The narrative of the pilgrims’ arrival and settlement from the UK to the United States is a historical retelling that omits the enslavement and brutality inflicted upon the native Wampanoag population in Massachusetts. Through the lens of racial empowerment, artist Habib Hajallie will create an artwork that dispels the revisionist history of this time and brings into the fore current reflections on race equality.

Using motifs inspired by traditional Wampanoag culture, Habib will produce an artwork that celebrates the Native Americans that have had a significant part of their history mythologised by their oppressors. Informed by his Sierra Leonean heritage and culture, he will examine the clear parallels between the transatlantic slave trade and the Pilgrim colonisers and slavers of the 17th Century. This research undertaken during his time at Southwark Park Galleries, will enable him to pragmatically approach a selection of antique texts that he will use in his work, which will culminate in a detailed ballpoint pen portrait that celebrates the empowerment of the marginalised.

Wampanoag Power forms part of a wider project concerning the Mayflower to mark and commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s journey from Rotherhithe via Plymouth to North American. The project critically retraces the Mayflower story and examines its current resonances by addressing the themes of tolerance, migration, enterprises and community in a series of art commissions led by four artists working poetry, art-making, radio broadcast and drawing.

Habib Hajallie is known for his fiercely detailed portrait drawings which aim to lift up those historically undermined by society and the mainstream media. Habib’s style of portraiture is directly inspired by his Sierra Leonean heritage and influenced by sketches from the high renaissance, using traditional draughtsmanship techniques. Often using himself or family members as subjects, he skillfully navigates the intersection of his upbringing in the West and his African culture and heritage.

Habib has exhibited extensively in the UK and across the Atlantic in the US. The artist has taken home prestigious awards including the Under 30s Prize at The Drawing Society, United Kingdom (2019) and the Best in Show Award at Embracing Our Differences, Florida, USA.

Wampanoag Power is generously supported by the Southwark Mayflower 400 Grants Fund from Southwark CouncilBritish Land and United St Saviours.