Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Moral Function of Art

                                  Last off the Vine  watermedia sketch

Artists make pictorial records of events, emotions, feelings. Some of us try to sketch the simple beauty of mundane, everyday things. But today, I read an article and saw a slide show of something that moved me beyond words. "When he was only in his 20s Ernest Cole, a black photographer who stood barely five feet tall, created one of the most harrowing pictorial records of what it was like to be black in apartheid South Africa. He went into exile in 1966, and the next year his work was published in the United States in a book, “House of Bondage,” but his photographs were banned in his homeland where he and his work have remained little known." Thus began a article in New York Times :  Homecoming For Stark Record of Apartheid.  The accompanying slide show of Mr. Cole's black and white photographs are so very powerful- they  shock, anger  and deeply distress the viewer.  And as the author Celia W Dugger writes, 'Mr. Cole’s captions and photographs are imbued with wrenching emotions.'  On checking his biography I discovered that he  dedicated his life to record and show the world the injustices and exploitation of segregation. But he paid a heavy price for his work and died young, a homeless man and in exile.  

If and when there is an American tour of Cole's photographs, I hope to be able to view it in person.    Coincidentally, over at Katherine A Cartwright's blog, there is a lively debate going on the 'moral function of art.'  She has been reviewing John Dewey's 1934 book "Art as Experience."  She writes that 'it all began with a statement by John Dewey: the moral function of art itself is to remove prejudice, do away with the scales that keep the eye from seeing, tear away the veils due to wont and custom, and perfect the power to perceive.'  I think Ernest Cole's photographs do all that and much more.  

10 comments:

Sanctified Spaces said...

Thanx for educationg us about Ernest Cole.

Anudeepa Kadiresan said...

Thanks for this post Meera....:)

meera said...

@Sanctified Spaces and Anudeepa, I was really moved when I read about him and had to share. Glad you thought so too.

Thaikaden said...

Informative one. Thanks.

Crystal Cook said...

Wow, what a powerful post meera. And I love the colors in your watercolor sketch. :)

meera said...

@Thaikaden, and Crystal --Thank you :) I don't know if I would ever have the courage to risk so much for truth....

Kathy Staicer said...

Great watercolro sketch and very moving photos by Ernest Cole.

meera said...

Thanks Kathy! yes -- I really hope to see them in person some day.

Rajeev said...

Great Post. Nice you publicized Cole. I had not read about him before. Nice water color to top it.

meera said...

Thank you Rajeev -- I vaguely remember seeing one of the photographs (the miners) somewhere but reading about him now I was blown away!

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