Tools for expression

Based on “Of enormous wild bulls”, a Stoku by Ben Okri, we were told to answer a few questions in class. The Stoku was about a woman, a teacher, who was put in charge of a few war orphans, and how she got them to express themselves and their grief through art, even if war had otherwise traumatised them. They were mere children who, through their art, were able to create masterpieces.

Now the question was something along the lines of what we think is a better tool to express our grief – writing or art. Personally, I’d say that writing does the job for me, simply because the words just flow when I’m emotionally under the weather. Also, my artistic talent can be described in three words: Potato chip smileys. I cannot draw circles to save my life, let alone get anything done that might be worth being called art. So, to stop my reputation from being jeopardised, I began calling my smileys potato chips.

Back to my point, writing being a better tool than art to express grief is something that’s personal. But when it comes to the general public, I think that it’s art that does the trick. The existence of pain is independent of our understanding of it. And most of the time, we never fully understand our pain, and hence, fail to put it into words. Most of us don’t even have a vocabulary that does justice to what we’re feeling. An infant who feels hunger does not understand that it’s hungry. We feel pain which we often don’t understand, unless we’re Sherlocks of psychoanalysis. And even then, we do not always get to the bottom of the mystery, which brings us back to the state of not knowing how to express our misery with words.

Whereas, when it comes to art, you don’t need to be good at it. Now, keep in mind that I’m not talking about selling art, but merely getting your grief out. My potato chips don’t do the trick for me; sometimes they make me feel worse by merely looking at them. But my point is, if you’re able to find some way of releasing all your inner turmoils and cacophonies out onto a canvas or a piece of paper, then it really is serving its purpose. Because shades of blue peeping through blotches and strokes of red and black has the capacity to say so much more than words can ever dream of expressing. (And keep in mind, I’m talking about the majority here. I’m still part of Team Writing.) It’s okay if people who are looking at the piece of art don’t understand it, because the main purpose was to merely vent out all the grief. Some may be able to relate to it, and in some others, it might inspire something completely different, but something beautiful nonetheless. And then, there will be those who cannot relate to it whatsoever. But that’s okay, because the expressing has been done, and black and red have finally left blue.

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