Why Art: Meaning, Empathy, and Imagining the Future

By Rebecca Corey ~ Director of Nafasi Art Space on 17 Apr 2020Insight


As Director of Nafasi Art Space, an independent contemporary art institution in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I’m often asked about my take on the role of art in society. Why is art important? What value does it add to our lives? Especially right now, many of us are finding this a moment for a much-needed pause, an opportunity to soul-search about what is really most important in our daily lives and communities.


Activities like cooking, gardening, and reaching out to friends has taken on new significance. It turns out that simple acts of nurturing, healing, and connecting are more important and fundamental to our wellbeing than we ever realised. Many are turning to various art forms for both comfort and hope. Who else has found that discovering art, listening to music, watching movies, and reading to be some of the most meaningful and inspiring moments of our days now?


There are a few main reasons that I believe art is so important — both in the best of times and especially during moments of crisis. Those core reasons are as follows.


Art is:


1.    A universal tool for meaning-making

2.    A stimulus for greater empathy and compassion

3.    A portal that helps us to imagine and create a better world.


Our ability to interpret our lives symbolically and artistically is of the defining aspects of humanity. The search for understanding our existence helps give our lives meaning and significance. When we are confused, anxious, or worried, finding and making meaning through art is a healing and centring act.


Experiencing and appreciating art is a way to grow more connected to our own cultures, communities, histories, and selves, as well as a way of learning about and appreciating the stories and lives of others. Living in cooperation, with mutual respect and care, is also a foundation of our survival. Basically, art is a great way of connecting with others through understanding.


And finally, art helps us to envision the world we all want to live in, and imagine how to get there. Art is a practice and a way of living that is open to everyone, not just professional artists. In fact, I believe that everyone is full of creative potential and this may be the perfect chance to use it.


Some artistic strategies are useful for life in general. The advice I have for anyone who wants to start creating art or just using the lessons of art in their daily lives is this: pursue questions instead of answers, be willing to experiment and fail, look both deep within yourself and all around you for inspiration, and let go of the fear of truly knowing yourself and sharing that with others.


Please visit us at www.nafasiartspace.org or @nafasiartspace on social media to get your dose of unique and throught-provoking artwork, to share your own with us, and to join the conversation with an inspiring artistic community here in Dar es Salaam, from wherever you happen to be.



By Rebecca Corey Director of Nafasi Art Space