lagos airport in what he described as "trumped up charges" that were politically motivated. Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, Nigeria chief of staff at the time, reportedly said the government would ensure Fela was in prison for a long time, concluding "and I hope he will rot in Jail" according to Amnesty International.

(Courtesy Fred Martins)

Arrested 200 times by different regimes - Fela Kuti was jailed during current president Muhammadu Buhari's initial term as Head of State in 1983. The Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer was sentenced to five year's imprisonment by a military tribunal. He was found guilty of illegally attempting to export £1,000 in foreign currency at a Lagos airport in what he described as "trumped up charges" that were politically motivated. Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, Nigeria chief of staff at the time, reportedly said the government would ensure Fela was in prison for a long time, concluding "and I hope he will rot in Jail" according to Amnesty International.

They are the work of Nigerian artist Fred Martins: "I chose orange because it's associated with prison", he told CNN.

King was arrested on 24 February 1956 for directing a citywide boycott of segregated buses. In 1963, he was again arrested and jailed protesting the treatment of black people in Birmingham, Alabama. He went onto deliver his famous "I have a dream speech" to more than 250,000 people on August 28, 1963.

(Courtesy Fred Martins)

King was arrested on 24 February 1956 for directing a citywide boycott of segregated buses. In 1963, he was again arrested and jailed protesting the treatment of black people in Birmingham, Alabama. He went onto deliver his famous "I have a dream speech" to more than 250,000 people on August 28, 1963.

Inspiration came from the unlikeliest of places - listening to traditional West African high life music: "It was full of praise for the noblemen" he says.

"I realized that most of these legendary activists, from Marcus Garvey, Patrice Lumumba to Angela Davis among others were at some point jailed for forcing their way to resurrect the African consciousness" says Martins.

Congo's first democratically elected Prime Minister - Lumumba demanded that Congo should control its own exclusive mineral wealth. Just six months in post - Congolese rivals reportedly supported by Brussels and Washington - placed him under house arrest. Undercover of darkness, he was eventually taken to a forest and shot.

(Courtesy Fred Martins)

Congo's first democratically elected Prime Minister - Lumumba demanded that Congo should control its own exclusive mineral wealth. Just six months in post - Congolese rivals reportedly supported by Brussels and Washington - placed him under house arrest. Undercover of darkness, he was eventually taken to a forest and shot.

The 'Black, Orange and Freedom' art series have been created "to arouse commemoration of the heroes that inspire many people today."

Martins, who is currently based in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, chose jail mug shots to capture a side view of the activists' faces.

As for the comb, he says "Worn in the 1970s by fluffy afroed youths in America as a protest against repression, it's a symbol that goes beyond style and adornment."

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