Artist Ramel Jasir
-an ever evolving voice in color-
Anytime we have an opportunity to follow a career path that reaffirms our life's purpose, makes a positive contribution to society, and produces a legacy for our future generations, it is an important story to share with others. I recently sat down with Ramel Jasir, a successful self taught visual artist, to talk about his life's work, family, and how he balances it all during a time when a visual art renaissance is happening throughout the world. This interview is part of Ramel's journey that I've been more than excited to share with all of you. And I will that it inspires, empowers and educates others to pursue their passion, or continue pursuing their passion, in life. Enjoy!
Saladin: Peace Ramel! First I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to interview you. Although we've recently began to build directly, we've known each other indirectly for many years now, via those who we've taught. I've been checking out some of things you've been doing for some time now and I wanted to expose my readership to works too. To get right into it, let my readers know who you are, where you're from, and a little about what you do?
Ramel: Peace Brother and yes indeed we have been in tune with each other indirectly over the years and I must say have been a great admirer of the many things you have been doing over the years in regards to the growth and development of our mighty Nation.
My righteous name is Ramel Allah Mathematics and as a visual artist I am known as Ramel Jasir. Jasir is actually a combination of two of my son's name. My oldest son's middle name is Jamal and my next to the youngest son's name is Nasir. So I combined the "Ja" and "sir" as tribute to two of my greatest inspirations; my children. I have been an "active" member of the Nation of Gods and Earths since 1988 in which I have spoken at universities, radio stations, churches; organized conferences, founded our annual Family Day in which we will be having our 17th Annual Family Day this August in Victory Allah [Virginia].
In 2007 I was going through a lot of financial issues and the loss of a seed caused me to deal with a lot of anxiety for the first time of in my life. There was an Earth on the west coast who was going through cancer for the 3rd time that recommended painting as a form of therapy and deal with the stress. Needless to say, stress or depression untreated does not get better so decided to follow her suggestions. All I can say is from the beginning I never looked back. Art and creativity became my passion.
Saladin: At what point in your life did you realize that being a creative artist was your path and purpose in life?
Ramel: I think in 2009 is when I decided to focus on taking my art to the next level and actually make a living as an artist after losing a job that I was on for about 10 years. The problems with anxiety was directly related to me losing the job but it was also a pinnacle point in regards to my healing, mentally. I had a lot of money saved up so I was able to go about six months and focus on my craft before going back to work. Within about one year I had developed enough to be offered a gallery exhibition from a very reputable gallery.
Saladin: Some people look at the creative arts as a hobby and something people do on the side, not something as a career. As a creative artist yourself, what has been your biggest challenge when it comes to this being your actual career that produces income? For example, how long does it take to complete one of you art pieces?
Ramel: I think one of the biggest challenges is balancing family life because being a creative artist or what I like to say "creative entrepreneur" is a 24/7 deal in order to really be successful. If you're not represented by a good gallery, you not only have to spend time creating, but you have to spend a lot of time marketing and building your brand as well. You are your brand. You have to spend a lot of time not necessarily finding new collectors, but more importantly, retaining and following up with collectors you already have. As we use to say back in the day "wisdom travels" so if you keep them happy they will show and tell others. Yet this is very time consuming in which you also have to prioritize in regards to family time. Of course the Earth and our seeds want as much time as possible. Luckily, 99% of my work is done at home with my seeds in the same room I create so it is not very hard at times. Yet you can only image what I go through to create with a 2 year old and a 4 year old in the same room.
In regards to how long it takes to make a painting, that varies. Some paintings that may seem some what elaborate and time consuming may have only taken an hour or two. On average though even one of my small paintings can take anywhere from two weeks to three months. It really depends on how detailed it is. I have a solo show coming up in the autumn of this year in Miami in which I have about four large pieces that will take me about two to three months to create. So I will be likely working on them right up to show time possibly.
Saladin: As a writer and musician, one of the things I often consider is family, and how finding a companion who is compatible with our career is important. What advice would you give a creative artist who is considering a companionship, and what are some of things they should look for when it comes to compatibility?
Ramel: Honestly I have to say that it has to be someone who is just as passionate as you about that particular craft or at least supportive. Meaning if you are a sculptor, you may get a lot more understanding and patience from a companion who happens to be a sculptor as well because you share the same passion. You can grow together, collaborate, learn from each other etc. If your companion does not happen to be an artist, it helps if he/she is just as passionate and supportive of your craft as you. Either way you have to find ways to support each other and be involved in the process, whether it is giving you the space and time to create or making calls, marketing, talking up your work and building rapport with potential collectors at exhibition. I think it is like just being a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths [Five Percenters] and having a relationship with a devote Christian or Muslim etc. Some find ways to make it work maybe but it will likely not work in the long run. You don't share the same passion in regards to your said way of life and it will likely clash unless you just find ways to ignore the differences altogether, and focus on the things you have in common, but who wants to do that? For me that is just settling; which does not work. I learned a long time ago that the first time you settle for less, is when you get less than what you settled for in the first place.
Saladin: Checking out some of your pieces, accessories, and etc. you create, I don't get the impression that you're doing "art for art's sake." Everything I've seen appears to have a cultural significance to it, whether it's a certain theme, the people you use, the patterns, or the vibrant colors. How important is culture to your work?
Ramel: This is true, I do not create for "art's sake." I don't create what I think people will like, I create what I have to say about Life. Culture is very important. When I started painting in 2008 I was also learning more about my multi-ethnic background that I was previously unaware of until after my mother passed away and then my older siblings/aunts started to reveal a lot of information about my mother and my real father that no one seemed to feel that I needed to know earlier in life... lol. Everything comes in time and on time I guess so I took a lot of the information in and started to research a lot of things for my self. As I researched more, the story started to spill out onto the canvas like hieroglyphics. My background is very diverse that span several continents and the one thing I found in common regardless of the said race or continent is art. There are cultures/people long gone and languages going extinct everyday, but the artwork and the stories they tell still survive.
I was heavily influenced by aboriginal art when I first started creating which also lead me to Northwest Indian art. My Earth is of Dominican decent so you see a lot of African and Taino symbolism in my work as well. You see Hip Hop, Asian, European, Native American influences and etc. My goal is to introduces people and educate them to the different forms of art and cultures that they may have never learned about had they not came to one of my exhibitions. You see, even though many seem to see the world through the lens of just Black and White, the world is so much more diverse if they would only take the time to see the world community for what it is, not just what they want it to be, or what someone told them it is or should be. One of the must unfortunate things that seems to happen when some get "knowledge of self" is that early on they are given questions and answers yet never question the questions or the answers and recite them with no understanding. That is why Allah gave us Supreme Mathematics and the Supreme Alphabet. He gave us the Knowledge and the Wisdom so that when we become a "student enrolled" we can approach the lessons from the degree of Understanding and not take things on face value; always questioning, always be critical. What understanding is there in knowing the price of everything yet the value of nothing.
Saladin: Indeed Lord. As an active member of the Five Percenters [Nation of Gods and Earths] for over 25 years, I see that you also create various pieces and accessories that bear our symbol, the Universal Flag. Because its been customary not to just give/sell our flag to any or every one, what method do you use to insure you're not giving/selling your pieces that bear our symbol, to someone who doesn't represent it?
Ramel: I think one thing I do that's different from others that may sell items that bear our Universal Flag is that I do very little to no marketing and it is normally spread word of mouth or photos via social networks. This is usually from Earth to Earth. The closest I may get to marketing is maybe telling an Earth to feel free to share with other Earths. I do it that way because for one they are very time consuming to create and it is for those that are in the know. There are sites out there now that do not ask any questions at all and you can just make a payment and your shirt or earrings are in the mail. Another thing I do is when I see a purchase come through, I send the individual a message advising them that I create the item they purchased only for members of the Nation of Gods and Earths. I let them know respectfully that I only sent them the message because I did not recognize their name or they did not have a righteous name. It would be impossible to keep up with calling every God or Earth that purchases an item to make sure they are on point. There is no way to be 100% sure that a person who may purchase one of my items truly represents our Nation. One thing that is for sure, is that the Universal Flag is large and clearly seen and everyone that wears our flag is subject to examination. Our peers are our greatest defense of those wearing something they do not truly represent. Unfortunately, and as we have learned over the years, just because a person can quote 120 lessons or dress a certain way, that does mean for certain that they truly represent our culture. It is up to us to examine all of those that we come across in our travels wearing our flag, even if we have known them for years.
Saladin: In closing, do you have an art shows coming up and where can people go to check out and purchase some of your work?
Ramel: Yes, I current have some of my work on display at the KROMA Gallery in Miami as part of a group show. I am in the process of planning and creating pieces for a solo exhibition that I will be having in the fall at the same gallery so I may do a few small events over the summer but that will be my main focus. You view some of my earring designs at Atabey Hand Creations on Etsy and you can check out some of my Paintings. I just started updating that site and should have everything up over the next couple of days. You will be able to see available works and links to my site for available prints. If anyone is interested in commission request for paintings or earring designs feel free to contact me at: email@example.com.
Saladin: Thanks again for taking this time to add-on, I appreciate what you've done and continue to do to make your contribution to this world, and look forward to all of the great things you have planned for our future. Peace Lord!
Ramel: Peace and Thank You as well. I am truly honored and grateful for the opportunity you have given me to share some of my story and creations. Your contributions to this world and this mighty Nation is very inspiring and I look forward to following more of your work in the future. Peace!