Be an Artist or Be an Activist – Pick One

I was speaking to my cousin yesterday about the kind of art that I tend to make: morbid, sad, melancholic, etc., and how I didn’t know how to reconcile that with the kind of activism I’m passionate about.

Is it a self-fulfilling prophesy to say,”I’m actually a sad person, and thus I like to make art for the sad, broken soul?”  I write about some pretty morbid stuff, and I don’t shy away from uncomfortable topics, or from writing in detail about traumatic events.

Some people may call it trauma porn. I call it catharsis. We each have our own ways of healing.

When I started this sexual assault awareness campaign, I didn’t think about my own personal work. I only thought,”I’m sure there are people who are struggling in our community, which loves to sweep everything under the rug and pretend that nothing bad happens,  and maybe I could provide an outlet for people to share their stories, so others can KNOW this actually does happen in our community.” Before a problem can be solved, we must first acknowledge that it exists. We’re struggling with that part, and this was an attempt to bring that to light. Sexual misconduct/abuse does occur in our community, and its often goes unnoticed because the victims, often female, are shamed into silence.

Whilst doing that, I also get back to the business of writing, because that’s my spirit. I write to get everything out. I write especially when I’m sad, but I realize now that I lied when I said I do my best work when emotionally distraught. I haven’t been able to produce any work that I’m proud of this week, because there has been a dark cloud over me, and all my demons are home. Especially one big Shaytaan who has a way of throwing me off and making me crumble, no matter how much time passes, and no matter how much I think I’ve built myself up.

So since I’ve been unable to write anything new, I looked at some old work to share, and they’re all morbid, sad, taking the worst way out, etc., and I thought, “I can’t share this! I don’t want people to be sad, or think of suicide as a way out, and especially if they’re already there, I don’t want anything that I write pushing them over the edge!”

How much are we responsible as artists for what other people take from our work?

Do I have to make a choice? Do I have to choose between artistry which keeps me alive, and activism which also ignites my soul? If so, how do I make that choice?

Do I choose art, because without it I cannot live, and step back from the arena of activism?

How do I as a loudly outspoken person step back from activism that is personal to me as a woman, and as a global citizen?

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