Is Art The Answer?

These past weeks have been quite intense for me as I set serious deadlines for myself to finish the first draft of a new play that I have been working on, as well as sending off some grant proposals that I have been writing (yes, there is that too!).

However, last weekend I took time off to hang out with other fellows. We had a whole day »event« of making and eating crepes, dosas, and pancakes (thanks to Johanna, who invited us to her courtyard). It was a lovely warm sunny day, and it felt like everyone wanted a bit of a break to enjoy the gorgeous weather and other people’s company. At first, it seemed like it would go on for a few hours, but before we knew it, the morning was slowly rolling into the afternoon as teas, coffees, crepes, dosas, fruits, cheese, chocolates (I had a lot of chocolate until my stomach could not »breathe!«), ice cream (YES!), wine, and more kept flowing into Johanna’s courtyard from different studios. We talked about serious and »unserious« stuff, we joked, we teased one another, and we laughed. Personally, I find joy in hanging out with people who are genuinely sensitive, and yet not bound by the pretentious »political correctness« that sometimes floods everywhere. I laughed so hard that day that my head began to hurt. The sense of camaraderie of Solitude – at least for me – is rarely felt in other »arty« spaces.

After last weekend, my writing was mainly punctuated by the events that were happening in Burundi: the Burundi president’s stubbornness and insistence on changing the constitution to run for office for the third time; the street protests and police shooting at the protesters; the attempted coup; the short-lived jubilation; the President’s loyalists repossessing the country… Hew! It was a whirlwind!… and the drama is not yet over. I was/I am particularly interested in that country for several reasons; apart from the fact that it is a part of the East African Community, I have had a great opportunity to work with a number of artists there. Therefore, I was/I am very concerned about my friends and colleagues’ safety (because many of them were/are very involved in the demonstrations) and the safety of their families.

My favorite moment, though, in all this political turmoil in Burundi, was a tweet that came from Uganda to the BBC World Service asking the media outlet to stop reporting the happenings in Burundi as an »ethnic conflict« and educating them that what was going on there had nothing to do with »ethnicity,« but had everything to do with ideology and politics. It was really interesting to hear the BBC trying to explain itself on the way it was covering the events. Well after that, they changed the narrative and started calling it a political conflict because that is what it is. Yippee to social media!

Politics, different economic models, religions of the world, and different education models have not succeeded in making this world a better place. Dictatorial and oppressive regimes flourish; the thieving of powerful nations from the less powerful ones doesn’t seem to stop; institutionalization of all sorts of »isms« keeps getting worse in almost every corner of the earth, and yet, amidst this chaos, it is possible for a tiny group of artists with diverse cultures, diverse beliefs, diverse colors, diverse nationalities, and diverse everything else to sit together for an entire day, talking and unable to pull itself apart.

How I wish that the world would stop for just a minute and seriously listen to honest art! How I wish! Maybe hope is left in places that create space for artists to say something.