Maze-ing Maze 273

Maze-ing Maze 273


“Southern trees bear strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”

Billie Holiday

Maze 273:  So I wanted to share my new ideas for a 13 piece show I started yesterday.  I also got an email yesterday from a mother who says she gives the mazes to her kids to try daily.  As a children’s book writer I definitely love the fact that kids are enjoying my site.  It also made me feel a bit apprehensive about showing the works as it’s not necessarily age appropriate for all. 

Knowing this I still decided to share the ideas and drafts and concepts as they take place.  It is my hope that parents understand my need to grow and explore as an artist and maybe even use my art to educate their children on an important part of American history.

Now as many visitors know I have had a dry spell in over the past few weeks in the new ideas area with the mazes.  Yesterday I decided to brainstorm and see what I could come up with. The project was born from a mixture of the following few experiences in my life.

Ever since high school I’ve thought that Black American history and the slave experience was not taught well enough.  I find this to be true because of several conversations that I’ve had with people in my life.  I’ve been told that slaves were treated well,  it was okay because they were sheltered and clothed, it wasn’t as bad as so an so’s experiences, etc.  All things I don’t think people would say if they learned about the horrors of slavery in America.

This was really brought to light for me the other day when I was with an associate who called me a nigger.  I asked him to clarify what I thought I heard and he said he meant it like nigga.  I explained to him that I’m not any definition of the word and prefer that if we are going to be in contact that he not use that word around me.  He explained that I could call him a cracker if I would like and I told him know that I would prefer to call what I always called him by his name.   After a few moments of defending his right to use the word he apologized. 

Days later I met with his son (20 yrs old)  who was there at the time.  We discussed what happened and I explained from a historical standpoint that the word is bad period and that many people died with that being the last word  they heard.  He seemed to be understanding and then we got on some subject (I forget) and he ended up calling me a nigger.  To which I responded by showing him a picture of my kids and asking him do they look like niggers?  He said no and then I said a few things I won’t repeat.  

After leaving this particular incident I thought back to the past few encounters (4 to be exact) where I may have met a person at work or a common friend and hung out with a person enough to call them an associate.  As I mentioned the last 4 to be exact all different races besides Black and all four people ended up calling me a nigger, 5 if you consider the father son duo.  These encounters prove to me that more education is needed. 

 I went to the library and looked at other artists.  I found a book by    called the Middle Passage.  His worked showcased drawings of the “middle passage” a term that was used for the voyage slaves were forced to endure from Africa to wherever they landed in the America’s.  His work was cool and reminded me of a spoken word project I started about 10 years ago (never finished) that I wrote to educate about slavery.

So after the encounters, and the book I started making storyboards for a series of mazes that tell/showcase the story of Blacks and Slavery.  Because I can’t okay because my people don’t look the best I decided to use chess pieces to depict the black and white of the society. Obviously the art will not be happy, cheery as most of my mazes are.  But my goal is to educate and capture the struggles of slave life and how remarkable it was for people to survive that and still thrive today. 

As you can see by the first piece  “Strange Fruit” I’m going to have to practice these before I create the full-sized versions.  I really want to give the chess pieces a real human feel to them and see that I need to work on that.  So again I apologize to all the parents for any issues.  Soon I will be releasing a more kid friendly project that has none of my personal issues. 

~ by Warren Stokes on March 20, 2012.

14 Responses to “Maze-ing Maze 273”

  1. Great idea. Please do include the heroic stories of slavery – those of the participants in the Underground Railroad. I hated slavery stories until I discovered those of the resisters who succeeded in getting their freedom. Many more than Harriet Tubman – I’m a storyteller and these stories are the ones our children need to know and our associates need to respect.

  2. Great ideas, Let me know if you need any help from your fellow artists.

  3. I think what you are doing is wonderful. It is from the most personal experiences that the most profound art is created. And when such an art can not just inspire awe but also a change of heart, it transforms into reality.

    Keep up the good work, mazemangriot!

  4. Your work is truly amazing.The unique qualities of these mazes, are,in fact, utterly outstanding. I do believe that I will occupy quite a lot of my free time with them.
    As for the article you wrote about the inspiration of the recent maze, I appreciate it.It saddens me that more people don’t defend themselves against being called so negative a name. The origin usage of the word was to

  5. This is a great post. I was brought up in the UK and the stories of slavery when I was a child were definitely of the happy people who couldn’t look after themselves. Even now, there is a general consensus that slavery was so much worse in the US , ignoring the part the British Empire played in the process.
    Words are very important and it’s fine if people want to reclaim words that have previously be a derogatory word. That has happened with ‘queer’ in the gay community. My opinion is it should definitely only be someone within the particular community in question and then only be a individual’s choice.
    So to try and help educate children (well and adults too) about this complex issue through any kind of artwork, and especially a 3 dimensional one is awesome. I was a painter before I was a writer, so I am completely behind you on this project. Keep us posted , so to speak!

  6. I feel like this project is the one you have been waiting for, it is important and needs to be done. I look froward to your reading your progress on the blog.

  7. Your work is truly amazing.The unique qualities of these mazes, are,in fact, utterly outstanding. I do believe that I will occupy quite a lot of my free time with them.
    As for the article you wrote about the inspiration of the recent maze, I appreciate it.It saddens me that more people don’t defend themselves against being called so negative a name. The origin usage of the word was to denigrate those of African heritage, and couldn’t begin to grasp why anyone would use a word with such a haunting memory so nononchalantly, until you told me. Its true,many, so many b people don’t know about the exact trial slaves endured,so thank you for sharing the

  8. Hiya. Nice work. I especially like the song quote. That is one of my favorite songs, even though it’s not easy to hear..particularly if you have any imagination at all.

    I grew up in an extremely prejudiced (against -everything-) family, and I was always the odd one out. I’d have to bite my tongue as yet another slur or joke seared my ears, and be careful to -never- say anything that could be interpreted as support for any of the hated. *rolls eyes*

    I’m 42 now, and still feel I have to apologize to everyone that was slandered in my childhood…hyper-paranoid about being anything other than PC. My best male friend, Ben, is a very Jewish, very homosexual, collector of stuffed koalas. *blinks* Luckily, his parents are totally awesome, both university professors, so they didn’t take offense when I told them how hard it was not to giggle at the stereotypes they truly embody. I had to give myself a stern talking-to about the difference between slurs and stereotypes, and how one hurt, and the other…sometimes not, depending on how much sense of humor the one being stereotyped has.

    The first time I met Ben’s parents was at an art fair in Salt Lake. I was nervous because I felt I was already at a disadvantage with them. Earlier in the year Ben and I had gone down to Vegas, stayed in the same room, double beds, and had an awesome time. My mother? To quote “You should try to get pregnant, he’s likely your last chance!” His mother? “Watch out she doesn’t try to get pregnant, so you have to marry.”


    Then, at the fair, the first words out of her mouth were “Have you eaten? Come on, sit down, have something to eat!” Ummm. Yeah. And health, each others and family members, and associates…a constant topic of conversation. Other than restaurant reviews. Ask his family, recently returned from a trip abroad “How was somewhere-ville? Did you have fun?” And invariably, whether they were in Spain or the Galapagos Islands, the first response will be “Oh, yes…we found the nicest little restaurant…”

    Oh, yeah…a point. There must be one somewhere up there. *sighs*

    Ummm…I just wonder how many other people/groups have the same feeling…of somehow having to make up for all the hate they grew up with?

    Sorry for the long post…up all night, and my fingers tend to run away with me anyway. *waves* Good luck with your show, I think it’s a terrific idea.

  9. How saddened I am that even now, during this time in American history that we’re blessed to be a part of with a Black President, I still have to hear tales of someone being verbally degraded through racist verbiage!

    I guess that it shocks me because I’ve lived by the motto that “If you can’t change your Friends, you should change your Friends!” and I’ve surrounded myself with forward thinking people and surgically removed those who would think otherwise.

    Keep being who you are and doing what you do. Our Creator has blessed you with your own unique set of gifts and no one nor name can change that!


  10. I wrote that I shared your mazes with my kids. Please do your slavery series. My pasty white son is 9 (today!) and in the racial minority in his class (tho maybe not in the school). Last year we were watching a pbs show about a group of Pittsburghers (our area) who took a bus ride to several civil rights markers in the south. When I explained to him that “in the old days” people with brown skin were not allowed to vote, his face made me cry. I don’t think he’d ever thought that the skin color difference between him and his best friends had any significance, and it hurt me that he had to know and understand. But he does. And we all do.

    Please carry on.

  11. Powerful stuff… thanks for sharing such a personal (and horrendous) account, and turning it positively into such an amazing maze. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ – and doin’ brilliantly!

  12. I came here because I saw someone clicked like on my blog, and forgive the pun, but I am amazed! This project in particular looks excellent. This is not a skill I have, but I am in awe of your work and can’t wait to show my sons. The Billie Holiday quote is extremely clever and well done, and Middle Passage is an excellent book! One of my recent favorite reads. I’m glad we ran across each other here! Happily adding you to my blog roll. 🙂

  13. Reblogged this on YHVH Entertainment.

  14. That hits the target peylectfr. Thanks!


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