21 C
Mossel Bay
17th Jun 2019
Arts & Culture Community & Living Nature & Nurture

Twisted Koeksister

What is art to you? What is its relevance and value in society? And what does the degree of value given by that society to art, say about that society? Are we a society that is consumed by politics, greed and violence, or do we exemplify one that has the strength to allow one of the most risky and courageous of pursuits to flourish? It is easy to understand the value of an engineer, an accountant, a plumber, a teacher, electrician or a doctor – but where and why does the artist fit in?
We can start to answer these questions by examining what historians and modern archeologists look to when seeking information on the nature of a bygone civilisation. So often with archeological digs the focus falls on the art excavated, as so many museums across the world attest to with their displays of paintings, sculpture, pottery, glassware and ancient writings. And when archeologists and historians speak of the uncovered art, they often draw a correlation between the quantity and quality of the art on the one hand, and the degree of civilisation of that society on the other.
This notion is powerfully conveyed in the film The Monuments Men, where the chief character Frank Stokes (played by George Clooney) answers the question whether it is worth risking the lives of men in the Allied forces to save the art of Europe from destruction during World War II:
“You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting for.” (authors: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Robert M. Edsel & Bret Witter)
The inescapable conclusion is that good art and creativity in all its forms gives us a clear picture of whether the society of the time had the strength and maturity to allow space (including financially) for their artists to flourish. I believe that there is a very real reason why supporting local art and craftmanship – especially handmade articles – is so important: it is the key manifestation of our self-worth as a society and includes whether that manifests as your daughter becoming a ballerina or your son becoming a bronze sculptor.
So we have to ask ourselves whether game reserves that stock imported Eastern manufactured fluffy rhino dolls (the irony) in their curios stores, or shops that sell us items using images of our South African heritage but that haven’t promoted a lick of South African employment in their creation, should be supported.
Bringing this home with something practical, Mossel Bay makes a perfect example of a city that is still grappling with the real value of its current identity and people. Somehow it got it into its mind that it’s the Cinderella sister of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, and that only its siblings are worthy and entitled to attract tourists (over and above holiday makers). In contrast, the hunger expressed from local residents for platforms to display, market and sell their creativity was palpable at the recent market held at the Mossel Bay harbour when a cruise liner docked at our shores.
The reaction to the invitation do an art, crafts and goods market at the Mossel Bay harbour, was overwhelming; such initiative being possible due to the tireless efforts of amongst others Afrishore Shipping and Mossel Bay Tourism, and underpinned by Transnet National Port Authority (Mossel Bay Port). It mattered not that the notice period was brief. The response was like a sluice gate had been opened or an itch finally scratched after years of plaster had been removed. Initiatives like this one have vision, and we should not only encourage them, but demand their continuance, as they ensure the survival and promotion of our identity as a people and city.
Mossel Bay has incredible history, archeology, eco-tourism, architecture, and art on offer – all it needs is to cultivate a culture that actively and aggressively seeks out to use the existing assets (and supporting industries such as wine farms, gin breweries and restaurants) and to develop this appeal for all year round tourists, not just holiday makers.
The truth is local art is one of Mossel Bay and its surrounding hamlets best kept secrets, it’s through the exercise of our conscious choice now that will change that perspective.

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