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Nijel Binns is a man of many talents. Entrepreneur, stuntman, motion picture fight coordinator/choreographer, martial arts instructor, and author. Binns speaks Cantonese, Russian, and he was born in England. He is a true Renaissance man. All of those talents keep Binns very busy, but he has still found time to become a well-known sculpture, which may be his best talent.
Binns came to the United States in the 1960s, when his family settled in New Jersey. He attended the prestigious Seton Hall, and entered the Air Force afterwards. After leaving the Air Force in 1980, Binns started his movie career when he appeared as a stuntman in Jackie Chan's first American movie, "The Big Brawl."
Even with a film career, Binns knew that art was where he could leave his most impressionable mark.
"My art career started to outtake my acting and film career, so I just stuck with that," Binns said.
Binns, simply known as "Nijel BPG", began his career as an artist at the age of 14, when he place first in an art contest in Newark, New Jersey.
Binns is a researcher and historian of African history, and he got his big break as an artist in 1990 when he was commissioned to do the Michael Jackson Top Selling Artist of the Decade Award bronze sculpture.
That same year Binns was commissioned by Motown to create the Maasai Princess for Stevie Wonder's 40th birthday, and it was featured in Wonder's video Keep Our Love Alive, which was a tribute to Nelson Mandela. It is an extremely limited edition. All of the proceeds from the sale of that piece will benefit women and children in Kenya.
Binns largest commission to date is the Mother of Humanity monument, which is a 16-foot tall monument to peace and uplifting of women. The monument is located in Watts at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC). There are seven identical models. The others are placed in Africa, Australia, Brazil, China, India, and Spain.
Binns has created his own version of Mount Rushmore, which he calls Freedom Mountain. The painting and sculpture has depictions of Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, and Nelson Mandela. One question that Binns is always asked is why he didn't include Martin Luther King Jr.
"Everyone asks me about that," Binns said with a laugh. "At the time there were a lot of licensing concerns with his image. Rather then tread on those waters I said lets just avoid that. But there is a Freedom Mountain 2 coming along, and it will of course include Martin Luther King as well as our current President Barack Obama."
Binns will begin to teach basic sculpting twice a week beginning next month. He also teaches martial arts from his studio, which is north of USC.
For information about his classes, or to purchase his artwork, visit his website at www.nijart.com.