The Artist in You

by Shastri Maharaj
9th Jan 1992
T'dad Guardian

It is very clear that there is a strong and abundant presence of art activities within the mainstream of things in our society. Housewives, daughters, students, children, unemployed people etc. have always used their minds and hands to be creative, innovative and productive. Yet, in most instances these people claim to be very ignorant of art.

They fail to accept that their ability to determine their taste in fashion, the food they eat, the clothes they buy, the way they comb their hair, the people they like etc. is very much about the business of art. In fact, in most households the woman finds herself as the authority on what things are acceptable or unacceptable in the family. She determines where to put the furniture, the colour to paint the walls, how to decorate the cake, plan the meals, determines the colour, style, texture of most of the family clothes, the quality of the Christmas tree, in short, she is in a very big way responsible for the aesthetic education of most people in her reach. These tastes, likes and dislikes, this discriminating ability really and truly has its base in the origin of art.

Art itself demands a preference, a "I like it or I don't" on one hand and a considerable amount of research, planning and implementation. On the other, an example of this syndrome can be illustrated in a woman's ability to attend a wedding in the latest fashion, where she is able to research, find the right cloth, provide appropriate designs to the seamstress, acquire suitable paraphernalia to complement the dress and budget time and money to accomplish all. This must not be seen as a common occurrence but rather a complex system of being highly creative, innovative and productive. That finished dress is indeed an art product and "whoa" be unto any one who may think otherwise once that dress is being worn by its creator.

The point to be made is that in an unconscious and informal manner there is indeed an abundance of art being done by people who claim to be ignorant about it. Further, they are non receptive to the rewards and benefits that can be derived from art on a spiritual, therapeutic, academic, financial and personal level. Too often for too long we have been image makers and idea oriented people. It is reflected in our carnival, diverse ethnic music, the highly decorative, miniature masjids at hosay time, the floral patterns made with bamboo at Divali time and the tremendous volume of hand made items to be found at Christmas time. Yet this every day exposure to these "art forms" remains elusive to every-day man's perception and connection with the World of Art.

It is indeed regretful that there exists a serious communication problem between people who produce art in an unconscious manner and their conscious attitude towards the present trends in art. They have grown to view art as a hobby, a time filler to be done on a Friday afternoon at school. It is strongly associated with painting of houses, people, nature, sea and animals done in a highly representational style. This approach to art can be viewed as ancestral. It is like politics: you end up most likely voting for the political party your father voted and his father. Similarly, taste in art is based upon the experiences of people in the environment in which they have grown up in. In most instances their knowledge of art is in relation to the knowledge of their previous generation. It has been said that insufficient attention has been made to make students more aware of the inter relationship of art with their personal lives and their academic education.

However, for the moment I think that it is very refreshing to see so much art and craft being produced by so many people in this land. In time, like the pan, we would be able to redefine and fine tune this form to make it indeed a valid statement in the arena of art.