Creative Direction/Illustration


Blog of the ever learning artist- R. Lateef


Years ago, I remember reading about the life of an African samurai--which, as you might imagine--blew my mind. The concept was a fusion of ideas that I love: samurai, and Japanese history-and a strong black male warrior character. The fusion of the two were simply too great--and I wanted to learn more.

A buddy of mine at the time was working in Japan and was soon to return to the states. Before arriving back, I asked if he could help me locate a book, "Kurosuke" (1968), which told the story of Yasuke, the African Samurai.  Thanks to his hard work and searching, he bought the book for me, and its been a part of my collection. The illustrations tell a story, that like most things involving black folk in the past, is a tale of "otherness" (Upon finding Yasuke, he was washed as his dark skin was a new sight to the townspeople...clearly nothing was cleaned off-and the illustrations themselves are fairly dated (and somewhat offensive) in his portrayal) and also a tale of strength and heroism as well. I'm glad to have it.

くろ助 (Kurosuke) Yoshio Kurusu, 1968

くろ助 (Kurosuke) Yoshio Kurusu, 1968


I had planned this year to do a lot of cool things with the character in personal art, and I was presented an opportunity to create a light hearted and fun project that I thought would be a good venue to portray one version of this character. If you're a Facebook user, please check out #facebookstickers and use the pack! It was really fun making a lighthearted version of the character that was fun and accessible, but still maintains an edge, is modern, and has some charm and personality. (And is missing an eye--because thats tough, right!?)

Look forward to a lot of Yasuke in illustrations as well this year, I anticipate bringing this character to life in many ways. (Annnnnnd I thought about this LONG before the movie was announced...hopefully it'll be good!) 

Thanks for reading, and if you wouldn't mind, support the sticker pack! 

Link to the Facebook Stickers Pack:

Some info on Yasuke: and