Build­ing a new world

The Star (Kenya) - - Sasa - BY ALLA TKACHUK /@GreatWALKOfArt Artists, de­sign­ers, sci­en­tists, and en­trepreneurs! Please vol­un­teer a cre­ativ­ity talk or work­shop in schools in Kenya. We need you! Con­tact Alla on con­tact@mo­bileartschoolinkenya.org

Cre­ativ­ity is our abil­ity to gen­er­ate new ideas. We all are born cre­ative to adapt to our en­vi­ron­ment to com­pete and sur­vive. As we grow up and set­tle into a status quo, our un­chal­lenged cre­ativ­ity weakens. It could be fine in a slow-chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment, but the world we live in is highly in­ter­con­nected and dy­namic.

To sur­vive and suc­ceed, we must stay highly cre­ative. If we are free and en­cour­aged to ex­per­i­ment and chal­lenge the status quo, we can sus­tain our cre­ativ­ity. If not, we stag­nate and lose ad­van­tages. Cre­ativ­ity is not lux­ury, it is es­sen­tial. Like lead­ing busi­ness­man and vi­sion­ary Dr Manu Chan­daria said, ‘Sur­vival in the 21st cen­tury will be dif­fi­cult, and with­out cre­ativ­ity, it is not pos­si­ble’. But how has the world has viewed cre­ativ­ity over the cen­turies?

Orig­i­nally, it was seen as a mat­ter of di­vine in­spi­ra­tion; an act of God. Greeks and Ro­mans had Muses, the god­desses of in­spi­ra­tion, and linked a ge­nius, a per­son who ad­vances orig­i­nal knowl­edge, to the sa­cred or the di­vine. In the Chris­tian and Mus­lim

tra­di­tions, hu­mans can­not cre­ate any­thing new; cre­ativ­ity is the sole pre­rog­a­tive of God. For Hin­dus and Bud­dhists, cre­ativ­ity is not cre­ation ‘from noth­ing’ but a kind of ‘un­cov­er­ing’. Chi­nese cul­ture un­der­stands cre­ativ­ity as a holis­tic process of con­ti­nu­ity, rather than rad­i­cal change and orig­i­nal­ity. In many lan­guages, there is no word for cre­ativ­ity.

In the 18th cen­tury, with the ar­rival of the in­tel­lec­tual move­ment of the En­light­en­ment, the view of cre­ativ­ity be­gan to change in the West. It be­came linked to the con­cept of imag­i­na­tion. In the writ­ing of English philoso­pher Thomas Hobbes, imag­i­na­tion be­came a key el­e­ment of hu­man cog­ni­tion. Wil­liam Duff iden­ti­fied imag­i­na­tion as the most im­por­tant qual­ity of ge­nius.

In the late 19th cen­tury, cre­ativ­ity started to re­ceive more at­ten­tion. This was driven by the Dar­win­ism, the the­ory that says that or­gan­isms’ abil­ity to adapt and com­pete is the key to evo­lu­tion. In the early 20th cen­tury, sci­en­tists such as Her­mann von Helmholtz and Henri Poin­caré be­gan to pub­licly dis­cuss their cre­ative process, and the pi­o­neer­ing cre­ativ­ity the­o­rists

Gra­ham Wal­las and Max Wertheime be­gan build­ing on their in­sights.

In 1927, English math­e­ma­ti­cian Al­fred White­head, defin­ing cre­ativ­ity as we un­der­stand it now, em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of imag­i­na­tion in ed­uca- tion: ‘Imag­i­na­tion is not di­vorced from the facts. It is a way of il­lu­mi­nat­ing the facts. Imag­i­na­tion en­ables men to construct an in­tel­lec­tual vi­sion of a new world’. He be­lieved imag­i­na­tion teaches stu­dents to con­nect the knowl­edge and ap­ply it to their own lives. ‘Dis­con­nected knowl­edge is mean­ing­less,’ he said; ‘par­rot­ing facts is not think­ing.’ He thought of for­mal school ex­am­i­na­tion as ‘ed­u­ca­tional waste’.

In our days, cre­ativ­ity is recog­nised as an es­sen­tial path to hu­man growth and so­ci­etal devel­op­ment. Gov­ern­ments seek ways to en­hance the teach­ing and learn­ing of cre­ativ­ity in schools. Nu­mer­ous busi­ness sur­veys on cre­ativ­ity are car­ried out. Neu­ro­sci­en­tists un­cover the ‘se­crets’ of the cre­ative brain. Sadly, there are some who still be­lieve cre­ativ­ity is ‘use­less’, ‘the act of God’, or that it can­not be taught.

‘ Di­vine In­spi­ra­tion’, PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA, 1450; and ‘Cre­ative Think­ing’, AU­GUSTE RODIN, 1902.

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