Creative Activist: Noun. A person who uses thought and imagination to seek solutions and ignite positive change in our world. www.daneldon.org.
- A person who uses his or her creativity to vigorously advocate for a cause.
- An individual who uses media or the arts to create awareness of pressing local or global social, humanitarian or environmental issues and inspire positive change.
- Pertaining to creative activism or creative activists: a creative activist organization addressing humanitarian concerns.
- Advocating or opposing a cause or issue vigorously, esp. a political cause: Creative Activist students produced public service announcements outlining the environmental issues in the campaign.
We all know that right now it’s a struggle, the economy is crumbling and there are political and social crisis’s left right and centre.
It is hard to even feel alive in such a time of chaos. We are numb and yet we are angry. We are feeling helpless and hopeless, what can one individual do to help the world?
Some people feel the need to debate and talk about what needs to be done through long discussions or frustrated blogs complaining about society and the government, yes this may show awareness to some small degree but does it actually change peoples perceptions or is it just another blog, article or post by someone who likes to moan about how shit the world is? To me actions speak louder than words, further more actions with words is a force to be reckoned with. People who actively get off their backsides to help others even if its helping a little old lady cross the street or being part of a fund-raiser and protest encourages global change. It is also about creation and movement, it is about loving others even loving your enemy too because “For every shadow, no matter how deep, is threatened by morning light.”-The fountain.
I am not one who is very good at speaking my mind (believe it or not) because I struggle with a form of Dyslexia that prevents me from being able to do public speaking and presentations and I am actually quite shy unless I am performing. I have always relied on my art, writing stories and poems and my dancing to show others how I feel so I have always gotten involved with projects that encourage communication through creativity because humans are visual creatures with short attention spans, they are not going to listen to Joe Blogs waffle about a certain topic he is angry about because we are all in the same ‘unhappiness’ boat, I believe a picture or a dance sequence can bring more awareness to a problem than an angry article or news feed and it brings happiness and stability to a community when they feel they can start to resolve their issues through creativity and positive thinking. This is art therapy at its core!
I came across the concept of “Creative Activism” when I was searching for myself and my place in the world. I didn’t feel I had anyone I could truly look up to and be inspired by. Most people aspire to be like their parents and even though I love my parents neither one of them epitomized the adult I wanted to become. My mother is a brilliant woman, with an acute business mind and attention to financial detail she came from a poor family to living in a beautiful home and now owning a property in Bulgaria. My dad was an electrician and really good at building, sculpting, and gardening and cooking, I guess he has that creative streak that was passed down to me but he was always comfortable being a home-body. Being a free spirit I was never interested in staying in the place I was born for the rest of my life and I was never motivated to be successful through money (although money is obviously very important.) To this day I am not interested in individual success and material things, I want to be able to share my success through creativity and bring a positive change on a local or global level rather than individual or internal. I do not want to look back on my life when I am 80 and say “Look what I accomplished” I want to say “Look what we accomplished” and I have always been this way, from being a little girl I always knew I was meant to do something bigger, not better, but bigger than myself or what my family have achieved. I wanted to see outside the box our families and society creates for us, you know the usual life story of go to school, get a job, get a car, get a house, get married, have kids, show off all the expensive stuff you accumulated over the years but complain about society, the government and politics whilst sat on your backside drinking a beer in front of soap operas, expecting world change because you made a speech during a commercial break about world economy and so on….. And I felt trapped by that so called social normality, yes I do want nice things and financial stability, every body does but as an artist and humanitarian I have so much to give and so much to do, there is this spirit inside of me that yearns do something big for others and not for myself.
We live in a very selfish world of “Look after number one” and “Look at me, Look at my big fat wallet and big flash house.” and some people do achieve that individual success, well done to them if that is what really makes them happy? Even though I personally can’t stand arrogance and those who show off their superficial life consumed by consumerism. Who cares if your car cost thousands of pounds? Or that your branded wristwatch tells you the time in ten different languages or that your motor home can turn into a yacht and has a living room the size of a football pitch and that your diamond ring weighs the same as an elephant? As morbid as this sounds, no one lives forever and you can’t take any of that stuff with you. Life to me is about sharing and helping others, not flaunting your wealth to those who are struggling in the belief that this makes you better than everyone else? What a sad life existence one must lead by chasing paper and loving objects more than human beings? Gluttony and Greed have to be two of the worst deadly sins in this world. People who gloat and show off their material and financial gains are highly irritating and boring. I think there is a fine line between being proud of an achievement and just down right “arrogance”/ smug self-centeredness.
So… what about those who are unable to have access to basic human rights because of physical, mental, cultural and social problems? Do they not deserve running water for example? Do they not deserve to feel safe in their own homes? To have education? And this was the driving force as I was growing up, why did I have so much yet other children in the world had nothing? Why are we so ignorant to environmental and cultural problems? Why are we so greedy, selfish and superficial? It is like the Buddhist story of Heaven and Hell:
“Once upon a time, in a temple nestled in the misty end of south hill, lived a pair of monks. One old and one young.
‘What are the differences between Heaven and Hell?’ the young monk asked the learned master one day.
‘There are no material differences,’ replied the old monk peacefully.
‘None at all?’ asked the confused young monk.
‘Yes. Both Heaven and Hell look the same. They all have a dining hall with a big hot pot in the centre in which some delicious noodles are boiled, giving off an appetizing scent,’ said our old priest. ‘The size of the pan and the number of people sitting around the pot are the same in these two places.’
‘But oddly, each diner is given a pair of meter-long chopsticks and must use them to eat the noodles. And to eat the noodles, one must hold the chopsticks properly at their ends, no cheating is allowed,’ the Zen master went on to describe to our young monk.
‘In the case of Hell, people are always starved because no matter how hard they try, they fail to get the noodles into their mouths,’ said the old priest.
‘But isn’t it the same happens to the people in Heaven?’ the junior questioned.
‘No. They can eat because they each feed the person sitting opposite them at the table. You see, that is the difference between Heaven and Hell,’ explained the old monk.’
And so since I was 15 I discovered three women in my quest for finding my life’s path. These remarkable women have inspired me for years and they continue to do so, their work, their selfless humanitarian acts motivate me to carry on being myself and to achieve my purpose and that’s being a Creative Activist.
All three women are in the creative industry in different ways and they use that as a catalyst to promote others to get involved in creative expression for a community or a global cause. So let me introduce you to them!
Kathy Eldon (And her daughter Amy): I like to call Kathy, Amy and Dan “The Creative Trinity” (The mother, the daughter and Dan’s spirit) here is their story:
“Dan Eldon was an Artist, photographer and creative Humanitarian, whose young life was cut short while on assignment for Reuters in Somalia. It wasn’t just a job that took him there, but a passion for raising awareness about the famine and civil unrest that could no longer be overlooked. Having visited more than 40 countries in his 22 years he was no stranger to helping when most would rather hide and began pursuing charitable acts of kindness as a teenager and never stopped. From the age of 14, he began expressing his deepest emotions in leather bound journals that went with him on each safari, assignment and philanthropic odyssey. In them were photos, art crafted with found items, and insightful words.”-CVF.
“He was given the name “Lesharo,” the laughing one because he was always laughing and had this vibrancy for life and a love of helping others.” His amazing Mother (and lovely sister Amy) turned his death into a celebration of life. Kathy was inspired so much by her Son’s bravery and compassion for others that she kept his legacy and spirit alive through launching the “Creative visions Foundation”. Creative Visions provides resources, support and education to Creative Activists all over the world. CVF is a publicly supported organization that supports “Creative Activists” like Dan – who use the power of media and the arts to create positive change in the world. Kathy and Amy continue to raise awareness of world suffering through curating exhibitions of Dan’s work, writing and publishing books, giving positive speeches and workshops and planning a feature film of Dan’s life. You can learn more about Dan and his life and how that inspired what Kathy and Amy now do from watching this talk on TED.
Want to donate or get involved? Visit: www.daneldon.org
Shirin Neshat :
Her work refers to the social, cultural and religious codes of Muslim societies and the complexity of certain oppositions, such as man and woman. Neshat often emphasizes this theme showing two or more coordinated films concurrently, creating stark visual contrasts through motifs such as light and dark, black and white, male and female. Neshat has also made more traditional narrative short films, such as her recent work, Zarin.
The work of Shirin Neshat addresses the social, political and psychological dimensions of women’s experience in contemporary Islamic societies. Although Neshat actively resists stereotypical representations of Islam, her artistic objectives are not explicitly polemical. Rather, her work recognizes the complex intellectual and religious forces shaping the identity of Muslim women throughout the world. In July 2009 Shirin Neshat took part in a three-day hunger strike at the United Nations headquarters in New York in protest of the 2009 Iranian presidential election.-Wiki
Shirin Neshat raises awareness through her art and public speaking about Persian artists who are in exile from their home country, Iran. Many freethinking and artistic Persian’s within Iran are imprisoned, tortured and sometimes executed for publishing work that the Iranian Government tries to ban. Many writers, novelists, poets, singers, song writers, painters and video artists are arrested for crimes of trying to be artistically free to create and say what they feel. Artists in Iran are a threat to the government because it encourages freethinking outside of the regime it has created to control its citizens. Shirin talks about how their Persian identity has been lost to a strict Islamic society and within that change came the entrapment of Persian artists and individuals who flee to other countries and are ultimately exiled from their country and cut off from their families. Their art is usually melancholic styled with Magical Realism to portray a sense of loss, yearning and hope of a dream for the freedom of Iran.
The freedom of women, of human rights in any country is important.
Want to learn more about Shirin Neshat , Persian artists in exile and the cause she is part of? Here is another Video of her talk on TED: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YS3gGpnPe8
Shakira (Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll):
From a very young age Shakira witnessed loss and sorrow. Her family went bankrupt and her older brother died in a car crash. She grew up seeing poverty and crime in her local community. Years later she discovered that Colombia is one of the largest displaced countries in the world where families flee from their homes and live in poverty in order to be in safer areas away from conflict. This fuelled Shakira’s passion and determination to become successful in her chosen career path. Not just for herself or her family but to raise awareness of Colombia’s social and economic crisis. She saw education as the answer and she uses her status as an artist/celebrity in order for her voice to be heard.
In 1995, Shakira founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation or “The Barefoot foundation”. It is a Colombian charity with special schools for poor children all around Colombia. Shakira and other international groups and individuals funded it. Not only does the Barefoot foundation provide education to children but it also provides education and jobs for the mothers of the children within the schools, so it has become this beautiful community project in order for families to become self sufficient. The name of the foundation is taken from Shakira’s third studio album called Pies Descalzos (Barefoot) released in 1995. During her career, Shakira has also performed at a large number of benefit concerts. She has also has agitated against the implementation of the Arizona statute SB1070 against illegal immigration, saying that it goes against civil rights.
Shakira is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and is one of their global representatives. She has currently become an Ambassador for Education in Colombia.
Education is important and all children around the world deserve to have the chance of getting basic education in order to create a better future for themselves and others.
If you want to find out more check out this video:
Want to donate or get involved? http://www.barefootfoundation.com/
I know some people who I am proud to call friends because they too give up their free time for a cause. Adel Barron is a practising Podiatrist and gave up Christmas day to volunteer at a homeless shelter in London. Simon Oldnall an account director and Katie Atkinson a business consultant and Yoga Teacher were part of sports relief and raised money for ‘The mile Run” in Liverpool,UK. My boyfriend Jon Roberts is a professional photographer yet gave up his free time to help put together a charity calendar to raise money for cancer research and has also helped document a parade/performance for the “monitoring Group” a charity dedicated to anti-racism that promotes civil rights.
(Jon Roberts: Out exploring and photographing Dartmoor)
Despina Chrysanthou is a Psychologist/Actress who was part of a campaign to end violence against women.
(Despina Chrysanthouh performing the Vagina Monologues for a campaign to end violence against women)
Layne Arlina is performance artist who Co-led the occupation at bath Spa University in 2010. She made artwork for an exhibition to raise awareness for the “Mind charity” in 2011. She is currently co-organizing an event to celebrate the successes of women and also due to partake in an archaeological event with the local community in Bristol.
(Layne Arlina is a Performance Artist/Activist. Here is a self-portrait entitled ‘Hair’ and her performance of “My Grandmother’s Egg in London. 2012)
Sofia Hericson is a multi-disciplinary artist who has always been involved in protests and causes. In High school she would take part in yearly UNICEF fund-raising stalls, she has recently done a bake sale to raise money for the renovation of the Rainbow Warrior (Green peace’s ship that is used to fight against whaling amongst other things) and for “Movember” organized a fund-raiser where the money was sent to the ‘Movember organization’ which works with prostate cancer awareness and research organizations. She is currently developing the ‘We Geeked This’ online community platform for women in the field of arts, cooking and gender studies. The idea behind it is to allow women to have a voice in the technological world of the Internet and break the stereotype that all women are essentially like characters in chick flicks e.g-Sex in the City or desperate housewives.
(Sofia Hericson is the epitome of ‘Creative Activism’ for as long as I have known her she has always been a part of fund-raisers, charity events and protests, she actively instigates creative and humanitarian projects and encourages others to get involved and make a difference.)
To be a creative Activist you do not necessarily need to be an artist, I simply relate to artists who work with humanitarian causes because I am an artist learning how I can get involved through art, which is my tool of trade. All three women (and my friends) started with a small idea blanketed by a passion they believed in and they have inspired hundreds, thousands if not millions. I am sure there are all kinds of people you find inspiring because of their charitable acts, please comment and tell me who inspires you and why? Or tell me some of the causes you have actively been involved in.
“Be the change you want to see – in spite of all the sadness, there is space between the notes. Listen to the silence and breathe into your feelings, release in you that timeless space that gives birth to all phenomena. We are connected in our love and in our pain. Whatever suffering there may be, may it serve to crack open the sky-like nature of the mind, yours and mine, into clear light. Contemplate death and you will appreciate life. For we are all travellers here on this school called earth.”-Anon.
By Katie Ness April 17th 2012
Katie Ness is a Mixed Media Artist and Belly Dancer. She primarily works with video and dance however keeps art journals and dabbles in illustrations. She currently resides in Devon, UK and has aspirations to become an Art/Movement Therapist within the community arts sector. Katie works as a teaching assistant with children who have severe learning difficulties and is to perform for “Attik Dance” fund-raiser for disabled adults in April. She is of Romani Descent, a yoga enthusiast and hopes to teach combined Yoga and Belly Dance classes to empower women. Here are her links:
Dan eldon: http://www.daneldon.org/site/
(All photographs are of Katie’s friends.)
Interesting Links: Artists, Local community and global causes.
Creative Visions: http://www.creativevisions.org/
Layne Arlina: http://www.laynearlina.co.uk/
We Geeked This/Sofia Hericson: http://wegeekedthis.com/
Attik Dance/Claire Beckett: http://www.attik.org.uk/
Effervescent /Eloise malone: http://eff.org.uk/
Post secret: http://www.postsecret.com/
Dance in Devon: http://www.danceindevon.org.uk/
The Depot: http://www.depotkenya.org/
Powerful Drums/Samuel Yeboah: http://www.powerfuldrums.co.uk/
The Monitoring Group: http://www.tmg-uk.org/