Saara Obele’s (b. 1984) exhibition opens a door to the fascinating world of tarot cards. Tarot – The Knowledge Within Us is based on a deck of cards and a guidebook illustrated by Obele and written by Noora Al-Ani and Sophia Wekesa (Like 2022). On display are all 78 Tarot cards, watercolor and gouache paintings inspired by them, and a Three of Swords tapestry.
The exhibition introduces viewers to Tarot symbolism and invites them to reflect on the choices an illustrator makes when depicting human figures. It is important that illustrations break norms and represent people of all ages, sizes, physical abilities, skin colors, genders and sexualities. According to Obele, the world of Tarot goes deep into the heart of the human experience, and the cards are at their best as guides to dealing with one’s own emotions. However, in order to make the Tarot as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, the centuries-old images needed to be modernized. In Obele’s illustrations, the white men on thrones of traditional Tarot imagery have given way to new characters.
Obele has also explored the subject in their recent thesis for the Master’s Programme in Art and Media at Aalto University titled Kuka istuu valtaistuimella ‒ Intersektionaalinen feminismi tarot-kuvitustaiteessa (Who Sits on the Throne – Intersectional Feminism in Tarot Illustrations).