I See the Promised Land by Arthur Flowers & Manu Chitrakar: a review


Arthur Flowers is a novelist, essayist, and performance poet. A native of Memphis Tennessee, he is the author of novels, Another Good Loving Blues and De Mojo Blues; a children’s book, Cleveland Lee’s Beale Street Band, and a memoir/manifesto, Mojo Rising: Confessions of a 21st Century Conjureman. He has published shorts and articles and is a bluesbased performance poet. He is a founding member/director of New Renaissance Writers Guild, NYC, The Griot Shop, Memphis, and the Pan African Literary Forum. He has been Executive Director of the Harlem Writers Guild. He has been the recipient of NEA and NYSFA awards in fiction and nonfiction.

Manu Chitrakar lives and works in Naya Village in Bengal, India. A Patua scroll artist who sings and paints, he is part of a living art and performance tradition that is as open to contemporary news stories and politics as it is to ancient legend and myth.

These men are both storytellers – Arthur Flowers a modern-day griot uses his voice to tell stories, recite poems and oral histories; Manu Chitrakar is a scroll artist and tells stories through his art.

Together they have created not just a graphic novel about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. but a truly beautiful work of art, combining the best of their talents! The illustrations throughout the book are vivid and beautiful and may come as a bit of a shock to those that come to the book expecting a manga or western style of illustration. Arthur Flowers’ words are meant to be spoken out loud, shared with an audience; I have watched him perform on Youtube and now whenever I read the book I hear his deep, musical voice filling my head telling me the story as I read.

I See the Promised Land is made to be looked at, the colours on the page are rich and vibrant; the words written as a story that are meant to be read out or sung.

The life story of Martin Luther King Jr. is one known to many, even if people are only aware of the broad strokes of what he accomplished, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott and his I Have a Dream speech to his assassination on the 4th April 1968. This book is a celebration, not just of his life but also of the art of story-telling from two different cultures that have been brought together and blended to to tell the story of a great (if flawed) man.

As Arthur Flowers said: “The Civil War may have delivered the blacks from slavery, but it was Martin Luther King delivered us from bondage!

The editorial notes contain explanations of American organisations as well as brief explanations about people and events of historical significance to MLk Jr.

There is also an essay on how this book came to be and an explanation about Patua art that may be of interest to artists and teachers.

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