The House of Yusuf | Skillshare Projects



The House of Yusuf

I started off trying to figure out the shape of the crest, all I knew was that it had to be three sided in some form (three Yusuf children that grandpa and granny had, three sides to the maple leaf for Canada, where one uncle's family lives and three sides to the shamrock for Ireland where my other uncle's family used to live), and flanked by coconut palms.

Within the crest, key aspects of the family's identity featured prominently (explained below). Once this was set, I played around with colour, having a basic idea of where I wanted to go because of the story.


The house of Yusuf begins with O.S. Yusuf, our dear never-known-to-us granddad, who was born into a wealthy landholding family in the village of Vaipur in Kerala. Not content to live the agrarian life, the legend goes that the young Yusuf vanished one day with his meagre savings and made his way to Bombay, city of dreams. Those were the days of steel travelling trunks, no backpacks for young Yusuf. This journey was key to making the Yusuf’s who we are today and the trunk, and the left behind hoe on the crest pay tribute.

Also fittingly, the crest features a silhouette of Victoria terminus, whose tower probably loomed over the young runaway’s first steps in his new city. (This would also be the city where he would bring his young bride and make their first home.)

The legend is a bit murky after this, but we know he taught himself English and Hindi confidently enough to speak publicly in either language (along with his native Malayalam). Yusuf is written in cursive script at the top of the crest as a nod to his beautiful handwriting - something the kids have been careful to emulate since.

He held a respectable post at Caltex, a big deal for an Indian in those days (in mid-twentieth century India, most such jobs were held by white men). He was betrothed to and married our dear mamma (nanny, granny) - Jameela, in 1950. She was no slouch herself. It was almost unthinkable in those days that a woman could be a college graduate, coming from a Kerala Muslim family (she majored in Chemistry). Together these two set the bar high for clan Yusuf - there was to be no choice but for all future Yusuf’s to attend college in the very least. The 3 children they had together, spent happy days growing up in the shadow of Cochin Refineries Ltd, another large company back in Kerala, where Pappa (as granny fondly remembers him) held a high post. The children attended the Refineries School, the crest of which features the motto : “That they may be refined”. A fitting reference to the role refineries have played in the life of clan Yusuf.

Tragically, Pappa (as granny refers to him) was taken from granny (and the family) by a sudden heart attack. Jameela dug in, stayed strong and got the family through the rough times. She made sure her children went to college and settled well. This has since been a feature of the Yusuf women - they have been the bedrock on which their husbands sought to emulate Pappa and become self-made men. The colour green is a testament to these unsung female heroes (green is the colour of fertility and growth and nururing). The golden yellow represents the complementary legacy of striving and achievement that Pappa left us with. This has spread the third generation of Yusuf’s far and wide across the globe. Granny has remained in Kerala (home to the Yusuf clan wherever they may roam in the world) since - referenced by the coconut palms that frame the crest, as well as the “house of” rendered in Malayalam script, over the cursive “Yusuf”. This is also a jab at the current generation of Yusuf’s who can read and write but a nominal amount of our mother tongue.

And finally the ”Insha Allah” (If God Wills) is a nod to our Muslim identity - this is important since prayer is something my mother and granny both turn to for strength.


Thanks Aaron, I love the simplicity and no nonsense, stripped down approach this class took to making a crest - something I've been trying and trying to bring to my work.



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