Black Power Tarot
King Khan & Michael Eaton
January 14th - March 19th
reception: Saturday, January 14th, 5-8pm
artist talk: February 16th
Verge Center for the Arts is proud to present THE BLACK POWER TAROT exhibition and related programs in Sacramento. Birthed from a series of dreams that came to the vastly creative musician, artist and writer King Khan (Arish Ahmad Khan), the Black Power Tarot arose from personal interest in reading and interpreting the cards during the intensive experience of scoring the documentary film The Invaders. Khan collaborated with Chilean-French filmmaker and spiritual guru Alejandro Jodorowsky and Belfast-based designer Michael Eaton to create the deck featuring likenesses of 26 African American archetypes. Eaton, artist for the Game of Thrones television series, worked with Philippe Camoin, the direct heir of the last of Tarot de Marseille printers in Marseille, France to reconstruct a new version of the deck based on the original Tarot de Marseille from the 1760s. Verge is delighted to bring this work to Sacramento and will be hosting a screening of The Invaders on February 16th, followed by a Q&A with Khan and John B Smith, one of the original organizers of The Invaders.
About the Project – From King Khan: The Major Arcana of the tarot is numbered to show the journey and transformation of the fool on an illuminated path to fully understand the world. Each card is a step closer in this journey. The tarot is a language to understand the present, when you learn it you can help yourself and others realize the illuminated path. Fortune telling has nothing to do with this and is considered to be a form of trickery.
I was invited to the house of Alejandro Jodorowsky , my spiritual guru, where he gave me my first deck of the tarot de marseilles. His first lesson to me was that for the purposes that we use tarot, it is enough to use only the major arcana. The message we are searching for is clearer to comprehend and easier to follow. Jodo also taught me how most decks after the tarot de marseilles were just artistic impressions of this very important deck and most did not adhere to the sacred geometry of the original cards. This was a very important factor when I began designing the Black Power Tarot. I made sure that the sacred geometry was fully respected because I wanted to be able to use this deck exactly like the tarot de Marseilles.
The task in choosing the right African American people for the cards had to be done “without my ego”. Jodo was adamant about me taking my ego out of the cards, in fact when he didn’t recognize Sister Rosetta Tharpe and assumed that it was me putting myself in the deck he said “you can’t put yourself in the cards!” Finally I explained to him that it wasn’t me and told him why I put Sister Rosetta Tharpe on the world card. After I explained it he understood and told me to write out what I had told him and include that with the deck. He also loved the name “The Black Power Tarot” and gave me the blessing I had waited all my life to receive.
WHAT INSPIRED THE BLACK POWER TAROT?
During the past few years I began working on a film score for a Documentary about a black power group from Memphis called “the Invaders”. For almost two years I was immersed in doing this soundtrack and working hand in hand with the founder of the Invaders, John B. Smith and the film’s director Prichard T. Smith… Then I had a dream, a premonition.
In my dream was Jodo and he asked me to show him “a card that is weird” – I immediately reached in my pocket and pulled out a card which we both stared at and agreed was very weird….
When I awoke from this dream I had the vision to make “The Black Power Tarot”. I wanted to choose the right African American people to fit into the archetypes of the major arcana. The reason being that in my eyes the people I chose for this were all ones who were able to follow the path of enlightenment and illumination in their lifetimes despite living in a time where racism and prejudice was so strong, deep and was a constant hurdle. I wanted to take these chosen folk and bring them into a mythos and transform them into the sacred tarot. The challenge then was to find the right artist for this…. like a miracle he contacted me right when I needed him, completely out of the blue. Michael Eaton, from Belfast, who previously worked mostly in film and television, was the one who painted all the flags and maps for the game of thrones. I asked him to put the chosen people into the cards and to base it all around the Tarot de Marseilles and filled him up with the black power tarot vision.
Michael was asked to carefully respect the sacred geometry of each card, right down to facial expressions and the way the eyes were looking, so that the black power tarot could also be used the same way.
The next step was getting the approval of Jodo, so I presented him with each drawing and asked him to sign off on each card. In the first round, he immediately congratulated us, he approved 15 out of 22 of the cards. The remaining 7 were corrected until they also received the stamp of his approval.
The concept of Black Power is about giving “All power to all the people”. I wanted to blend this into the idea that these cards give anyone who wishes to learn this language the power to control their own destiny and follow a path of illumination and enlightenment. These cards are a mirror of the soul as much as they are always simply representing the truth. Often the truth is what is feared the most, but if you let the tarot show you the way you will find an ancient wisdom that was passed on for centuries and that still remains strong and wise.
When studying the tarot you must understand that chance and synchronicity exist and are connected. If you set your spirit to do something it can achieve whatever you want it to. If you try hard enough you can seek what Jodo calls “The Dance of Reality” and everything you set your mind on accomplishing suddenly falls into perfect order and does a jig right in front of your eyes.