Blazing past the norms, isn’t that the norm of audacity?

 Paints and pencils that enliven scathing originality…

 Dear youth, 

 Etch me, virtue. 

In the parched grounds of morality with scarce grains of justice, burns a fire of turmoil and misconduct. Every day, alongside my morning coffee, I find adversity printed in fine letters. Columns, full of alarming headlines exposing unapologetic, red-handed men of crime. We have watched our Mother Earth; a white canvas, be corrupted with the black of ruin. Yet, century after century, artists have amassed their colours and pushed past injustice to refine the palette of humanity.

Be it the tumultuous times of the “Reign of Terror”, or thundering revolts to the shackles of Stalin, artists have never shied away from representing their fight through their brushes. From revolutionary pieces like “Europe a Prophecy” by William Blake that highlighted his disappointment in post-revolution France to moving depictions like Defeated: Service for the Dead by Vasily Vereshchag, romanticism has always been about laying out a moral foundation and striving for expression in the most ill-fated times.

Unfortunately, terror and authoritarianism are yet to be defeated. Lucky for us, the weapon of expression has kept us too, firm in the battleground.

One such headstrong warrior is Cuban graffiti artist, Danilo Maldonado Machado aka “El Sexto” (The Sixth). Forced to move to the USA, El Sexto has been imprisoned many times in Cuba for his aesthetic depictions of injustice. Since then, neither his will nor his hands have halted. Guided by his resolute duty towards his nation, he negated to fall blindly at the feet of barbaric institutions. He boldly adorned many walls with brutal criticism against the abuse of Cuban people by the totalitarian Castro Regime. On April 15, 2015, El Sexto won the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent awarded by the Human Rights Foundation at the annual Oslo Freedom Forum.

However, El Sexto wasn’t the last string of righteousness. Fahmi Reza, a political graphic designer, street artist and documentary filmmaker, is another such artist who fell into combat with injustice. In January 2016, Malaysian President Najib Razak was caught in the act of being involved in what was at the time, one of the world’s largest corruption scandals.

Enraged by this heinous wrong-doing, Reza instinctively painted and circulated a sinister depiction of Najib as a clown, sparking huge viral ridicule of the President’s crime. Reza is now banned from travel and may face some serious jail time. 

Before putting a stop to my words, I must divulge the story of one final artist, Zehra Dogan. This astonishing woman is a Kurdish artist and journalist with JINHA, an all-women news agency, for which she covered the crisis in Kurdish cities. By mid-2016, this crisis had aggravated violently. Guns of soldiers had risen mercilessly, aiding the plight of many civilians and shoving them into the face of death. Some were even said to have their homes ablaze. 

During this devastating time, a photograph of the destruction of the city of Nusaybin was circulating on social media. Angered, Dogan adapted the picture into a painting with images of armoured vehicles devouring civilians. Just like the other artists, Dogan was prosecuted irrationally for her valiant protest. Not only was she falsely accused of being part of a terrorist organisation, but she was also sentenced to 2 years, 9 months and 22 days of prison. 

From these artists and many others out there, I take inspiration.

There is so much one can do to change the world. Change is not about anger. Change is not about violence or peace. Change is larger than you and me. Yet, Change is about all the little things as well. Change is humble. Change begins with the belief that we are much more capable than we envision. From a whisper rolled off your tongue to the stroke of a paintbrush, justice begins when you dare to pick up your choice of weapon. 

And as fearlessly said by Dogan from within the confinements of Diyarbakir prison,

“No artist turns her back on society.” 

– Manisha Mishra, Allen Kota


Leave a Reply