I like the feeling of an empty page, that blank space is a promise. It is a whiff of possibility, the chaos from within which the ingredients of creativity have their roots. It is this blank space, that motivates me into beginning a fresh scratch at the fresco of my existence. It is as if, I am given the opportunity to start again, to do better, with each fresh blank page I begin. It is a pleasure. It is one of the reasons why I write.
The role of creativity in propelling a nation is in most cases ignored or if possible given as little attention as possible without seeming to be ungrateful. There was a time when the wealthy enjoyed the patronage of artists, musicians, poets and griots. That time is long gone. The creative must struggle, bend and sometimes abjure self in order to find outlet for their passionate expressions. The creative is now placed in the periphery of social structures, giving the children coming into this world of ours the impression that if they should become a part of this empire of discontent, they may end up vilified for being radicals. A creative has come to identify with difference in the way they dress, speak, live, be. No matter the import of a creative's contribution to the society, they are never fully welcomed. Their art might be beloved but their personality is often a cause of friction. They become like that slave girl who is invited to the party for her voice but is not allowed to sit, or partake of the feast before her. And when she is allowed, she should be thankful.
It is therefore not surprising to see creatives at the forefront of battles against social disfunction. Once upon a time, maybe, a creative was a valued member, a keeper of secrets, a master of the court. Now, they wander the outskirts of the city, battling the powers that be for the rights of the weak, the oppressed, the abused and the ignored. In their craft, they remind us that we live, we die and that is all, they make us forget that we live and die.
To be able to write a poem or short story, wet a canvass with paint, sculpt the body of a nightmare into reality, a creative needs to see both within and without. They need the knowledge of their world and their world is often not a beautiful place. They either react to it by creating a simile of it or by creating a version that is beyond their reality. Whatever the case, though they remain outsiders or hybrids allowed in during the festivities, they keep the history of the people they inadvertently serve alive. The #SARSMUSTEND protests have seen this play out.
Creatives stand with the protesters, from their voices screaming from the tar, under the sun and rain, to their fingers tapping relentlessly on their twitter keys. These people, men and women, know the world they live in. They know how evil triumphs over good every day. They know that humans can be wicked and they suspect the worse of people. These people, dealing with empty pockets and mental illnesses, broken relationships and a world devoid of support for their dreams, are at the front demanding for the rights of every individual citizen of Nigeria including those yet unborn.
It is necessary to state that there are creatives, due to their politics of self, who have chosen to stand aside, to take no part in the protests. They have their fears, whether unfounded or not, that makes them find it difficult to take sides. Creativity is a beautiful thing and it is used as an instrument of agitation by a lot of creatives. In short stories and paintings, in music and film, we can find the theme of protest, of revolution, of attempting freedom. These works are everywhere. Does the creative's role as the conscience of their society end on paper, in the studio, in the forge? That I can write a piece of fiction on protest means I know its value and the why protests will occur in a society, as such I can, in real life, see the benefit of protest and give it support. Is this not so?
I consider creativity to be a holy calling. I see creatives as prophets, seers, healers, guides and seekers of truth. I do not see them as cowards or people to be easily influenced by the promise of wealth. Yet this is so. The stories our mothers told under the flutter of lamp light are full with incidents of betrayal caused by the influence of money. Creatives despite their god given gifts are as human as every other gifted person that has ever lived. It is sad that this is so because if they could speak with one voice, sing the lines of the same song, walk the pitted roads against tyranny with one intention, they will achieve so much. The power is there.
That as people leave their poorly paid jobs and prosperous businesses to march the streets of cities in this country of ours, demanding justice for the fallen, the reimaging of the police force, respect for their rights to freedoms enshrined in the constitution, to be remembered by the very people they elected into office, there are those with the power to make a beautiful song among them is a truly beautiful thing to see.
That creatives are silent, unable or unwilling to belong to, agree with, support, across the world in the face of the anguish of the Nigerian youth, is sad. It is the way of things. The value of human life is only important when it is my own. People have died for this cause. The children of mothers and fathers have exchanged the bullhorn for bullet holes in this fight. How much more can happen before it hits home that this is not a drug induced, boredom enthused scamper across the streets. When will those who sit on the fence realise that this not a child with snotty nose throwing a tantrum?
The creatives who in their works have raised a mirror to the government of the day, decrying their oppressive rule, their heartless subjugation of the masses, their poor policies and have been applauded for the courage of their art, where are they? Are they supporting, donating, speaking across platforms in agreement with the tenets of this march? When all this is done, will they not write their award winning poems, their Pulitzer prize winning documentary, sing their platinum selling albums based on the scorched footprints, the wet tshirts, the blood and bodies, the flag waving silhouette standing on a car? Why then can they not rise up from their occupation with the mysteries of published books, endorsement deals, album covers, art exhibits, product launches and add their voices to this weeping that will not let this country sleep?
This country suffers from amnesia so people will forget. They will move on with their lives, heads bowed, shoulders hunched, pursuing the mirage of prosperity. The opportunity for creatives to build a temple, an hallowed space respected and held sacrosanct by all will be lost. They will move back to the periphery of society, loved for their gifts but distrusted for their difference, their unusual way of viewing the world. As creatives, we can leave a legacy that will ensure not just the survival of our country but also the renewal of interest in the arts among the young and the old. The revolution will be public. Let your memory be true about where you were and what you did when the story is being told. Tomorrow is another day, what will you do, what will you say, where will you be? Then again, what do I know?
Let the protest be ever civil. Let sane minds persist. Let there be no confusion as to what is desired. Let wisdom be adhered to. Let us continue to demand that; #SARSMUSTEND #EndPoliceBrutality #PoliceReform
This is our country. It is all we have. God bless Nigeria.
📸 : was picked from Twitter. My humblest apologies to the photographer for not crediting them. I could not find a name.
This was first posted on Medium.