Humans are malleable, adaptable, and ever-changing. We can revise what it means to be human.
I exited the “Hands On: Artists/Activists Discuss State & Police Violence” instalment of the “Hacking The Culture” series with this in my mind. I have attended public lectures of similar content in the past, however, the issues were often addressed by figures who practice politics or law by profession. This particular lecture differed from the others because the panel of speakers was entirely composed of artists and creatives.
Rather than suggesting laws and legislations that forbid and punish acts of intolerance, the artists suggest ideas and actions that can be taken to promote tolerance. Rather than removing hateful individuals from society, we can create a society that fosters loving citizens.
New Media artist Cheryl L'Hirondelle is the first to engage the audience. She speaks of achieving a more accepting world by fostering inclusive communities- she speaks of Radical Inclusivity. L'Hirondelle grew to understand the importance of letting everyone “in” while living on a reservation. She recalls allowing travellers into her home and offering them water, shelter; comfort. “Someone came to your door, you always let them in. You never know how far they travelled,” she reminisces, “you never lock your door.”
L'Hirondelle has used her artistic abilities to spread her message of inclusivity. She appreciates the place in her past that taught her this value by incorporating traditional aboriginal symbols into her pieces. In a performance piece involving many players, the participants use the smoke trails of smudge sticks to create the form of a teepee in the air. L'Hirondelle explains that the teepee represents a welcoming place where people can gather for comfort and safety. Her art piece reflects the inclusivity of the teepee by allowing anyone to join the display. Those who wish to join are welcomed with smudge sticks- hand grown, gathered and bound by L'Hirondelle herself- which they ignite to increase the size of the teepee; to enlarge the community. When the performance is over, the ground where the teepee stood is covered with sage. “It leaves beautiful traces”, says the artist.
Other artists on the panel include Amar Wala and Abdi Osman, who have used the medium of film to tell stories of injustice, forcing the audience to question any hateful notions that society has cultivated regarding underrepresented groups of people. Wala discusses the irrational and undeserved fear of Muslim people that has been cultivated and perpetuated by Western governments and media, and Abdi concludes the lecture by speaking out on the lack of communal support for gay and trans people of colour. Both artists strive to eliminate any intolerance towards the communities they represent respectively; intolerance that was generated by ignorance and misrepresentations in corrupted media.
These artists are among an ever-expanding network of brilliant creatives who recognize that while politics can restrict a human's actions, art can reform human minds. As content creators, we have a responsibility to work with L'Hirondelle, Wala and Osman to inspire tolerance within individuals, who will form loving communities. We have to envision a future that is safe and inclusive to all- and the we have to create it.