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True expressions

By Debbie Olujobi
Artistic expression is the display of a passion expressed in a way that elicits a response by its audience. It’s not the pursuit of admiration or even validation of the artist’s talent or lack thereof. It’s a known fact that the greatest of artists never gained acclaim till they were declining in age or even dead.

Appreciation of art in any form is at best a passing thought for the artist in his expression of his passion; artists are driven almost by a primal urge to give rein to their passion; it’s the eruption of emotion; sometimes dark at times light; sometimes beautiful other times repulsive but it is their power and personal revolutionary statement.

A lot of things are done in the name of art; some very pious and generally acceptable others distasteful and decadent but all art is subject to the interpretation of its public. I have an appreciation for different genres of the artistic expression of man; I am able to see beauty in most while appreciating the talent that is captured in the ones that are grotesque and dark (nice way to describe those I find ugly).

What qualifies as art is the million dollar conundrum. If it’s an expression of inner passion then it can’t be exclusively limited to the visual and literary forms. Expressions are the by-products of living and I hold the opinion that everyone is an artist in one way or the other.

The visual arts of painting and sculpting often take centre stage when we talk art but the literary form has found expression on stage using all the innovations of technology to overrun all other genres.  The interpretation of art is forming part of our world over view.

I personally don’t much care for reality television; I don’t see much entertainment in watching people misbehave while cooped up in an artificial environment but I must be in the 000.5% of the world population who feel that way. The argument for reality television being art is that it is formed by a creative vision and put together with such an eye for detail that it creates an environment where art imitates life.

Art is everywhere and while I can’t successfully draw a table that looks like a table I believe myself to be as gifted as those who can; same as a chef that can create signature dishes that tastes great is no less an artist. Art is an immutable expression of human emotion and we are all artists in one way or the other.

This column is actually the offshoot of a difference in opinion between me and my significant other. I am not a great fan of tattoos but I am fascinated by body art. For those not in the know, body art is the painting on the human form such that the body becomes the canvas; it just looks like the person is clad in a form fitting outfit that is rather colourful.

I can’t claim to know much about it except that Picasso painted directly on some of his muses and it is a rather established form of expression between artists and their muses. It apparently takes hours or even days to do and my only grouse with it is that such sweat should not be expended on perfection that can be destroyed by sweat and soap!!

I also have concerns about paints and other chemicals getting into areas that could cause discomfort and irritation. I think it’s a beautiful expression made all the more passionate by it being displayed on the human body. In African tradition henna is used and a few other natural occurring dyes to create a beautiful collage of tasteful art on bodies.

It does wash off but it’s got a longer life span than the western ones that last less than a day.

I took up the same topic with a female friend of mine and we got thinking that art is an extension of creation. We concluded that God is the greatest artist and our artistic expressions are a continuation of the process of creation. One of the most beautiful paintings I ever saw is that of an African woman carrying a calabash on her head, adorned in body art and wearing giant beads around her waist.

I was so enamoured of the image that I actually would have bought myself waist beads if I hadn’t been nicknamed village beauty by my friends who pooed on what I thought had been a wonderful idea. That said I am not averse to getting painted in henna and being a working canvas for some intricate African art; it’s an expression of my culture.

I don’t appreciate or even enjoy all art but the goal of art is not to please everyone; it’s an expression you either agree or disagree with. I have elicited my share of responses with the column; been threatened a few times and told off severally but it’s an art form; an expression of emotions that are true to me. That actually is the true definition of art; an expression that is true and a representation of passion and emotion through any medium possible.


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