True art is not created. It evolves from something; sometimes nothing. Its becoming is an organic process that brings together water and oil, wind and fire plus creativity and innovation. All the artist does is to mould, not to create art. The same way no potter creates clay but uses clay as an evolving organic base to create figments of his/her imagination, thus no artist should stand on a pedestal and claim superiority; either of thought or process. Artistically Beyonce has nothing that an average Madjembeni girl does not have. She does not write her own songs and didn’t even invent a microphone.
God is the ultimate artist because the Bible says He made man out of dust and blew breath in his lungs. That was the only gnome created out of dust and that was the last gnome to need breath in its lungs to move into life. Since then no other artist has created anything of serious value out of dust. Even Eve, according to the Bible evolved from the rib of Adam. At the worst, breath always scatters dust and the relationship between breath and dust is a bipolar one. That’s my water and oil, earth, wind and fire.
But then you have this thing created of dust and breath being made up of 90% water and you wonder when did God put in the water since there’s no testimony of that? That’s the duty of the artist. Art that is simple to understand is not art. That is why a billboard along R40 national road is not art but the Last Supper by Michelangelo is art; because it has many layers and vistas that require a certain level of artistic comprehension to put a thumb to it. Maybe not even succeed in putting a thumb to it.
Art with a prescribed methodology is an assignment for a class of students, not art. Methodologies are invented as pathways to destinations; often not travelled by the inventor. So, the artists with the most over-arching perspective of art, as a form of creation or partnering in the ‘evolution of matter to form something’ worth beholding have no right to stand on pedestals. Oil tossed on a canvas and pissed upon by twenty lizard then slided upon by a gorilla makes for perfect art; because there’s no method. Madness is the destination, not method.
No artist is not a thief. All artists are thieves. It differs in degrees of the thievery. Some steal from this millenium while others go back and steal from history. That is why nothing is new (read pioneer) today. Music as we know it is rooted in classical sounds of BC (actually PC – Pre-Creation), what David King of the Jews played on a harp for Jewish King Saul. Depressing sounds that led to Saul attempting to nail him with a spear. Something like the music of Sinead O’Connor or Enya. Listen to the song Return to Innocense by Enya and you will know what I am talking about.
David’s classical sounds came from acapella, the language of the angels, the music of the heavens, the soundtrack to creation and evolution. That is the music that dominated nothingness; before what scientists call the Big Bang and what religious people call Creation. That music was there. It was the winds crossing paths and the angels marvelling at the sounds of their wings against such cyclones and hurricanes. That is why we all connect to classical sounds because once upon our incarnation that is the music that defined us and our environment.
And today we say Kanye West is the shit because he samples classical sounds from the 1960s. We love him. Even bigots like US President Donald Trump think he is good (read GOD). Because Kanye don’t invent anything damnit; he just steals from 50 years ago when some of us were bloody butterflies cajoling flowers in Harlem, New Orleans, Timbuktu, Nubia, Moab and Lebanon.
So, what about the sculptors of Limpopo, Noriah Mabasa, the late Jackson Hlungwani and European artists such as Vincent van Gogh? How different are they from the sculptors of demigods that Jewith King Hiskia subjected to a sword and the gods to a hammer in Babylon? Who is allowed to recreate another living being without fear of insulting the original? Does the camera lie? Why is God so jealous of sculptures created by humans who are His weakened reflection? Does that explain why the Taliban and ISIS don’t tolerate statues and reproduction of humans in any form? Whose brief are they holding? With a fear that any reproduction that is not organic risks misrepresenting the deify (read ‘human gnome’) and leaving for posterity corrupted interpretations of God’s creation why can’t we welcome with open hands any attempt to attack the art and leave the artist to live?
Why does extremists such as ISIS and Taliban tolerate poetry and classical music but cannot tolerate sculptures, visuals and paintings? Are they uncivilised post-culturalists? Read “The soldier of God, having taken up the fight against Evil, and knowing that he is in touch with the true Light, never yields an inch of ground. He is always to the fore in inviting others to his own ranks, but he himself refuses to be with those who worship anything else but God” – footnote to Sura XXVIII.86-88
So, coming to the artist in Madjembeni, let us contexualise him within the artistic barometers I alluded to above and see who is an artist and who qualifies to invent without insulting? Who is a thief – image thief, inspiration thief, mojo thief, energy thief, Light thief etc? And should thieves who get away with it be celebrated and those who refuse to steal but call themselves thieves be impaled for the sins of their fellow artists?
Why was ‘Pac crucified and Lil Wayne is allowed to carry the hammer that nailed ‘Pac to the torture stake? Why is Dr Dre, a billionaire? If we were to quantify the organic creations of God, the crevices at Potholes, the orifices in Baobab trees, the Tables in Cape Town, the Roundavels in Maorabjang, the Window in Maorabjang, and the Tower of Pisa, Christ the Redeemer in Rio etc. Let us define art and remain unbound to culture and tradition.
Gakwi Mashego is a culture writer based in Mpumalanga