The stage: art and politics

The stage: art and politics

If one looks at the sky and points out the various constellations gathered in their various patterns of varied form and colour, then one begins to understand the age-old wisdom of the astronomers of old; the stars move in a certain manner, as given by the movements of the universes: the orbit of these celestial bodies is not random, and the elliptical path they follow is a given pattern out of which they never veer out of.

Like strings in a loom, the traverse of the stars darns the navy blue night sky, and we follow their movements from season to season, because time can be told by the position of the star if the eye that gazes upon it knows how to plot the position relative to the moment in the self-repeating continuum that is the movement of time.
From Aries to Taurus, Alpha Centauri to the Southern Cross, the position of the clusters of stars on the Milky Way and beyond tells us what time in the year it is, what hour it is in the night, and what things we should do as the audience.

The stars are the actors in the stage of the night (for the sun rules the daytime stage as a solo actor), and where they shine tells the gazer what season it is.
One would wish the actors we find on world stages keep position, which they hardly do; for their movements are stilted and ephemeral, and the manner of their standing promontory, that is, it leaves the watcher uncertain as to their next movement.

He who acts this day wakes up a director the next day, what they know and what they have gathered in terms of the knowledge salient to their effectively playing their role is often at best dubious; for in the shape-shifting role-playing, the actor soon loses their true voice and begins to speak in the voices of others: meaning that their voice cannot be followed by the near-sighted and the blind who form the larger part of their congregation of fanatical followers.

Unfixed and ever-shifting, the modern actor of the world stage needs to be redefined, that is if the basic purpose of today living is to guarantee the harmonious progress of humanity as the “smartest” entity on earth (if man’s questionable intelligence is rightly questioned . . . as it constantly should be).
One who has bothered to read on the indigenous knowledge systems of Africa will know that knowledge of the African kind has lasted far longer than those systems history often chooses to write on.

It began well before colonialism and religion of the western sort came, well before the scholars that have bothered to trace the origins thereof can trace; the origins of the knowledge we have as Africans are as old as mankind: fixed as the stars that dot the night sky.

However, such arguments take up a lot of time and space lacking in this brief analysis of the world as a stage, with the many actors involved, the primary focus shall be on the two main actors under scope, that is to say, the artists and the politicians.

These two forms of man shall be the mainstay in this episode. The former group began well before the latter group, for art was there before the argument came; one learns to speak before they can master the art of rhetoric.

What one sees is that the politician of late fallaciously believes the podium they stand on is a stage, there seems to be the false belief that the duty bequeathed upon them by the finger of the elector is just a role they can change at personal whim.

The truth of the matter is that the act of standing up as a candidate for election into governance automatically places the individual who so chooses to be at a level elevated above the rest of the masses, and this kind of standing means that one assumes the role of a star upon which the masses look to for guidance on the long pilgrim through the epochs of time.
The star changes not its position except only according to the change of the season in a year, but the political skies of the modern day seem to have stars that change their position according to personal, temperament, and interest; an attitude which leaves the audience (the masses, the electors) uncertain as to which star to follow.

For a large part of history, travellers have determined their route through the use of stars as points of navigation, many of them reached their destinations because they had a clear understanding of the positioning of the stars, and those who did not know which stars to follow got lost and could not reach their desired destinations.

In the light of the unfolding events one as a follower of the trends does not know where to head because the stars change their positions with each passing day; one moment, a political figure is a clear star in a given cluster, the next day one sees them not because such a figure has shifted position to some other constellation (political party). The question is: who does one follow?

When Shakespeare composed those classics, they were set to be acted in The Globe theatre.
The Julius Caesars, Hamlets, and Romeos and Juliets were not just for entertainment but were there for the sole purpose of educating the masses; they were there to address issues prevalent in the societal environments within which the audiences lived.

One often wonders if the current actors on the stage (the state and the global community), that is, the politicians who wow the masses with their well-versed orations, promises, plans, and non-performances, really understand the significance of their assigned duties as soon as they enter parliament as members or ministers.
The now common hecklings, accusations, and often self-righteous resignations never got any state anywhere, the best such a state gets from being a “democracy” is regress, as the best moments in the history of the people are wasted away arguing over what can be solved amicably in some private corner where the citizens are not present.
Doing one’s washing (laundry) in the streets does not lead to a solution being found, but rather, it leads to the broth (the peace, stability, peace of mind) of the ordinary citizen being spoiled by the many cooks involved.

Who was once a good minister becomes a totally different (and often blasé) entity once they convince themselves that they too can become the president or the prime minister.
This is due to the fact that the original oath with which they assumed the office of service to the public, becomes diluted by the newly-found interests in being more than that which they took an oath of office for (kind of like unleavened dough being tainted with yeast, forcing it to expand beyond the bowl and souring in the process).

The office of government is a stage only because it places the elected on a public figure standing, but it is not a stage that should be dependent upon costume and makeup as the art stage is: because the demands of the process of government declare (solemnly) that one should assume their role with a clear sense of conviction and utter commitment to the position one is granted.

There are themes and similes and there are images and metaphors, and in Africa, the government uses the engine as a metaphor while the state is similar to the vehicle (the bus is the often used motif).

If there is something wrong with the engine, then the bus cannot move forward or backwards, it has to be pushed to the workshop (the parliament, the conference, the meeting, the symposium etc) where the mechanics (those in parliament) can attend to the problem and fix it.
The mechanics have to be of the authentic type, that is, men and women who have the real interests of the masses at heart, who are patriots to their land, and who are champions of progress of the state ignorant of party colour, creed, or ethnic group.

If they are not, then the poor engine is bound to come out of the workshop worse than it was upon entry, because then, the parties concerned will instead of fixing the engine’s problem tear it apart and leave it incapable of performing its natural duty (which is to advance the vehicle as per the conditions of the road).
With parts misplaced and in disarray due to improper handling by the mechanics, the engine is in essence only good enough for the scrapyard; because it has become a jumble of misplaced parts.

From my perspective as an artist that knows that a good sketch or piece of “good” craft is dependent upon careful calculation of where to place a given line, pattern and shade in the “creation” of a work, it does not make sense to me why individuals that are bound by oaths and the credo to perform their official duties with the help of “God” (remember the last part of the declaration when these individuals are being sworn into office) fail to find amicable solutions to problems at hand, rather than split into factions that lead to the ultimate demise of a government.

One may say that my argument and analysis is a bit or largely misinformed, but such a one must remember that the artist gave birth to the politics in Africa and the world, that the speeches are written by individuals gifted in the art of rhetoric, that the first slogans chanted in the various liberation wars were penned by women and men gifted in the art of music, and that the party colours and insignia are designed by artists.

There is no place in the world that an artist will sit silently on the sidelines and watch the fruits of a long-fought war go to waste, just because some individual or group/s of individuals think they and only them have the right to determine how the state should be run.

More often than less one as an artist has to interact with individuals from opposing parties on a daily basis whilst in pursuit of the craft or making a living, and believe me (or not), the final analysis that one draws on these walks of life in the fields of the lord is that all of us have one wish; guaranteed peace of mind, and the need to express ourselves without infringing on the rights of others.

He or she that seeks otherwise is in my personal view a bigot of the worst kind, whose sole interest is to please a personal need that may, if viewed closely enough, will reveal a narcissistic megalomaniac who thinks the world is their mirror and therefore deserving to look like he or she does.
We are all different for a reason, we are all unique in size, shape, and place for a certain purpose, but ultimately; all of us are here to make the world a worthwhile space to live in.
The Southern Cross is there to mark the southern pole of the earth, and it does not look like the North Star or Venus (morning or evening star), but all of them are there to guide the lone or group of travellers without a GPS to their desired destination.

Such travellers would not know where to go if the stars in the sky all looked similar.
The fool that regards their opinion as catechism is bound to end up the enemy of many, and the main disturbance to the peace all of us need.
To politick as the artist was never wrong, for sometimes, political opinion needs to be corrected (gently and appropriately) through the use of images common to all of us, to be made aware of the primal and basic instincts that guide humanity in the right manner towards harmonious progress.

Whether or not I am a party member does not matter; what matters is that we should adopt the right mannerisms to see this thing of ours (la cosa nostra), that is, the government as a social entity, in a direction that will make it an entity beneficial to us all.

James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe’s Forgotten Conversation About Beauty, Morality, and the Political Power of Art warns:
Those who tell you “Do not put too much politics in your art” are not being honest. If you look very carefully you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is . . . What they are saying is don’t upset the system.

Correction is upsetting, as good medicine is often bitter to the palate. I too stand to be corrected. Let us correct each other, not make enemies of one another.
Parting ways on the wrong term is the same as spitting into the wind, or defecating in the cave where we shelter.
Let us not . . . follow the wrong stars . . . lest we get lost for a long time.

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