Basquiat’s 1983 painting “Untitled (History of the Black People)”, according to Andrea Frohne, “reclaims Egyptians as African and subverts the concept of ancient Egypt as the cradle of Western Civilization”. At the center of the painting he depicts an Egyptian boat being guided down the Nile by Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead . On the right panel of the painting appear the words “Esclave, Slave, Esclave”. Two letters of the word “Nile” are crossed out and Frohne suggests that, “The letters that are wiped out and scribbled over perhaps reflect the acts of historians who have conveniently forgotten that Egyptians were black and blacks were enslaved.” On the left panel of the painting Basquiat has illustrated two Nubian style masks. Historically, the Nubians that were darker in skin color were considered to be slaves by the Egyptian people . Throughout the rest of the painting, images of the Atlantic slave trade are juxtaposed with images of the Egyptian slave trade centuries before. The sickle in the center panel is a direct reference to the slave trade in the United States and slave labor under the plantation system. The word “salt” that appears on the right panel of the work refers to the Atlantic Slave Trade, as salt was another important commodity to be traded at this time.
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