The Mysterious Value of Art

*Featured art: “Hope” by Mcharo Mwakio, 2022. Oil on Canvas

Art is a people’s conscience. When put on canvas or any medium, that conscience becomes a tangible treasure. With time, it can become priceless, a national treasure displayed only in museums under tight security. You see it and it hits you with a sense of awe one can’t put into words.

For Africans, priceless art used to acquire spiritual value and became a symbol of power, sometimes a medium through which deity “spoke” to the people. In other words, it was used to establish oracular power. Same power crafted by organized religion.

Much of this awe-inspiring art was stolen by invading powers. Like the ngadji – the Pokomo drum that the British have refused to return. It certainly is useless to the Brits, but the theft served its purpose of eroding the center of Pokomo power.

Never underestimate the power of creative symbols. Reminds me of how Baltimore’s Confederate statues, those towering works of art in stone, had to be toppled in the dead of night to prevent an uprising.

But we still have our artists, and the best ones are still being born. No need to cry over stolen things. Make new ones and imbue them with new power. If a country is not good at cultivating its artists, others will acquire their treasures.

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