Dwayley is somewhat of a social butterfly, and equally so an enigmatic entity. By virtue of being a “cultured swine” of sorts, insightful conversation is a constant I always try to maintain when I’m around MaGang (basically anyone who smiles back). So recently during one of the many congregations of creatives I had the pleasure of sitting in on, a rolling conversation of how health has seemingly become a triviality among these our youths (reference made to “Indulgence or Addiction?”) got me thinking: mental health – or the lack thereof – is an issue perennially tackled in the spectrum from our youngeons to our immediate elder siblings, and most of these people are accomplished artistes either already established or still building their repertoire. How, then, do they manage to administrate their mental wellbeing and their creative energies in a way that is harmonious and without (visible) chaos? Is it smooth sailing or are these intangible influences in a perpetual cat-and-mouse chase on the infinity racecourse?
Granted, I haven’t struggled with the mental health issues that most other creatives valiantly suffer through on a daily basis, though it’s almost a given that every creative creates as a form of therapy to purge these ‘demons’. Through experiencing descriptive arte like music and stage performances, however, I do have an idea of how conditions like depression, PTSD, body dysmorphia, AD(H)D et cetera can take a toll on the sanity and overall contentment of a creative, and how these negatives feed the outlets for said thoughts, feelings and emotions. Countless studies explore the effects and implications of our mental fluctuations on our endeavours, and the empirical evidence is voluminous, but all these bear no sway if the creatives themselves are neglected in any step or process. Ergo, in an attempt to properly curate this week’s #ThinkOnIt topic, intensive due diligence was integral to the process. The result? Enlightenment.
Many similar views on the burning issues prevailed, a few more profound than the rest. One of these dialogues identified the nature of a creative being rooted largely in emotion, and how whatever an artiste is feeling is projected into the arte they put out. This reiterates the thought that art itself is a manifestation of the intangible innermost. For instance, a moment of deep grief could draw out a creation with a sorrowful, dark meaning or explanation, whereas ‘optimum mental stability’ elucidates brightness from within and translates it onto tangible canvas. A very good friend of mine and an amazing visual and culinary artist talked about how she can’t create when in a good place mentally. And being a bit of a perfectionist, careful and caring of every minutiae, it’d be against her nature to lose control in order to create not just good, but meaningful art.
So essentially, “the mental pits” become the optimal artistic state for her to create. Unfortunately, it is the stereotype that prevails, this “tortured artist” trope – after all, stereotypes are ultimately rooted in truth. She did stress how fine the line is between being in the absolute pits and just an “ok” depressive episode. It’s anywhere from being irritable and withdrawn from the world around, to being in a state of nothingness: a long dull ache that hinders one from doing literally anything, physically or otherwise.
It all culminates into one truth which isn’t at all surprising: mental health and creative energies are in a love-hate relationship. And we all know how those go – “can’t live with it, can’t live without it”. So many factors go into making the relationship functional though, some inexplicable, most mysterious, but all effective. It’s been proven since the dawn of documentation that troubled minds produce pieces oozing profundity, and in such cases treatment was seen as a threat to the ominous manufacturer fashioning such historic pieces. Arte with a dark origin story has always had the most appeal to consumers, which may be why the romanticism of mild insanity in a bid to create history-makers may be a problem worth culling. Even then, support is lacking for the afflicted, especially in a(n African) society where mental afflictions are either brushed of as mumblings of weakness or evil spirits lurking. Even more so that the creative industry is frowned upon as a corruptor of the youth and “trying to turn hobbies into careers”, such talks fuel abolitionists’ arguments. The question then becomes, do we defiantly let the process be itself – the winning formula of the centuries – or do we take a stand by ourselves to promote optimal mental stability as much as is appropriate, for the sake of our brethren? #ThinkOnIt
<Insights by Facebook user Karim Shehu and Instagram user @nabuma_r>
<Art by: Jean-Michel Basquiat>