Write Around PAM: Isaka Shamsud-Din

A vertical, rectangular painting showing three African American men. Two of the men are shown in the center of the painting almost filling the height of the work. The figure on the left is standing, arms crossing over his chest. He has dark skin, glasses, short cropped black hair and smiles broadly. He wears a red vest over white short sleeved shirt and greenish pants. To the right is a seated figure with dark skin and a beard. He looks toward the viewer/artist. He wears a light cream, short-sleeved shirt with brown striped pants and a flat cap. His hand at left rests on his knee and his hand at right raised near his chin. To the far right sits another dark-skinned man, sitting on the edge of a bed while appearing to read from a red book. This figure wears glasses, a flat cap and has a beard. He wears a tan and brown jacket and brown pants. There are pillows and blankets behind him. A green, red, and black striped Pan African flag with a black star hangs over the bed at upper right. At far left of the work is a table with dominoes scattered on top along with a flower filled vase. Behind the two central figures is a zebra; part of the head and ears of the animal is depicted in red outline only and is transparent. The neck and upper torso are fully rendered in black and white stripes. Behind the zebra is an open door showing a landscape of water and mountains and a golden yellow sky. The artist uses many colors to depict each shade sometimes combining complementary colors and layering and blending color to create a mottled or variegated effect. Red brushstrokes outline many of the details such as the zebra, the men’s arms, the table and a pair of glasses.

Art is a rich source of inspiration for our own writing, which in turn invites us deeper into our own stories and the stories of those around us. We invite you to write with us today using this exercise inspired by Isaka Shamsud-Din’s “Hare, Lion and Spider.” Before or after you write, take some time to learn about Shamsud-Din’s life and art.⠀

First, imagine someone you know really well, doing something they do every day (cooking, working, playing, learning, visiting with friends, etc). Think about all the steps involved, imagining you are there with them, and try to write about the experience with as much detail as possible. Then, add in something extraordinary, just for fun!

We have some prompts to help you get started. You can choose one, both or follow your own adventure. Set a timer for 10 minutes and just keep the pen moving.

There’s no one quite like… / They always…

Writing in community is powerful. We are grateful to our longtime partner Write Around Portland for the writing prompts and inspiration. You can revisit past posts and look for ongoing posts on Sundays throughout the summer. Please share your work with us! @writearoundpdx @portlandartmuseum #RespectWritingCommunity#WriteAroundPAM

Isaka Shamsud-Din (American, born 1940). Hare, Lion and Spider, 1967. Oil on canvas. Museum Purchase: Helen Thurston Ayer Fund, 85.39 © Isaac Shamsud-Din

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