Perceptions about life change drastically when you’re on holiday. And my most recent trip to South Africa has been no different. It’s been life changing. And it’s been life changing for all the right reasons. South Africa has retaught me what it means to be creative.
So what is creativity?
When we’re young, we’re taught definitions, frameworks and ideas about what creativity is. Creativity, to quote a dictionary definition, is the use of imagination or original ideas to create or recreate ideas, objects, people, thoughts, feelings and settings. When we’re young, creativity is at its purest and most innocent. Our skies are red and orange. Our hills are made from ice cream. We live in tree top castles and have dragons for pets.
But as one grows older and matures, it’s almost like our creativity is drained from us. Much like how one would drain a bathtub of water. Speaking from personal experience, I was told during my first lesson of English in high school, back in 2010, that as I progressed through my higher education, I would slowly lose my creativity. And as testament to my teacher and mentor who told me that, it has happened. My imagination is so lackluster now. My imagination has become rusty with age and disuse. My reliance on analysis and attempting to find the deeper meaning of words, phrases, images and texts has left me with this slightly suspicious, cynical view of the world. I can no longer watch movies and television shows without subconsciously analysing what’s in front of me on the screen.
But to contrast this, I do still possess the ability to think outside the box. While I now combine analytics and logic, I like to believe I still have that childlike creativity and imagination – imagination that’s pure and untainted and so wonderfully different.
But it is sad to see where my creativity has ended up. I’ve become almost desensitized to the beauty and vivacity of the world. The innocence and purity of our imaginations have been lost, and we can no longer picture the yet to be discovered, the imaginary and the intangible.
In a world that’s moving so rapidly and progressing so quickly, the norm is to leave the creativity and beauty we all once possessed, in favour of statistics, facts, data and analysis. We’re all so hung up on being current and being relevant that we’ve all forgotten our imaginations. We’ve forgotten the feeling of discovery. We’ve cast aside the creativity we all possess and we can no longer jump through worlds, leaving reality for even an hour, where we immerse ourselves in our creativity. Through whatever means that may be.
So how has South Africa enabled me to rediscover my creativity and imagination?
South Africa is like no other country I’ve ever been to. The landscape resembles Australia, with vast open spaces, beautiful landscapes and a vast sense of community. But what really strikes me is that while the country modernizes and dramatically changes so much, people have still stuck to their creative roots.
I think what sticks out in South Africa, is that creativity is innate. It isn’t taught or articulated. It isn’t forced or pressured into seeping out.
South Africa displays creativity as an art form in itself. It’s free, vocal, explosive, loud, but so subtle and engrained in culture at the same time. South Africa has taken freedom of expression and simultaneously worked to eradicate the systemic cultural oppression that riddled society from the 1940’s onwards, and provide voice as a means of healing and expression to allow voices to be heard in society. Through creativity – media, art, sculpture, painting, textiles, jewellery, clothing to name a few media,
Throughout the two weeks I spent in South Africa, I was greeted to the sight of creativity that steps away from the typical means of coming up with ideas and things that are new and innovative for the purpose of boosting an economy or making money. While on drives and hikes and walks, there would always be a shanty styled structure well stocked with local art, ranging from sculpture to jewellery and paintings.
Each piece that I admired and each piece that I bought tells its own story. The artist intricately weaves tales of deception, pain, suffering, joy, mirth, wonderment and love into the different pieces they create. Sculptures depict a child’s coming of age through a complex amalgamation of stone woven together to depict the loss of innocence and the gaining of maturity, crafted perfectly with hand. Tapestries spill stories of transcending hardship, suffering through the Apartheid, losing children to HIV/AIDS and losing loved ones to violence to find fruition and purpose through creativity.
The most majestic part of these stories is that none of these stories are told through a piece of paper. Every story created in an artwork is left to the interpretation of the admirer. By allowing the admirer to use their brain and try and understand what the amalgamation of thread and bead, or stone, or hemp and wood means, South African artists have proven to remain true to the definition of creativity and the joy of being able to lend voice to a talent that’s meant to be celebrated and appreciated by all.
Creativity has become a tool for these African artists to tell their stories. To educate the public about their hardships. And to share the joy of their successes. For these artists, it isn’t about the need to make a profit or to become successful and economically stable. For them, creativity transcends the traditional definition and allows the voices of hundreds of thousands of individuals oppressed by the traumas of social and racial prejudice to be heard.
But how has learning about creativity in South Africa influenced my understanding of it?
When I look at myself, I see a young woman studying and working, who is so entangled in a web of numbers, marks, facts, data and analytics. And while there’s beauty in perfectionism, I’ve noticed one serious deficiency in my life. And that’s creativity.
By being able to watch these artists combine the tenacity to let their voices be heard, and the dedication to their craft and their talents, I’ve come to realise that all of us need to step away from hard fact and data and reopen the childhood talents we’ve left behind. To see adults so in tune with their creativity has encouraged me to set aside time where I let go of my priorities and workload and just let myself be. Let my creativity be seen and heard.
Creativity doesn’t get lost with time and age. Creativity gets locked and pushed to the back of your mind. But much like riding a bike, you don’t ever forget how to be creative. You don’t forget the ability to play an instrument, hold a paint brush or write a story. Yes, the finesse in your technique might lack, but by continually revisiting your creative outlet, helps you gain the confidence to let go and just be your own creative self.
To be able to harness creativity and use it is one of life’s greatest skills. To tell stories and weave emotion and delicacy into a creative outlet is something we all possess. We just need to revisit our creative abilities.
We just need to find a way to let our creativity be seen and heard once again.