By Hwaa Irfan*
Even when the opportunity arises, far too many people focus on the human instinct, rather than the human spirit. The impetus to survive is an instinct of all creation, but the gift of human spirit will seek more to life than allow itself to become engulfed in the monotony of putting food on the table.
The arts much underestimated in the needs of man, is one such sphere of human existence. It is not only for the artiste that the process of creativity is an all-important part of rising beyond the mundane; it is one of the few shared processes by which the artiste and the observer can benefit immensely.
A Norwegian study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, proves the point at hand.
A significant 50,000 men and women were assessed to see how satisfied they were with their lives. The results revealed that men and women who had a better state of mental health and lower levels of anxiety were those who actually participated in cultural activities: visiting exhibitions/museums, going to the theatre, painting, or even playing an instrument. As such, the same group had a better state of health, and rated lower for levels of anxiety, and depression than those participants who did not have a relationship with cultural activities.
A young January 25th Revolutionary would testify to the importance of art in her life. Working in the all-inspiring gallery off Houriya Square in Ma’adi Cairo, Mariam (not her real name) is an artist extraordinaire who lives her art. El-Cavelli Gallery is a den full of art made functional, with every piece serving a purpose that decorates the home, office, or the body. From the rich colours of the Bedouin to modern abstract design stained glass works, tapestry, pottery, jewellery, and furniture only gives some example of the treasures one’s eyes can behold.
For Mariam, her art not only translates into the clothes she wears, but into the intricate jewellery she makes, as if an unbroken line exists between her and the distant past. A more abstract modern design filters through her textile designs, and becomes prominent in her graphic work, but all in all quite professional for a graduate of Art.
As I waited for a custom-made rosewood tablia (a traditional table) to appear, an in-depth conversation evolved into a conversation of trust.
If one has ever met a January 25th Revolutionist, before even speaking one will pick up on an instant air dignity and humility rolled into one. They have a sense of purpose greater than their years, and wisdom that one would even trust one’s own life with, without compromise.
An artist, a teacher, and a psychologist by nature, Mariam studied art psychology as an intrinsic module of her degree. All of this blossomed into a 25-year old whose understanding of life, and how to live life was something to bow down to and respect. Through her art she realized many things, and how her art saved her from the complexities of life faced by her non-artistic friends. With a deep respect for the sensibilities of others across faiths, cultures, and temperaments she stood square in the center of her own being. She had no desire to be anyone else, a complex that affects many – Mariam passes this experience on through her teaching at the Art School that belongs to the gallery – one should observe the students as they leave full of inspiration, and a sense of the meaning of life which cannot be imitated.
This is the art of living, and the importance of the artistic experience. Any problems experienced can be processes through the various art forms. When I asked Mariam what was the difference between her artistic friends and non-artistic friends she reflected, and then replied:
“… there was no difference, but art gives the channel to unburden what is inside.”
This is more than implied by the research carried out by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Mariam describes her home as a roof occupied with her art, with each piece representing a process of giving birth, and like any mother each a ‘child’ not to be separated from . Such a person whose art is a never-ending journey is art in the making.
As I waited for transport for myself and the tablia, I was uplifted and inspired with the scent of the mimosa tree drifting on a night air full of promises.