I grew up in the 80s. Boom boxes, cassettes, walkmans – anything analog – is nostalgia to me. When I was brainstorming ideas for my next art piece, I knew I wanted to capture this. I stumbled across a picture of the ‘Super Jumbo’ boombox. It was instant – I had to incorporate it into a piece! Finding the picture also lead me to discover the movie ‘Do the Right Thing’ in which one of the characters carries around the boombox.
‘Do the Right Thing’ (1989) is a comedy-drama film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee. Wikipedia puts it as “a Brooklyn neighborhood’s simmering racial tension between its African-American residents and the Italian-American owners of a local pizzeria, culminating in tragedy and violence on a hot summer day.” I highly recommend seeing the movie so I won’t give any spoilers here. But I will say that the character, Radio Raheem, is significant.
In the movie, his boombox blasts “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy. What other songs might play from Raheem’s boombox – then and now? For fun, I put together a 32-song playlist. One song for each cassette tape in the border of the piece.
Snakes and Ladders is a worldwide classic board game originating in ancient India as Moksha Patam.
It was brought to the UK in 1890s as Kismet. The game is played by rolling a die and making your way from the bottom left of the board to the upper left, being helped by climbing ladders and hindered by falling down snakes.
The historic versions of the game had roots in morality lessons for children – a player’s progression represents a life’s journey which is complicated by virtues (ladders) and vices (snakes). A more modern version, Chutes and Ladders was published in the United States by Milton Bradley in 1943.
The ancient Indian version of Moksha Patam was associated with traditional Hindu philosophy, where karma (destiny) and kama (desire) are contrasted. Moksha Patam emphasized destiny, where other popular games such as Pachisi (known in English as Parcheesi) focused on life as a mixture of skill (free will) and luck. This ancient version – and the ones introduced to Victoria England in the late 19th century were all covered in symbolic images. Ladders represented virtues such as generosity, faith, and humility. Snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft.
Interestingly, the ancient Indian version of the game had less ladders than snakes as a reminder that a path of good is more difficult than a path of sins. The English counterpart had equal numbers of each.
The widely known edition by Milton Bradley replaced snakes with chutes and was rebranded as Chutes and Ladders. This edition replaced a die with a spinner. The artwork shows children doing good deeds at the bottom of ladders and receiving a reward at the top of a ladder. Conversely, the artwork shows children doing mischievous behavior at the top of a chute and receiving consequences at the bottom of a chute.
Here we are in the 2020s. 100 years since the ‘Roaring 20s’. Will this decade see a similar epic rise and tragic fall scenario? That was my inspiration for this art piece. Adapting the Chutes and Ladders board game to our current-day quest for success, while we battle…all that we have to battle. Further inspiration includes watching some 1920’s documentaries and The Great Gatsby movie.
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