Connected Cultures - A Creative Approach
Connected Cultures – A Creative Approach
Culture takes many forms. My preference is for creative culture, often with a thought-provoking social message. I have a passion for literary forms, especially, but on this site I will be presenting articles, reviews, and related items on a wide range of cultural interests and connections. So, before delving into a few books…
AfroVibes UK at the Lakeside Gallery, Nottingham
...In the world of art, wonderful, colourful, striking images have been on display this autumn as part of the AfroVibes UK festival across the country. In one case a township in Soweto, South Africa was recreated in the café of South Hill Park, Bracknell. For a European connection, I gaze daily at a miniature reproduction of Munch’s The Scream, holding pride of place on my desk. I find it slightly disturbing, but captivating. It reminds me that sometimes other people scream all around us, and other times they make us scream.
In music, who can resist the enchanting Emeli Sandé ? Her voice delivers a rich combination of British and Zambian musical heritage. Or the wonderful Kiri Te Kanawa, the young Maori girl who became an international superstar soprano. Her arias forever move me to a higher place. Then there’s Tamara Rojo, the Spanish artistic director of the English National Ballet and principal ballerina. So many cultural connections spring to mind.
In terms of delivering a social message, it is perhaps literature that allows the widest range of discourses. Not all cultural representations carry a social burden, of course. On an aesthetic level, after the style of Oscar Wilde, I take delight in charm, beauty, subtlety and suave, sophisticated story-telling. Lady Windermere’s Fan is wonderfully witty. But I also like to be startled or challenged, and to be encouraged to see things that I have not previously noticed or imagined. The Ballad of Reading Gaol is an offering of truth and beauty but also a rueful, self-reflective commentary on a destructive, doomed and socially challenging form of love.
I tend to be drawn most to cultural stories that offer a combination of celebration and suffering. The beauty and the bleakness of the Wessex landscape in Thomas Hardy’s novels. The championing of Okonkwo, but also sadness at his demise and the passing of a way of life in Things Fall Apart. The theme of survival in defiance of barbaric racism in Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, set on a Jamaican plantation.
I am saddened but fascinated by stories entailing conflict, discord and injustice. The episode with the calabash in Half of a Yellow Sun is hard to banish from the mind. This is a relatively minor episode epitomising the brutality of a horrific civil war, but it provides a lasting and powerful image. Aside from the war, or perhaps because of it in some ways, the novel could broadly be regarded as a life-enhancing entanglement of love and hope. A tough story to read, but inspiring in so many ways.
For me, literature is most effective when it results in emotional, intellectual and social responses. Pleasure for pleasure’s sake may well be enough on occasions, but meaningful content that leads to action and change is invariably far more worthwhile. We need cultural works that encourage a different perspective on life, a better way to live, and not simply a reflection of ‘how things are’.
Culture is rarely simple. So many questions arise. Why do we respond to artistic representations ? What are the values behind cultural expressions ? What impact do they have on society ? How do we build relationships through culture ? Does culture, in all of its guises, really help us to establish, or reinforce equality and justice ? And finally, is art sometimes just art ?
Far too many questions for any one website to resolve. I trust, though, that my offerings will contribute in some way to the advancement of culture. From both a creative and a social perspective, I am determined to explore and establish new connections and to encourage an enhanced outlook on life. A positive impact is always wonderfully rewarding.
I welcome you to Connected Cultures, and I look forward to engaging with you.
© Eddie Hewitt, 2014