2019 marks a very special year for OUR ROOTS cartoonist Tayo Fatunla.
This year marks 30 years since his column, highlighting important events and people in black history first appeared in The Voice.
The column has been syndicated in publications in the United States and Africa winning an international audience in the process.
Born in Wimbledon, south London, Fatunla was educated in Nigeria.
His first cartoon appeared in the Nigerian children’s magazine Apollo while he was seventeen years old.
As a teenager he continued to work for well-known Nigerian newspapers and magazines such as Punch, Concord, Guardian and The Daily Times.
In the early 1980s he was the first African graduate of the prestigious Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in New Jersey.
OUR ROOTS was originally called AFRICAN SKETCHBOOK as a Kubert end of year project.
Acclaimed comic book artist Jerry Robinson, best known as the co-creator of DC Comics’ Robin and The Joker characters took an interest in Fatunla’s work and helped him secure a syndication deal in America, leading to publication in newspapers such as New York’s Amsterdam News.
In 1989, then Voice editor Steve Pope got in touch with Fatunla and shortly afterwards the cartoonist began his long association with the newspaper.
Fatunla said: “I remember sitting down with Steve Pope to discuss how to run the feature in the weekly paper.
“The initial challenge I had was to research about black history makers from the UK and from all works of life internationally. My idea was not to focus on one particular black race but all black races in the diaspora. It worked and the interest in OUR ROOTS grew bigger and bigger.”
Fatunla continued: “Through years of drawings, the ignorant and the less informed have been educated, children have got to know achievers, heroes and heroines, sung and unsung, people, places and things in Africa, The Caribbean, New Zealand, Australia, South America, the US, Europe and many more black role models and black people in the diaspora.
“I have done OUR ROOTS presentations in schools, libraries, Museums and Universities internationally. I was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Philadelphia US. Many thanks to schools and their teachers who have invited me and used OUR ROOTS to educate in their schools and have blessed the young, gifted and talented with the knowledge of drawing. Black History Matters.”