Written by Ayah Chakmakchi

There comes a time in many people’s lives where they face an injustice. For some, these injustices take the form of small, everyday things, but for others they take the form of large and life changing events. For centuries artists have taken these social and political injustices and turned them into art. They use their platform as a way to make a difference in their world; feeding off of subjects that they feel need to be addressed. By actively responding to these issues they are able to spread their voice and opinion to wider audiences. Two of these artists are Marjane Satrapi and Keith Haring. Through illustrations and the use of  symbols and artistic elements they both created a powerful message about the social justice issues in their lives.

Marjane Satrapi's  autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis narrates the social justice issues she has faced in her life ranging from freedom of speech to gender roles in modern islamic society. She uses these life experiences and art elements to create a strong social and political message. In the first chapter of her graphic novel  Satrapi brings to light the social justice issue of the role of religion in politics. While talking about the political climate of Iran in 1980 she uses the art element of value to create a message about religion, as seen in this image.


(Persepolis, 5)

She uses darker value shades to represent the citizens who wish for an islamic Iran, and the lighter value shades to represent the citizens who see religion as a  deterrent for freedom. Often times,  people use the color black as a  symbol for evil, darkness, corruption, and the co

lor white as a symbol for purity and righteousness.  Satrapi used the feelings that these colors elicited to say that often times religion can emerge as corrupt and evil. When all these elements came together she was able to take an injustice from her childhood to create a powerful message using art.

Keith Haring is a political activist and artist who responded to New York street culture of the 80’s through political and social activism.  His work pays tribute to many social justices issues such as media consumption and race. In 1988 he began to create  pieces that dealt with the topic of american capitalism. Harring uses the symbols and colors in this drawing to bring forth a message about capitalism in this image.

7-1.635-Keith-Haring 0

(The Political Line)

In the image, viewers eyes dart first to the large and ever present pig who takes over the entire space. The larger space used by the pig represents the great control and power that capitalism holds over all of us. The pig is then using his power to eat  humans, who are drawn in red paint. This final touch literally shows how capitalism will cause the destruction of the human race. Keith Haring used the symbols in his work to create a message about the harm of capitalism.  

Instead of watching these injustices go by unanswered both of these artists created powerful images like the ones you have just seen. They let their voice be heard and changed millions of peoples lives because of it. More than anything, their work proves that for any change to happen there needs to be people ready and willing to take action.