It has often been said that the best works of art have been produced by people under straitened economical conditions.
I would also like to add that this category of people, the poverty stricken ones to use a less polite term, are also victims of dire mental anguish – they are in a position that has pushed them against a corner with no escape, and the only way they can escape it is by giving birth to the beauty inside them – a time tested way of opening any door of opportunity that lies before you. Society is a sucker for all things beautiful.
But what is it with art and poverty? If we were to separate the two, art is dealing with aesthetics and the appreciation of beauty, and poverty is ‘the state of being extremely poor.’
Poverty can also be lack in any required amounts.
Can we equate art to religion? Can we be justified in saying that it can be also perceived as a system of worship, for surely, if the question can be asked, don’t artists worship their calling?
That said, we will begin to notice that, on a profound level, art is a spiritual condition, and we do not need to tell one that most spiritual discoveries, just like character, are discovered when an individual is under pressure.
The pressure can be internal (within the mind, body and soul), or external – societal etc. And what it burns down to is that, even if the pressure is external, outside the body, if more pressure is added on to this pressure, the mind internalises it, and it now becomes internal as well as being external. And once the pressure is internal, then comes a change in the constitution of the psyche, which will lead to the birth of the new person with a new resolve, and on the negative side, the mind can go haywire.
I am not a psychiatrist, but years of writing and analysing characters have taught me a lot about the mind and how it works, but not as much as the shrink let me add…
We now have this individual, who through extreme hardship has discovered the new person within themselves that had lain submerged under these piles and piles of day to day life pre-occupation, and this new person is the artist (or the mentally challenged man). The artist now begins their practice, and as any newly born, they attack it with vigour – when they smile, the world smiles, and when they cry, the world cries too.
Year piles on year, and the manuscripts are now a ceiling high pile in their bedroom. Let’s also remember that most dedicated artists don’t marry before they become stars in their trade, and so the manuscripts keep on piling, and now in every room of the house.
If they are using a computer, they now have heaps and heaps of back up CD’s and flash drives stacked in some drawer or other.
In the streets they walk tall and proud even if their work has not started selling, because they know they have this enormous wealth in their minds, or on the tip of their fingers if they are guitarists or some other artists who rely on their fingers.
And the years pile on, they are still unmarried, own nothing in the world, not even a spoon, as they are banking their lives on a future big sale.
Their friends are now all married and have families and own houses, and they are still bachelors or spinsters and now with uncontrollable tempers when they have had a drink or two.
Then comes a time when their work is now known around the country and the world, but still they are failing to make that illusive big sale.
And in cases of countries like Zimbabwe, there are no arts grants or even recognition from government of their work and status of being custodians of national cultures.
And one day they wake up to the fact that, even if they are producing beautiful stories, poems, sculptures, they are poverty stricken, and now it is not that poverty they had at the beginning that made them discover the artist lurking inside them, but it is that poverty that will see to it that when they die in a few years, they are going to receive a paupers burial.
On that note, we would like to urge the public, families, and friends to support the nearest artist by buying their art work, and not ask for freebies, or limit themselves to gazing at it only.
The amount of work an artist can do an empty stomach is limited. Maybe when she or he is voluntarily fasting, but not when the ‘cat is now sleeping on the fireplace’ because there is now no cooking fire to chase it away.