Afro Supa Hero in life and death
Jon Daniel was an award-winning creative director whose range of work – from ad campaigns, to magazine columns and exhibition curation – led to accolades and notoriety across London and further afield.
Born in London in 1966 and a long-term resident of Milkwood Road in Herne Hill, his mother, Sheila, came from Grenada and worked as a district nurse and his father, Horace, came from Barbados and worked for London Transport before moving into the civil service. Daniel was a hugely talented artist and a passionate supporter of local community groups.
He channelled what he called his:
“over-active mind and imagination,”
into a graphic design course, working for 25 years as an art director for many of London’s leading ad agencies.
The award-winning designer and graphic artist of Afro Supa Hero, was one of the most prominent black creatives of his generation and a pivotal player in capturing the essence of the Black British struggle and empowerment through his art.
He passed away far too soon at just 51 years of age of Pneumonia in 2017.
Jon Daniel obituary
By his friend Stuart Husbands written for The Guardian Newspaper 31st Pctober 2017
My friend Jon Daniel, who has died of pneumonia aged 51, was an award-winning creative director whose range of work – from ad campaigns, to efforts to raise black consciousness, to magazine columns, to exhibition curation – was as various as the man himself. Whether he was spearheading an attempt to get the Royal Mail to take up his designs for a set of stamps highlighting the black contribution to Britain, or gleefully detailing his latest celebrity sighting at Herne Hill station, he did it with a winning and infectious enthusiasm.
Jon was born in London, the child of West Indian immigrants. His mother, Sheila, came from Grenada and worked as a district nurse; his father, Horace, came from Barbados and worked for London Transport before moving into the civil service. The family – he had two brothers, Damian and Tony – lived in East Sheen, and while Jon’s afro was an object of intense fascination at school, he didn’t recall any overt racism:
“just a sense of difference”.
He steeped himself in the West Indian culture of his extended family and the African-American move from the civil rights era into 70s funk. His older brother, Tony, introduced him to bands such as the Ohio Players, Brass Construction, Cameo and Slave; he devoured the biographies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. He channelled what he called his “over-active mind and imagination” into a graphic design course, working for 25 years as an art director for many of London’s leading ad agencies.
In 1993 he married Jane Cullen, a fellow art director; his assiduous and prolonged wooing of her remains legendary among the couple’s many friends. Jon was a devoted husband and father to their two sons, Noah and Gil.
Latterly, Jon followed one of the key precepts of his idol (and friend) George Clinton – “If you ain’t gonna get it on, take your dead ass home” – in being an advocate for the past achievements and current aspirations of the Black diaspora and their second- and third-generation descendants. He worked on campaigns and branding for Black History Month and Operation Black Vote; he collaborated with Ms Dynamite, Soul II Soul and the Black Cultural Archives; and he championed previous creative trailblazers in 4 Corners, his regular column for Design Week.
His show Post-Colonial: Stamps from the African Diaspora, was hosted at the London store of Stanley Gibbons, the global stamp emporium, in 2011. Then there was Afro Supa Hero, Jon’s exhibition based on his personal collection of black action figures and comic books. It had started with the acquisition of a Malcolm X doll in the mid-90s; by 2013, when the collection went on show at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, it encompassed everything from Harriet Tubman and Meteor Man action figures to Black Goliath comics, Harlem Globetrotters board games and Jon’s Afro Supa Star-branded mugs.
Whether watching the crowds delighting in the Afro Supa Hero exhibits on the show’s opening night, or attending one of his regular, jam-packed birthday parties at the White Lion in Streatham, or wolfing down rice and peas alongside dub steppers and design luminaries, Jon’s own superpower was immediately apparent. It lay in his ability to bring people together, no matter their background or station, and infuse them with his unquenchable generosity of spirit.
More for Jon Daniels
REPEATING ISLANDS: News and commentary on Caribbean culture, literature, and the arts – Rembering Jon Daniel: 1966-2017
Operation Black Vote (OBV) articles. including Jon Daniel, Black politics and me: Jon and his then creative partner Trevor Robinson in advertising said they’d provide £250k marketing nous for OBV for free and sponsorship of £25k. They walked into the OBV office and said, “This is our gig. This is a Black project and right now it will be best executed by Black creatives who can feel what you feel and help translate that into a dynamic message and the very best results.”
Design Week: Remembering Jon Daniel – a series of some of Daniels Best contributions