Social activism and the role of artists

ACCORDING to the Centre for Artistic Activism, artistic activism is a dynamic practice combining the creative power of the arts to move us emotionally with the strategic planning of activism necessary to bring about social change.

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Art and activism do different work in the world.

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Activism, as the name implies, is the activity of challenging and changing power relations. There are many ways of doing activism and being an activist, but the common element is an activity targeted toward a discernible end.

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Simply put, the goal of activism is action to create an effect.

What I have observed lately is that many social activists and artists in Namibia choose to engage on social media and very few actually have the guts to stand up to the power and challenge the status quo. And the few that do challenge sometimes get intoxicated with fame and recognition and tend to forget their actual goal or reason for standing up to “The Man”.

I recently attended a talk on social activism in Windhoek and I must say that I left that room more confused about what Namibians define as activism and how that relates to being a creative to strive and push for actual implementations of policies on land or outdated draft policies on art.

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To understand how to tackle these intricate social ills one must redefine the role of an activist in our spaces.

I believe in art, because it tends not to have such a clear target. It is hard to say what art is for or against, but its value often lies in providing us perspective and new ways to envision our world. Its effect is often subtle and hard to measure, and confusing or contradictory messages can be layered into the work.

Good art always contains a surplus of something we can’t quite describe or put our finger on, but moves us nonetheless. Its goal, if we can even use that word, is to stimulate a feeling, to move us emotionally, or alter our perception. Art, equally simply stated, is an expression that generates.

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Activism moves the material world, while art moves the heart, body and soul. They are, however, complimentary.

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Social change doesn’t just happen, it happens because people decide to make change.

To be continued…