ACTING OUT LIFE! – ART FOR WHAT SAKE?
In 2001, a brand new TV show took nations by storm. Every bootlegger sold DVD copies of this show and in some parts of town, homes with a DVD player would see a squad of teenagers gathered in their numbers; sweltering heat or drenching rain, pressed together, just to watch said show all day.
Pop culture aficionados will remember the common reference to any bold courageous man, as the unconventional cutthroat daredevil good guy, Jack Bauer. I know people who sat before the television for 24 hours *hint* nonstop, not willing to pause any hour of a season of the blockbuster TV show.
24 had all the elements– a different style of shooting/editing, a good guy notorious for breaking the rules for a good cause, a seemingly achievable deadline and a black president -Gbam! Then a female president- Ghen Ghen!!
That was inconceivable to many of us, but we believed it and so we embraced it and soon enough, it became a reality.
If we go by the US presidential polls, the world will see the “Ahmrika” get her fist female president in a few months.
But we saw it first on TV.We also grew up seeing a beautiful America (not the continent!) on television and I know people who were traumatized on arriving to the great US only to find dirty, hungry, homeless people. What happened to the pristine, polished and perfect people? Answer: they’re not everywhere.
The other day my producer friend, Lydia and I were in story conference for a project we’re working on and she had created a character; a 27-year-old governor. I was the first to insist, “that’s not believable”. Her argument was “I want to show people and help them believe it is possible.” Hopefully soon we will come to see young people in government as normal. After-all, Dubai’s minister for youth is 22. They also have a ministry for Happiness, another ministry for Tolerance and wait for it… ministry for the Future!! Phew!
Arts and culture are valuable to any society; especially ours… and we all know how much shaping this country and her citizens need!
Imagine Nigeria without a Freedom Park, a Bogobiri, a Taruwa, a Terra Kulture, a CCA Lagos, a Rele Gallery or a Muson Centre! We would be stripped of pleasure essential for emotional and social well-being, essential to education and a well-rounded life in general. Who wants to live a stagnant life of work, home, church, dentist, doctor, mechanic and back to one?
Imagine life without music, literature and art, without galleries, museums, libraries and theatres… this is where I ask you all when last you saw a play. (Yeah, I’m giving you the side eye.)
In fact, since Theatre at Terra has been renovating, the only available spaces are the Muson Centre (which is not for the masses in our current “B’reconomy”) and alternative spaces like Freedom Park and others… This is where I insist we give three “gbosas” for Nigerian creatives overcoming obstacles through creativity! Gbosa! Gbosa!! GBOSA!!! Having said that, I think it is important to use the arts and media for positive influence in society.
I would liken art to a double-edged sword – Art for the sake of Art, and Art for Social reconstruction.
One says, follow your heart, bask in the process and let it guide you to create; from something or nothing, from the abstract or from an experience. Tell the story you want to tell, however you want and let it be in the space. Great!
The other asks, to what end? What is the point? What conversations will this creation provoke? Then they proceed to let it guide the process.
Now, while I believe there is room for both “genres” (yeah, genres)… to co-exist, I also believe that everything is agenda driven. Call me conspiratorial, paranoid even… Everything has a purpose and/or agenda, whether we believe it or not, whether we are aligned with an agenda or not.
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Otherwise, what are we really doing?
My personal opinion is that many artists do arts solely for the sake of arts, forgetting the role of arts and culture as a strategic national resource. Now, I am not saying lock yourself in a box before creating, I am advocating self-critique of the message one’s art is sending.
In the digital world, everything remains in cyberspace… how about we create something that can impact people in this generation and the next, if we’re all still here.
If we want a Nigeria where people can leave their homes without locking the front door, then we have to get people to believe that it is possible in the first place; we have to show them. Influence!
Obviously, it goes beyond simple things like my wanting to see people, grown adults who should know better but unfortunately are reproducing after their own kind, stay in the correct lane and not drive one-way, maintain the queue at the tollgate or supermarket, or even use their *indicator when driving for goodness sake! [Phew! Rant done].
The way to achieve that, as a creative person is to use the tools available to me. The most powerful tool of influence I have is my voice, it is storytelling; film, television, theatre, radio…
Every creative person has his/her tool. What’s yours?
Written by Omoye Uzamere (Performer, Creative Nut, Foodie!)