An Arab Artist Says All the World Really Isn’t a Stage
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
Published: August 19, 2006
THERE was a time, when he was a young man, Duraid Lahham said, that he thought he might help change the world with his movies. Not anymore. Now, he says over and over, art is useless as a tool for political change.
Art cannot change anyone’s mind, he says. It never caused a terrorist to have second thoughts, never transformed a dictator into a democrat. In fact, he says, it never did much but entertain.
This was one of the saddest articles that I have read recently. I was thinking about it again today after reading it last week. It seems so surprising -- and upsetting -- that the arts don't have any power for transformation. Art has been one of the few places where people of all places and times have had true freedom of expression. Through song, dance, theatre and paint, artists have found the courage to challenge the horrors of the world. Artists have spoken out about war, governments, racism, oppression, poverty and too many other injustices to name. In an area of the world that struggles with so much injustice, has art really lost its power? Or has David Lahham lost hope?
And what happens when artists lose hope in the world? Or worse, in the power of creative action? If we are no longer brave enough to paint, produce and perform, then I fear we will lose our truest voices. If we lose our creativity, it seems that we have lost the possibility to dream. And if we are no longer creating and dreaming of a new creation, then truly hope has been lost. I suppose then Mr. Lahham is right. I can only pray that hope has not been lost in the Middle East, or anywhere else in our wonderful world. It is my deepest prayer that hope is not lost. It stirs in me the desire to paint again. Hope can never be lost, just hidden. O God, I pray.