Monday, 25 October 2010

Creatively Retarded

Graffiti style. The universal socially acceptable graphic art form.

I was at an event yesterday which triggered suppressed emotions I have for this style. I saw a lot of people selling t-shirts emblazoned with “Islamic words” in a graffiti font, as if writing it in such a way somehow made it relevant and acceptable to the masses.

Argh! Graffiti! I never understood how something which was predominantly associated with American hip-hop culture had any relevance to my life and more to the point, relevance to me as a Muslim.
It bothered me that this was the graphic identity that young Muslims had adopted to symbolise their culture. It bothered me that they were borrowing someone else’s culture. It bothered me that they weren’t trying to create their own identity, especially since Islamic history has such deep connections with art; beautiful art. As you can see I was quite bothered.

I thought I had dealt with these emotions long ago, but I clearly had not yet had closure. Journey, I journeyed to the ends of the realm of my logical capabilities and explored the possible answers to these questions keeping me awake at night.
I will now share with you the possible answers I came up with on why we don’t seem to have our own identity.

Is there a lack of value for creativity? I know that being of Arab origin I rarely impress any of my family members when I tell them I’m a designer. Most of them say something along the lines of “You should’ve studied something useful, then you could have done your designing in your spare time”. And with my Asian friends parents it’s simply “No, you’re going to study medicine”, or possibly engineering.

Is it because of the negative association of the culture of “innovation”? In Islam, there’s a term for “innovation in religion” called “biddah” which refers to people inventing new things into religious practise. It’s a very bad thing. So is the whole “nature of innovation” frowned upon? Islam is after all, about letting go of your ego.

Or is it because Muslims today haven’t self-actualised? Are we still on the penultimate step on the Maslow Pyramid? Why is this? Why are we embarrassed? Is it because generally religion is frowned upon in the West and we constantly feel like we have to apologise?

......Or, do we for some reason just like how graffiti looks and I’m thinking about this way too much?
I feel like, we should be forging our own identity. We should be taking elements of our native, adopted and Islamic cultures and creating something beautiful. And I don’t mean graffiti in an arabesque style font. I mean, the kind of stuff that Elenany does :) Thank you.