31 Aug Stories Start Fires
Artists have the unique power to criticise the systems that prevail and inspire people to introspect or to look more closely at society’s misdemeanours. Ever been moved to tears by a gorgeous composition or just stood transfixed at the sight of an exquisite painting? Through a piece of work, you as an artist, evoke emotional responses by appealing to the senses and sensitivities of your audience.
Every institution that was ever created by man, is built on a bunch of stories. Think about it, they’re all just figments of our imagination! To destroy what a story condones, one could simply spin another. And that’s where the artist steps in. Through language- written, spoken, drawn, enacted, or danced, WE TELL STORIES. These new narratives seep into the collective subconscious, and slowly over time, they become part of the new cultural fabric.
With the advent of social media, everyone now has a voice (a LOUD one, at that). It’s a level playing field (until you’re arrested for your tweets). But the work of artists and the reactions to their work are very telling of the pain points in our societies. Sometimes it’s a joke that wounds religious/nationalist sentiments, other times it’s paintings that allegedly insult gods and goddesses worshipped by the dominant social class. Whether artists deliberately wish to call attention to certain causes or if it’s that your work unintentionally brings to light a kind of societal sickness if you will, your role as an artist, in critiquing dominant ideologies is quite undeniable.
Hip hop is argued to have emerged as a response to and as a means of bringing attention to the systemic racism and oppression faced by black communities in their predominantly white societies. The “Six Elements Of The Hip Hop Movement”, as coined by Ronald Savage, are: Consciousness Awareness, Civil Rights Awareness, Activism Awareness, Justice, Political Awareness, and Community Awareness in music.
When hip hop suddenly went from small house parties in the Bronx to mainstream entertainment, these stories began to be heard. And it brought to the forefront, all of the struggle, and all of what was wrong with the hegemony that was ubiquitous in their lives. They talked about the years of oppression and the lifestyles that they’d been pushed to lead.
People wrote about it, sang about it, made art about inclusion, and now, it’s a global movement! Hip hop is simply the biggest and loudest example of how art can start conversations. And conversations spark revolutions.
Since we’re all just telling stories, the stories we tell are important. Because the more that people hear a similar kind of tale, the more they start to identify with it, empathise with it, and slowly even adopt it as their own. In simple words, the more a story is told, the more likely it is to become the dominant ideology. So how do we change dominant ideologies? By changing whose stories are being told! And who knows, one day it could be your story that starts the fire.
Singer-Songwriter/ BackPac Blogger