About My Art

By Sundiata Acoli

My artistic expedition began in USP Marion Lockdown, in 1987. With much time and solitude on my hands, and having spent the better part of my life immersed in science, I decided to explore the artistic part of my make-up. My first painting was a portrait of my oldest daughter, entitled “First Born”. The result was perhaps something that only a daughter could love… and/or her proud poppa who had struggled long and hard with it, saw it explode like “nitro” many times, and had to painstakingly reconstruct it time and time again. That’s a very intimidating experience for a self-taught novice and one which I eventually overcame by repeatedly forcing myself to suppress the fear (of messing up again), to stop trembling, and to, “damn it, put some paint on the canvas!”

So painting began, for me, as lessons in courage, struggle, and determination in exploring new frontiers. I paint in acrylics because they are more suited to my circumstances and nature. Acrylics are rugged paints, need no accessories (except water), go on almost any surface, produce brilliant colors, and are almost indestructible once dry ~ which they do very fast. I paint mostly for relaxation, for the pleasure derived from creating something of beauty, for gifts to family, loved ones, comrades, and friends who have stood by me over the long haul ~ and I paint as a means of portraying my view on subjects. I always try to be honest and more than that, I do not know. I’ve been painting for 10 years and have been imprisoned for over 24 years. I’m a Political Prisoner and former Black Panther who is sentenced to life. I came up for parole in 1994. The Parole Board held my hearing on a telephone, denied parole, and told me to bring them 20 more years.

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