Malibongwe Tyilo argues that creativity is a modern asset
First, a confession. Among a number of character flaws, most of which I am blissfully ignorant, there’s one in particular that I’ll divulge up front: I occasionally hold grudges. I’m not vengeful, I just struggle to move on when I feel wronged by someone I’d trusted. Fortunately it takes a lot for me to feel aggrieved, so my grudge bag is very light. In fact, it’s empty at the moment.
However, a resentment that I held on to for a while was against the world in which I grew up, where choosing to pursue a career in fashion design or fine art or similar was shunned and caused sleepless nights for parents. Add to that mix South Africa’s political history and you have even more panic, especially for black parents. Imagine those parents, constantly stressing about what future their children would have in a country of limited possibilities, and then said children walk in proclaiming their desire to study fine art – and this to folks who haven’t seen much evidence of potential to make a decent living from the arts.
Even though mine were supportive enough and in a position to pay for my fashion school education and later, my multimedia design studies, I grew up around the messaging that I should pursue something in science or commerce. I also know many people with qualifications in those fields who had to pursue them for future security before they could then follow their hearts.
Being the cheeky youth that I was, I’ve always pushed back against that kind of thinking. Convinced that solutions to the world’s problems would come from creative communities, over the years I (mis)directed my ire towards the ‘suits’, big businesses, the corporates and their spreadsheets.
Fast-forward to 2018, and some of my favourite people to work with are ‘suits’. Let me explain. I don’t have statistics – what I have goes little beyond the anecdotal – but I’m convinced we’re living in one of the greatest eras for those willing to explore creative expression. From careers in design, be it fashion, graphic or productorientated, to those in fine arts or music, all the way through to the Instagram influencer set, creativity is everywhere.
Unlike many of the painters and sculptors of old who were only likely to be recognised long after they passed, a lot of today’s visual artists are superstars. However you feel about their work, you cannot deny the megastardom of Marina Abramović, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and the like. Locally, award-winning artist Nandipha Mntambo recently launched a limited-edition scent with perfumer Tammy Frazer, to be sold with two of the artist’s prints. The price tag was a cool R48 000. In the past decade, we’ve seen the birth and rise of the FNB JoburgArtFair as well as its counterpart in Cape Town, and the founding of numerous art galleries that have become players in the global art game.
Admittedly, there is still much work to be done to offer more opportunities for the creatively inclined. I believe, however, that there has never been a better time to be a creator and tell stories. And, thanks to the inevitable process of maturity, I have also long let go of my grudges against the ‘suits’. I’ve learnt that creativity does not only lie with the audiovisually inclined; it’s often businesspeople who enable creativity through their own special set of skills. While some may not be interested in the actual creative-execution game, many have revolutionary ideas.
Though not religious, sometimes on encountering the work of incredible creative minds, I’m tempted to subscribe to theistic doctrines: I imagine that great artists are doing the work of that higher power, as vessels for otherworldly visions and messages; that they provide solutions and questions as well as pleasure for this world. Create. malibongwe