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A Tribute to Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd was an abolitionist, educator, lawyer, and the first Black female to publish a newspaper in North America. She was a feminist and toured Canada and America, speaking in favour of the women’s movement and the anti-slavery cause. She founded several schools and spent her life as a teacher and principal. At age 60, she became the second Black woman to obtain a law degree in the United States. Her legacy lives on as an important historical figure in Ontario through various commemorations in Canada, the United States and beyond. We created this image for a confidential client in collaboration with artist Komi Olaf.

A portrait of Mary Ann Shadd on a yellow backdrop. Her hair is covered with an elaborate wildflower crown.
An open book. On the left size is a portrait of Mary Ann Shadd on a yellow backdrop. Her hair is covered with an elaborate wildflower crown. The right side has a creative type layout.

The absurdity of surrealist art is embraced in this concept as a device to understand and illustrate the complexity of Shadd’s legacy. This design seeks to present narratives of the psyche by pairing a recognizable and typical portrait with uncanny visual elements. The radically bountiful bouquet of florals floats integrates into Shadd’s hair like a lion’s main, nodding to the contemporary movement of North American Black women refuting Eurocentric beauty standards by embracing their kinky hair— walking in the path that Shadd Cary and peers trailblazed. Canadian wildflowers are used for their complexity and disorder: the thing that makes them so beautiful.

Peppered throughout the display of florals and intentionally made predominant are vibrant Black-eyed Susans: the flower of justice. These plants symbolize encouragement and motivation and are native to North America. Black-eyed Susans are gifted to encourage the receiver to stay on a path of pursuing personal. To Black women and all Canadians today, Shadd Cary’s story is a reminder of worthiness, power, an opportunity for advancement, and brilliance. The femininity of the flowers juxtaposed with a stoic portrait is our response to the brief, pushing boundaries and bringing the relevance of our lived experiences to the work.

Project Credits

Concept: Atelier Oluwatosin

Illustration: Komi Olaf

Type Layout: Atelier Oluwatosin

Font: Dahlia by VJ Type

Atelier Oluwatosin Team: Tosin Odugbemi, Anjay Seabrook

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