Willie Little, Artist and Storyteller


The series seeks to expose the polemic nature of racial stereotypes found in the Cream of Wheat advertisements from the early 20th Century. It specifically reclaims popular images featuring “Rastus” (the cream of wheat man). He is almost the male counterpart of Aunt Jemima, represented in American Southern images as the idealized, dignified black chef. Charming, agreeable in a “southern way”, Rastus is however a blatant and far more complex symbol of racism and subservience in America.  As millions were fed loving spoonfuls of Cream of Wheat, many of its ads reinforced racial stereotypes and perpetuated a sense of entitlement to the American majority.

In this series the juxtaposition of found objects with cream of wheat images suggest irony. Implied messages in ad copy begin to possess an allegorical subtext. The goal is to emancipate Rastus through the work and re-present him as a paradoxical icon of fragility, strength and merit.

A portion of this series was exhibited at the 2004 International Assemblage Exhibition in Berlin, Germany at Gallery 24 in September.  The juried show included over 250 assemblage pieces from 65 artists from 37 countries. “Raised on Cream of Wheat” won a third place prize in the juried show.

The Blocks Tell the Story, 2005, 15x8.5x2