Mind-meanderings #4 – Bulldozing Art

I am sharing this Facebook post from a choreographer, artist and brilliant thinker friend from Nigeria. It was the passion behind his words that pulled me to do a quick google search about this New Artists Village space he speaks of. I understand why his fury flames.

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FYI – http://www.bellanaija.com/2016/01/artists-protest-as-government-demolishes-artists-village-at-national-arts-theatre/

“On Saturday, the Artists’ Village at the National Arts Theatre was demolished based on orders from the Director of the National Arts Theatre.

The government’s position is that the Village had become a hive for illegal and illicit activities. The artists on the other side dispute that accusation and claim the government has less than pure motives for their actions including possible commercial use of the space versus the current free art space.”

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Collectives of artists create homes that become their sanctuaries, their laboratories, sacred spaces of communing and creating, hubs for innovative and dextrous think-tanking for new worlds through art, pathways of resistance and artistsic bootcamps to decolonise of minds and heal societies are conjured in those homes. The bricks and mortar of these homes hoard memories and songs for the future. They can be gentles spaces. Spaces for fury and tough love when they hold up mirrors to those who oppress the already oppressed in the name of free thought, freedom of expression. Artists are not (and/or should not be) afraid to chastise and be chastised if the integrity of their work has dubiously become a manipulative tool for oppressive, repressive or stagnating status quos. It is rigorous critique that keeps things fresh: let’s keeps it moving. But ultimately, spaces found and nurtured by artists are formidable in their power to inspire and it is those powerful fountain well-springs of inspiration that frighten the status quo.

FYI – http://newtelegraphonline.com/nigerians-still-military-mentality-says-soyinka/

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday condemned the demolition last Saturday of structures in Artistes’ Village at the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), National Theatre annex, Iganmu, saying that there is too much of a military mentality in some of those in positions of authority.”

What has happened to the New Artistes Village is not only a travesty against those who had set up a physical safe space there as their personal day to day living quarters, but it is also a crime against the future of free thought, freedom of expression, threatening the creation of art that challenges and heals and feeds newness into Nigerian culture.
Attacks on art and it’s producers – writers, painters, chanteurs, musician, dancers, et al – intensify when artistic resistance against injustice begins to unnerve, shake the system committing those injustices. It is becoming more and more obvious in the 21st Century, with technology and social media being a friend to the artist mission to share, that the war on the physical body is losing its grip. To those in power ‘human life is cheap’. We get it. But the other reality is,  is that the struggle for justice is peaking in the realm of the psychic space, the mental, spiritual and metaphysical space – the intangible space of creativity.

The arts are being squeezed out and suppressed in the education system. Financial cuts and production support restrictions to the arts world and for artists are brutal. Art creation, commercial and other wise is being forcibly ‘homogenised’ and/or white washed. But artists globally are pushing back with boycotts, OutSpeaks and protests. Art creation that is about the human spirit in resistance is at a high. Why? Because of acts like the one Qudus speaks of here in his post. I read it while on a plane to Beirut to do a couple of workshops on Art as a Tool for Human Rights.

It is time to put art to work, not bicker over it. Because it outright belongs to the people, to everyone but it is extra special to those it ‘works’ for to repair and heal, to empower and uplift, for exercising the right to rehumanise and remain Human, while emboldening the voices of the next generations.

“We are Creators, because reflections of creation we are.”

What can you do? Find your inner artist. Make friends with it. Tell it you Love it even though you might not have much time for it. Give it a treat. Take it to an exhibition. Buy it some new music to wear, buy colour pencils and hear colour while you sketch ( no matter how badly). Sing out loud(!) to your favourite track and ignore the censor who says, your voice is ‘horrible’. Yes but its all yours and its part of you. And since when did a voice have to be a catwalk model, or have fake implants or be photoshopped. Middle finger that censor and See Your Voice! And love it.

Do it for the Love of your secret inner creative life that loved the stories we heard as children, when time had no power over you and money didn’t mean economic wealth – making something out of nothing you were proud of did. Remember the glow of that feeling? It is *that* feeling of Freedom we struggle for. It is no more complicated than that…

Do it because one day son soon there maybe no more homes for creativity and the art it manifest, no more housesfor that freedom. The only place it will have is the street, in your own homes, in your body, your head, your heart.

Peace, Light, Love Power, Creativity and Art.
Thank you Brother Qudus.

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