Ludo-educational mix: visual art as a device for social activism

THE power of visual art has been used effectively in processes that move towards promoting advocacy and different forms of activism as it has the ability to disseminate information to the masses.

Visual art can be used in a myriad of ways that can be taught to future generations to send messages that teach society about development-oriented topics.

Kudakwashe Musingarambwi from Bulawayo is an example of someone who uses the visual arts as a tool to promote awareness of different issues affecting the country.

Her visual art is a tool to promote advocacy on different salient topics such as environmental activism, gender-based violence (GBV), police brutality and telling stories experienced by people during the Covid-induced lockdown period. 19.

Describing his journey in visual art, Musingarambwi said, “Visual art remains a form of expression. When I do this art form, I feel it has the ability to illustrate narratives and perspectives, which are open to interpretation and sometimes more direct and explicit in their delivery”.

Visual artists make a form of art that is expressive in nature.

It also makes them activists more than they are artists, as their art represents a production dedicated to a cause that is more direct and explicit in its delivery.

“The voice of my art advocates for greater awareness on different important issues that combat the oppression of the weak within society. The visible nature of our art output has enabled us to be a deeper and more powerful because it has a communicative force; which makes the visual arts have an influential voice,” he said.

For Musingarambwi, his art focuses on street culture and social activism, and this portrays different characters in different situations to mainly advocate for the prevalence of ubuntuism.

An example may be the depiction in one of his plays; where it shows a moment during the Covid-19 lockdown period when police and military were sent in to patrol the streets.

Many people were more afraid of the police than of the pandemic. In his performances, he shows the impact of fear of police and security forces that Zimbabweans have; which also depicts the challenges to freedom of expression.

“As an artist, I have spent most of my life witnessing the prevalence of injustice and the various forms of hatred and manipulation perpetuated by the security sector. It is a painful truth that is difficult to express as we see many security sector officials fueling corruption and being manipulative at the expense of citizens.

“Freedom of expression is a right enshrined in the Constitution, but the police and the army are often used to thwart the freedoms that the people should enjoy. As an artist, I use my gift as a way to advocate for freedom of expression, which we need in Zimbabwe, especially young people.

Visual art has the power to spark conversations about the abuse of power, exclusive and arbitrary borders, government censorship and the curtailment of freedoms. These are the modern realities that mainly affect and impact the current social context where the duty of the artist is to deeply defend the prevalence of social change.

“Visual art is relevant and very effective as a means of activism. Current social and environmental crises make art-based activism relevant today. Unfortunately, there are also issues that have dominant opinions about art, and these prevent many artists from seeing themselves as agents of change because artists need to be more empowered.

An important aspect of Kuda’s visual art is her portrayal of the plight of women who continue to fall victim to the scourge of gender-based violence.

“We live in a world where there is the challenge and the scourge of gender-based violence. I have seen women victims of the scourge of gender-based violence in all its manifestations. Women need our protection and help because they have the ability to create bonds within the family that unite and strengthen people. So, through my art, I seek to speak on behalf of marginalized women who have no voice on many occasions.

Musingarambwi also pointed to a plethora of challenges that continue to affect many visual artists, particularly within the context of Zimbabwe.

“One of the challenges that many visual artists face is that a lot of people don’t want to buy our art. The problem is that few people understand the value of messages in abstract art, and therefore visual artists remain forgotten individuals.

“Visual artists also face challenges accessing the paints, brushes, pencils and canvases we use in our works. All of this is very expensive and in a volatile economic environment like Zimbabwe, being a visual artist is a challenge. There is a need to strengthen partnerships with different stakeholders such as governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to help visual artists to sponsor and also to offer residency programs and collaborations with us so that we can be able to buy the equipment needed to improve our artistic endeavors. The visual arts are viable and can also be a means of livelihood.

Activism is often approached with problematic and ineffective attitudes. An art-based approach is a positive alternative as it stimulates empathy. Empathy is necessary to achieve social and environmental justice. To effect real change, activists must work through cultural means.

Art is a good tool for this because it is a cultural production. Globalization makes culture-based activism even more relevant today. Exclusive interviews with artists and activists around the world are necessary to understand the importance of their works of art.

Raymond Millagre Langa is a musician, poet, writer, speaker and founder of Indebo Edutainment Trust. Follow Raymond Langa on Facebook, Instagram on @Millagre Ray L. Email Raymond Millagre Langa on [email protected] and [email protected]

Related Topics

Comments are closed.