You’ve probably seen it on your news feed, being shared in chats, or featured in an online article: a striking and, because of its serenity, an almost heart wrenching piece of art, a colorful illustration of George Floyd, his eyes closed, his portrait surrounded by a garland of beautiful flowers. This is probably one of the most iconic representations of the late George Floyd, created by Palestinian American artist Shirien Damra, whose works have been described as “today’s answer to Frida Kahlo’s activist artwork.”
Floyd was filmed on May 25 being murdered by Minneapolis police in the United States, his execution captured in an almost 9-minute scene that shook the world and erupted in protests across the globe. Many artists like Damra used their art to show their solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the United States and to call for the arrest of the police officers who murdered the 46-year-old father. However, it is Damra’s illustration and heartfelt caption that has captured the attention of many around the world, the post on the artist’s page garnering over 3.4 million likes to date:
“Yesterday, in yet another act of anti-black police violence causing mass outrage, George Floyd yelled “I can’t breathe” and pleaded for his life as a white Minneapolis police officer violently pinned him down with his knee on his neck. George died after. He was murdered in broad daylight. His death is reminiscent of the death of Eric Garner. Even with a crowd yelling at him to stop and while folks filmed the murder, the cop did it anyway, showing the massive injustice, zero accountability and white supremacy embedded in the “criminal justice” system. Heartbroken, angry and disgusted. This must end. Much love and solidarity to Black communities grieving another beautiful life lost. May George Floyd Rest in Power.”
Based in Chicago, Damra is a freelance illustrator and UX designer, and she has a background in sociology, which she explains has taught her how to take into consideration context and social factors when thinking about human interaction and behavior. Her background as a Muslim hijabi artist also means she has always been aware of racism growing up. Her portrait of Floyd, along with others such as that of Breonna Taylor and AhmaudArbery, aim to celebrate the lives of these people and to evoke a colorful, iconic image of black men in particular that is rarely ever given space in popular media.