Alaye Jesu

Alaye Jesu digital painting


Digital painting in Adobe Photoshop

The year 2020 saw a lot of events which brought racial inequalities and the struggle for black identity to the forefront of the global awareness. This seemed to be the perfect time to realize an idea I had been nursing for a while: a new and reimagined portrait of Jesus which would be more aligned with Black identity and African traditions.

“Alaye” is a Yoruba term for “Lord” or “Master”, and is commonly used as a title of respect in Nigerian street slang. In this portrait, Jesus wears traditional Yoruba attire and beads. His multicoloured clothing is reminiscent of Joseph’s coat of many colours, and suggests a bit of a lighter, fun-loving side to his personality (in contrast with the overly serious portraits of Jesus that seem to dominate organized religion today).

He adopts the popular “Sacred Heart” pose but here it is rendered in a more casual way – he seems to be acknowledging your greeting in passing. He is a celebrity and wears all the titles and honours, but he is not full of himself.

He wears traditional coral beads and his appearance is suggestive of the nature wisdom, occult power and spiritual heritage of the babalawos.