BY PENIEL OKWUCHUKWU
“A society that forgets art risks losing its soul”- Camille Paglia
When art travels beyond the realm of expression and into the realm of imposition, only then is its power unravelled. Art is art when it expresses, but art becomes power when it influences.
Creative Art can be likened to a master manipulator, the type that gives the illusion of choice and freedom by asking the instruction as a question. But then that is the beauty of arts, the fact that it magnanimously projects its power unto its consumer and allows them to call it theirs.
For instance, the young man trying to give his lover a romantic evening while Okay by Adekunle Gold plays in the background. The young man would feel proud as he watches her overcome by emotions, would even pat himself on the back for being so romantic. All this while, Adekunle Gold’s song would continue to play dutifully, not complaining about the misplaced credit, but allowing the man to take the glory for being the romance expert. What did the lover do apart from press play while blandly muttering “I love you”?
Put it into context; if the man mutters ‘l love you’ without the song playing in the background, the difference would be clear. An ‘I love you’ is not bad when offered with nothing, but an ‘I love you’ when offered on a platter of Johnny Drille music in the middle of an art exhibition can even cause the Monalisa painting to smile in adoration of the couple.
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Art has a soul, art is soul, art possesses the soul. Art is either the breath of life, or the prototype that exists to remind us about how the breath of life made a nonliving object become a living man because that is what art does; it makes the soul come alive.
It is this soul like nature of arts that makes it immensely powerful as a tool to influence the society in whatever direction the artist desires. Over a period, every human being becomes a reflection of the type of art they predominantly consume, and this ability to mass-program is the power of art that passionately intrigues me.
When hip hop music was the trend worldwide, it led to a strong exportation of a culture of hyper-masculinity and an objectification of females into the Nigerian youth community, because this was the message commonly found in hip hop music. A lot of people believe that this culture came with an escalation of hard drug consumption amongst youths and the glorification of violence amongst others. Beyond the fine expression of arts in hip hop music, hip hop music clearly shaped societies worldwide.
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It shouldn’t also come across as a coincidence that the wave of social conscious movements in Nigeria such as the #ENDSARS campaign, closely follows a new movement in recent times where artists such as Falz and Burna Boy have begun infusing socially conscious messages into their arts.
Beyond artistic expression, creative arts have a power to influence, and over history it has done just that.
That is why as much as art production should be encouraged for the purpose of artistic expression, art as a deliberate tool for re-engineering the moral fabric of our social systems, should be encouraged as well. Through the media, art played a pivotal role in depleting our social systems into depravity and wantonness, and so art should be made now to pay its penance and to elevate our society back to a place of social healthiness.