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ART, THE UNDERDOG

by SHASTRI MAHARAJ
Trinidad Guardian Newspaper
9th January 1992

 

There is a general opinion by most people that art exudes little or no meaningful experience, pleasure and worthwhileness. In fact, it can be seen as downright trivial, insignificant and solely the onus of the "ga"' community...art is not for the "macho-man".

In most primary schools where art is taught, it is encouraged by dedicated female teachers. Why is this so? Simple, most primary school teachers of the infant and the lower level of the primary schools are women. Additionally, students' promotion to level two in preparation for the "great Common Entrance" does not encourage the indulgence of art as a crucial asset of the students' new syllabus. No wonder when our children become adults they have great trouble associating art as a rewarding and meaningful practice.

At common entrance it is not an examinable subject. Few students in any school pursue it at the CXC level. Only a handful attempt it at the Advanced Level. Tertiary education in this field can only be obtained abroad at a great financial burden (a one generally obtains for studying abroad).

What therefore places art in this underprivileged position? Why does it continue to be the underdog, always fighting for recognition to be legitimate and relevant to the needs of an evolving people? Are we to assume that exposure to academic and technical vocational subjects is sufficient to mould our young people into stable, sensitive and productive citizens?

There is a myth and a very powerful one, that medicine, law, engineering and business studies are socially acceptable and prestigious fields of occupations. Unfortunately, this obsession is unreachable to most of the population. Nevertheless, our people will go to extremes to ensure that their children attain these goals (regardless if it means losing character, being exploitative, selfish, narrow-minded and disgustingly arrogant).
Of course, once these aspirations are reached and there is job security, marriage, the establishment of a family structure, public image and upward social mobility, one can easily be bombarded with a host of psychological and emotional 'isms' that soon lead to stress, high blood pressure, obesity, depression, acute drug dependence and an overall poor perception of the concept of the evolving or maturing adult.

It is by no means here that I advocate the cause and effect syndrome as synonymous with this direction as a possible path some people may follow. Contrary to this dilemma of the human plight, I propose that the inevitable inclusion of any kind of programme that is characterized as art oriented can have lasting and meaningful benefits to most people. In fact, such programmes, be they offered during infantile, adolescence and adult occurrences, do serve well to operate as an integral survival mechanism.

People just do not forget experiences that are play-oriented, personal, and which provide a degree of fulfillment and a feeling of gratification. We all can brag about some episode in our earlier life in which we had the pleasure of being involved in the process of making an art-work. Such a memory is clear and pleasing.

It is unfortunate that these experiences were never allowed to be reinforced and repeated at other intervals in most of our lives. And I am sure if there was the opportunity it would be embraced. Can you imagine doing an activity for the sake of doing it and having some tangible evidence at the end of the experiment? A sensation of involvement and quiet reflection in an arena where there are no rules, laws and impositions. A habit that can become addictive to the point of having therapeutic value and being stress releasing.

No wonder why so many people are all stressed out! They have yet to discover the treasures that come with an encounter into the world of art.