Collections

JPMorgan logo
Street to Studio: The Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Presented by JPMorganChase.
Heritage
"I'd say my mother gave me all the primary things. The art came from her." — Jean-Michel Basquiat

This painting has had at least three different titles at different times: El Gran Espectáculo and History of Black People as well as the current name, The Nile. How is each name appropriate in its own way? What would you choose to call this painting?

What does this painting say about Basquiat's personal heritage as a black, male, Caribbean, Brooklyn-born, Spanish-speaking artist? How does The Nile make you think about your own heritage?

Image of The Nile
Enlarge Painting

The "What Do You Think" forum is no longer accepting new comments. You are welcome to browse previous forum postings but cannot post a new message.

Forum page:      1  2  3  4  5  6  7  >>

Matthew from Brooklyn, on the Web
Basquiat also shows his carribean heritage in the Nile. In the piece, the word 'mujer' meaning 'mother' appears. Also the phrase 'el gran espectaculo' appears, meaning 'the grand spectacle." I believe that by putting these words into his piece he was expressing his spanish heritage. As a child, Basquiat learned spanish from his mother, so perhaps that is why 'mujer' appears, quietly saluting his mother. I also believe that he adds the words 'the grand spectacle' across time.
Matthew from Brooklyn, on the Web
I believe that this painting is a clear expression of Basquiat's African American heritage. He must have been very proud to have created such a great collage of images. In the piece we see Egyptian eyes and African heads, the word "sickle" several times to the plight of sickle cell anemia: the terrible disease that causes a persons red blood cells to be 'sickle' shaped, making it harder for the body to carry oxygen.
Raul from Los Angeles, on the Web
I would call it "El Gran Espectaculo" instead of "The Nile" because I feel the title also refers to the spectacle that was the 80's art world in New York. With the entire world watching, Basquiat could bring attention to the underdog groups to which he belonged, the graffiti writers, the newly arrived immigrants, the slave heritage of the African American&the black art star in the lily white art world of the time. I feel this is a very deliberate attempt by the artist to confront the viewer with his version of various events such as the grandeur of the ancient Egyptians, the shameful legacy of the American slave trade&the ignored art work of forgotten cultures(Nuba).
You Know What Time It is from Fort Lauderdal, on the Web
Ha, I think it's kind of funny. This painting called the Nile seems to express lots of things.

"El Gran Espectaculo", the grand spectacle. Events that we observe, events that we watch. Particularly the grand spactacle in the African Diaspora.

This painting is called the Nile which at one time was the source of economic and agricultural power in the Kemetian-Egyptian era. It was because of this river, that life was sustained and flourished in this area. He placed the woman at the top center of the painting, taking an apparently prominent place in his piece. This woman may represent the nile to the African Diaspora, which can represent the Mothers, Sisters and the daughters of the African diaspora, "Sustainers". I think that he is showing that the woman is the nile, the source of birth, life, etc.. She is naked in the picture and that makes her vulnerable. Which is something else entirely. The word NILE is written next to the woman and with it are other representations of African-Kemetian era symbols. There is a greek omega symbol to the right of the woman, yet this symbol predates the greek era, which is interesting. There seem to be many allusions to slavery. I may be wrong, but it seems that she is stradling a boat. The waves in the background make me believe that this is a boat. While a dark figure on the boat seems to be motioning some type of order. You find another representation of what appears to be a boat further down in this painting, with the same mysterious figure performing the same mysterious said action. This time though, the boat is flanked by a white horse and a sicke.
I am sure that Basquiat was aware of Sickle cell anemia in the African community, but I dont think that is what he meant by placing the sickle in this painting.
A sickle also can represent a reaping of harvest and in the context of a Grand Spectacle I am sure you can see where he is going with that. You will also notice what seems to be a white horse at the bottom right of the painting, The white horse is also a representation of reaping. At least in a biblical sense. If you have ever read the Bible, the lord returns to judge humanity while riding a white horse of truth or something like that.So both of these symbols, the white horse and the sickle seem to suggest some type of judgement or reaping. The white horse seems to represent a modern symbol of reaping and the sickle an ancient symbol of reaping. Who is supposed to be watching? Who is supposed to be observing? Well that's easy. There is the picture of the eye, there is the word amen and there is an Omega symbol(the end) So taking all of that into perspective you can kind of see where he is going with this. Ending, Reaping, Judging by the observer.
Above I made mention of slavery and of course you see the black man in the picture with a dog that appears to have the function of guarding the Pharoah or African man. The word slave is crossed out on the man and this is most likely Basquiat thowing off the perception of the African as a slave. The dog is supposed to be guarding the pharoah, but has a spider on him. Kind of like he couldn't do his job or something and that's why things are as they stand today. I wonder who or what the dog represents?

There is a lot more to this picture and Basquiat probably had a lot on his mind when he made. I am sure that there is alot that we are missing, since even the blotches in this painting do not appear random. I haven't even touched on hemlock statement at the bottom right of the picture, but since this is the first time I am actually seing Basquiat paintings, though I have heard of him, and my computer sucks and I cant see the whole image on my screen. I will reserve my speculation for later. Plus I could be just wrong.
Antonio from Spain, on the Web
?Donde puedo conseguir un poster del cuadro "Pegasus"
de Basquiat?. Gracias.
Sydney aka Diva from Brooklyn, on the Web
Each name is appropriate in its own way because it describes a personality of the painting with different words and cultures as well as languages. It uses words and symbols to express feelingsand emotions. Basquiat uses things from his culture as well as African culture. I would choose to call this painting Expressions of Cultural Diffusion. This painting says that Basquiat's personal heritage is important to him. He shows his Spanish heritage&his African heritage as well as what he sees in his environment. The Nile makes me think about my heritage because I am Spanish, African American and Brooklyn-born and raised and I relate to this painting because it represents my culture. His painting was influenced by his life experiences. For example when he got into a car accident at one point and his mother gave him Grays Anatomy, he studied the pictures and the pictures influenced his work from thence forward. In the painting he spoke on the illness sickle cell anemia and I think he might have taken his experience from being around people or maybe he himself may have the sickle cell trait and it may have affected him somehow.
Sydney aka Diva from Brooklyn, on the Web
Antonio
Vamos a la museo una tienda de regalo. Tu le gusta del cuadro "Pegasus" de Basquiat?
nandi from brooklyn, on the Web
I believe the title is relating to the art because it stress on his heritage, and slavery. The painting shows spanish writing which is shows his heritage. Then, "The Nile" represent slavery.

Basquait personal heritage was shown all through his painting. The spanish represent the spanish in him. The slavery show the black male in him.The Nile represent where my people orgrinated. The Nile represent where all of slavery took place
Amia from New York , on the Web
I believe that the tiltle "THE NILE" is a good title for the painting. I say this because the river " The Nile" represents more than one thing and more than one culture. I think that what Basquiat was trying to show. That he respects every part of his heritage. African American side his Hatiana side and so on. He also shows a dog guarding the Pahrah instead of Pahroh. Which I think shows that he has a diffrent look on things, even thou he shows admeration for his African side.
Kevin from Brooklyn, on the Web
I feel that every title that this piece of art ever had exspresses it pretty well. Each title shows a diffrent aspect of his heritage without some of these names there wouldn't be a very good understanding of this picture as a whole. He shows hir Puerto Rican heritage by placing words in his art such as espectaculo, mujer, and esclavo. He also shows his African heritage by putting many references to the great ancient African civilizations Egypt and Sudan. Every title is a good title from The Nile to the history of Black people.