Obsidian and the rare Haitian Comic Book
Updated: Apr 12
Museums like the Haitian American Museum of Chicago (HAMOC) are the reason The Obsidian Center exists. Our purpose is to make the historic and factual accounts of Black life in the United States accessible to the public. So it’s only fitting that I’d ask HAMOC if I could scan their comic book of Toussaint Louverture.
When I first visited HAMOC, I quickly took in the size of the space. This small museum lives on a quiet corner, far north from our Obsidian House, in Uptown, Chicago. The intimate museum has paintings full of color and a matching personality of HAMOC’s Founder. I wanted to scan the comic because I’m sure other attendees want to see the inside as well. So, I sent HAMOC an email.
Inside a glass enclosure holds an assortment of items representing Haiti. The one item that caught my attention was a comic book of Toussaint Louverture encased in plastic.
Scanning this comic exposed me to discussions that I never had to consider before. During the pandemic, I watched a documentary called Prism that explores the legacy and effects of the racism inherent in photographic technology, which was developed with white skin in mind. The main point of the documentary is that films do not properly light dark skin actors. The director even went as far as to call all cameras racist since the very first cameras were calibrated on white skin. It was entertaining watching the director search out sources that would validate her point. Yet she continuously met experts that argued the problem is a lack of awareness rather than the camera itself. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Scanning a comic is not the same as lighting for a filming. Though similarly, representation of hue shouldn’t be overlooked. The default automatic color cast removal feature within scanning software didn’t provide an accurate representation of skin tone. I don’t claim to be an expert on correct lighting but I knew the scan wasn’t right when the hue of Toussaint Louverture looked like my skin tone. At some point, making the pages brighter doesn’t mean a better scan.
The 33-page comic book took 4 hours to scan and I enjoyed every moment of it. Scanning at HAMOC for a few hours was a good change of pace from the work at Obsidian. I look forward to more projects like this.
Here’s more information for any institutions that want to reach out: