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What is Creativity and why is it so
important for Native communities
Our communities are overflowing with it and our culture is safely preserved within its confines. We live it every day and are only surprised when there is a lack of it. It’s creativity, and it shines like cut glass beads amongst our days. But why is this so? Why are we so blessed when it comes to our painters, actors, sculptors, craftspeople, poets, writers and innovators? Why do Aboriginal people seem to hold creativity with such an enviable grip?
Artists can tell you, one of the most inspiring motivators towards positive creation is denial, oppression or hardship. There is something about a “NO” that makes one want to write “YES!” There is something about ugliness or pain that makes one’s hands want to shape the form of beauty. Maybe this is why grey walls are so appealing to muralists. Perhaps this is why the blank page is like a beautifully iced cake to the mischievous writer- they just can’t resist running a finger across it, to leave a mark of their own.
But it isn’t just a rather impressive record of survival in a community where post-colonial oppression still stings that makes Aboriginal Canada unique in its creative talents. It’s much more than just a reaction to an outside stimulus that brings the art. It’s the ability of a passionate people to, as early French diarist Anais Nin put it, “Live in every cell.”
Writer William Saroyan advises emerging writers to do just this. “The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think. Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
This is just the kind of attitude Aboriginal Canadians live by, at least amongst my circle of family and friends; you would be hard pressed to find a bored or boring individual amongst them. Pulling tradition into modern living seems to make for a colourful quilt, one that we can wrap our babies in, one that we can pass down through the next seven generations.
Former University of Toronto Aboriginal Studies music and art instructor Debby Danard finds creative choices are daily, and are not just limited to the artists among us. “I do think creativity is in everything we do though...how we interpret the world even in how we dress in the morning...we are all connected to the creative collective of the universe and how we interpret that is very personal, sometimes private, sometimes public...”
If you look up the word create in the thesaurus, you come across the synonym, construct. Through our creative choices we are constructing our reality. And maybe that’s why we are such creative people -- because we give it its due respect, we invest the time and energy into creativity, we value it. Because we understand that speaking up and out for ourselves is important work, that it is necessary work. And no matter how much we evolve and change as communities, our core values and true histories are kept safe in our stories, our paintings, our stitches, and our songs.
Early French diarist Anais Nin coined a phrase that I think exemplifies the kind of art that we as a community produce. Speaking about her experiences and the logging of them she wrote that the best way to live, the truest way, was ‘in every cell’. I like that, I use it a lot in fact. Living in Every Cell; living to your full potential and with passion and imagination, never wasting a moment or an opportunity. Its how artists live, seeing every minute as an open door, and then walking through it. And aren’t we all artists deep down?
Art is truth and we are speaking it.
Art is hope and we are excited for our future.
Art is survival and we are here to stay.