Saturday, June 19, 2021

Divinity, humanity, artistic enterprise and search for global peace in 21st century


Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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This occasion could not have been at a more appropriate time and nothing could have been more appropriate than Arts, Humanities and Global Peace Initiatives in the 21st century, just as it were in the ancients, the scholastics, the renaissance, the enlightenment and the modernity, but more pungently the contemporary time during which Arts and Humanities as a global peace excavator bestrode human history after the Second World War in the 21st century.

This question underlies the historicity and significance of Arts and Humanities and its undulating, over bearing and overarching significance to global peace conversations, interrogations and interlocutions in this 21st century’s high-tech innovation, digitalization, economic recession, social stress, religious fundamentalism, militancy, insurgency and political instability. It is on the basis of this indefatigable premise that I settled for “The portrait of God as an artist and humanist: the portrait of the artist and humanists as the agent of peace in the 21st century”.

Our excursion into this Arts and Humanities’ tapestry cannot be justified without due, fair and honest acknowledgement that it is the goose that laid the golden egg because it is the historical platform upon which past and modern peace initiatives were predicated.

Definitions of Arts and humanities are appropriate in articulating this lecture to the desired goal of initiating peace in the 21st century. Some have defined Art as a “diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts, expressing the authors imagination or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power” (Adaora Mbehi – Dania, 2016). Therefore, Art is aimed at evolving emotion and it is also a science to some extent. Humanities are on the other hand, studies about human culture such as literature, philosophy, history including visual, auditory or performing arts. All together, Arts and Humanities are practice and theory of culture.

Therefore, permit me to stress that the goose that lays the golden egg cannot be neglected. Our duty as intellectuals and faculty members of Ivory Towers, is therefore, to resonate or rekindle the gold mine of the past for peace, sustainable and innovative development. The ancient and modern tapestry of Arts and Humanities provides the axiology, the ontology, the epistemology and the cultural semiotics for exchange of the common humanity’s heritage of peace.

At this juncture, it is important to stress that peace existed in the past, irrespective of its complacent environment far away from the ambiences of industrialization and technology of the present. Yet it is a unique and unadulterated and primitive kind of peace articulated by Arts and humanities through mans appreciation of the ontology of nature. This is the artistic, the natural, the poetic peace which characteristically belonged to the idyllic age. It is peace which minstrel, music, poetry, Arts and Humanities are great providers which echoes, ebbs, edifies, beautifies and galvanizes both the inner most and sublime cubicle of human person and humanity.

These arts and humanities are many in one trinity called philosophy as it were, in ancient Greek philosophy before the evolution of the rest namely, religion, history, language, poetry, music and later the independence of physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics, and much later law, political sciences, sociology, geography and so on.

Ladies and gentlemen, the subjects of arts and humanities which we are discussing not only their relevance but specifically their role in peace initiatives are philosophy as an autonomous discipline, history, religion, language, music, poetry, theatre and to some extent, anthropology.

The concept of peace
Peace is a life experience which is bound up within the life-wire or the web of conscience of an individual or the society, lived and acted out by every generation of a society, articulated and interpreted by every generation of poets, artists, humanists, musicians and minstrels. To prove that philosophy is the gladiator of peace, Socrates in one of his Dialogues says, “Give me philosophy or dearth” (Sacrates, 399BC). Shakespeare in his poem says, “ if music be the food of love, play on” (Shakespeare, 2004). Indeed the entire gamut of his plays and poems are the lubricating oil of peace in the society and Chinua Achebe, world celebrated novelist and 14th among the 100 celebrated individual in Africa, in his master piece novel “Things Fall Apart” rekindles the flame of muse and riddle as peace initiators when he says, ‘proverbs are like oil with which words are eaten” (Achebe, 1956). Therefore, Arts and Humanities are the goose that lays the golden egg of peace with its interface and intellection of nature and consciousness in a subliminal pattern or method which is called phenomenology.

The chambers 20th century Dictionary defines “peace” as “a state of quiet, freedom from disturbance, from near cessation of war, a treaty that ends a war, freedom from contention, ease of mind, or conscience, tranquility: quiet…”. Plato, in his Republic argues that the peace within his tripartite components of the soul is analogous to the peace within his three categories of individual in the society. Great philosophers, or contractarians, as they are often called, like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean- Jacques Rousseau, postulated peace as the reason for the emergence of civil society. Statesmen, diplomats, Imams, clergymen and even security men preach about peace as the sin-qua-non for the progress of the society (Dukor, 2005). Peace has been expressed in different ways by different cultures.

The Igbo call the concept of peace Udo, the Yoruba call it Alafia and the Hausa call it Samalafia. All these indicate and emphasize a state of mind in the society, one that is serene, clement, in other words, peaceful. Peace is a concept that is all pervading in all cultures. The gospel book of Saint Luke, says, “Glory to God in the highest, and earth peace to people of good will”(Luke, 2:14). In its turn the Holy Quran says, “those who believe and mix not up their belief with injustice it is they who shall have peace and who are rightly guided”(Holy Quran, 6:83). Benedict de Spinoza asserted that “peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character” (Spinoza, 1997). Therefore, peace is a function of mind, culture and society.

Arts and Humanities as history, language, philosophy and religion from the ancient to contemporary times, as earlier alluded, excogitate, interrogate, inspire and preserve human rights as natural laws for the sustenance of peace in the society. Law as a discipline is axiologically under the umbrella of humanities but as an autonomous discipline, its common stratosphere of interest with arts and humanities is “peace” and “peace in the society” through the preservation and application of the natural law.

The arts and humanities as initiators of peace produced men and women of conscience immediately after the Second World War following the destruction of the fabrics of peace and order by the atrocities of the Nazi regime and “the ravages of the war”.

The revival of the natural law, so to say, years after the end of the 2nd world war was given impetus by the records of history, the wisom of philosophy and the precepts of religion in the passionate appeal of great philosophers like George W. Constable who ask: “was it not natural law theory that inspired the guarantee of inalienable rights in our constitution: that called kings and emperors to account for the rights of the people…”(Omoregbe, 1994). And a legal philosopher George Del Vecchio in similar tone asserted thus: “we would like to appeal for a return to the eternal idea of natural law, to that pure principle of justice which arises above the contingent vicissitude of positive legislation as a permanent criterion, which alone if it is respected, can lead to a true and lasting peace” (Omoregbe, 1994). Indeed, it is the theoretical, practical and conscionable ballast of the Arts and Humanities, after the atrocities, genocide, war crimes in the ‘Nazi’ Germany that propelled the revival of the natural law and then its subsequent expression in the German and French constitutions as well as the declaration of fundamental human rights in the United Nation’s chatter for peace of nations and the world.

Eclipse of Arts and Humanities, the rise of Science and the escalation of wars
The 16th and 17th centuries enlightenment period in Europe was a decisive time for scientific thinking and growth which even though was the handmaid of philosophy and by implication arts and humanities led to major technological break-throughs and provision of most utilities to the satisfaction of mans scarce commodities and wants. Although philosophy in this epoch provided the theoretical knowledge or theoretical science the natural sciences supplemented the former fully with the empirical knowledge. There is element philosophy in the sciences and there is the element of the sciences in philosophy.

That is why there was admixture of philosophers and scientists like Frances Bacon, Isaac Newton, Leibniz, Spinoza and Rene Descartes in that period. The first two were scientists and the last three were philosophers. Experimentations on the forces of gravity and atoms, though with tap-roots in philosophy, ostensibly displaced the later and allied humanistic discipline in providing the much needed succor and food on the table, as some would argue.
With greater emphasis, and results, on the sciences and nuclear physics contemporary philosophy in the 18th and 19th centuries embraced the former for a synthetic rapprochement in the common goal of serving the epistemic and empirical needs of humanity; that means off-shore theoretical knowledge of philosophy qua arts and humanities overflowing with the downstream empirical sciences and physics. This epoch therefore gave birth to a sense of reconfigurations and re-conceptualizations which lead to the emergence of social sciences which rediscovered its root, instead of in the arts and humanities, in the physical science, hence the need for the much advertized unity of the sciences which include physical, biological and social sciences. Yet the natural science as the science of physics and biology continues to isolate themselves as the sciences proper to the chagrin of the social sciences.

Against its background of atomization and exploitation of nature, like a whirl wind, the sciences overwhelmed man’s capricious, whimsical desire to ravishly and rapaciously follow the biblical injunction in Genesis thus: “Let man have dominion over it… that moveth upon the earth” (Gen.1:26),
This phenomenological mindset inevitably led to scientific discoveries, inventions, food productions, manufacturing of small and heavy arms, weapons of mass destruction and greedy exploitation of human and natural resources. The economic component of this experimental and epistemic growth of contemporary philosophy and science were the Adams Smiths treatise on the wealth of nations and the Malthus theory of demand and supply while the political component was the revival of the social contract theory of Thomas Hobbes, John Lock and J.J. Rousseau of the enlightenment period with political liberalism.
Above all, on the basis of the above existential premises, competition benefited from the prevailing scientific, economic and political assumptions by mankind and created theatres of wars and struggles in which weapons of mass destruction were experimented, tested and used. War scenarios emerged on the planet earth more than ever; the World I (1914-1981) and the World War II (1939-1945). Albert Einstein, the greatest scientist that over lived and greatest mind after Jesus Christ produced the atomic bomb that was used to destroy Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Ever since the synthesis of philosophy and science in the concept of contemporary philosophy and the rise of mercantilism and liberal market individualism and competition the world lost peace and caved into the cocoon of theatres of wars from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Tunisia, Israel – Palestine, to Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sudan to mention just a few.

The eclipse of arts and humanities by the sciences and the rise of conflicts and wars have gingered strident call for a renewed interest in arts and social sciences. This gesture was amplified by the American academy of arts and social sciences in June, 2013 when it called for a renewed commitment to humanities and social sciences after decades of the renascence of science and technology with its attendant harmful and hazardous side effects on food and weapons of mass destructions. This is where the role of arts and humanities in the global peace initiatives are pivoted. Scholars of various studies and even political and professional opinion leaders have been ambivalent about the idea of defending the Artistic and Humanities enterprises in terms of social utility or even initiating a global peace. But an argument or advocacy to the contrary has become absurd in the context of absence of peace in the contemporary world characterized by “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”, reminiscent of the “state of nature” (Hobbies, Leviathan) an arcane animalistic condition to which only a return to varieties of human and artistic cultural expressions as in the U.N charter of fundamental human rights can resolve.

Whatever onslaught the science and technology has caused mankind, behind the veneer of our mind is that arts and humanities sustain and preserve the heart and soul of our civilization by teaching us to engage with ideas critically and independently through life-changing personal development that eschews conflicts that lead to wars. It “transforms the experience of individuals, enabling them to understand their place in the world with deeper understanding and humanity” (Nigel Shardlow, 2011) . David Blenkett argues that understanding language and history underpins any effective political and social policy (David Blenkett, 2011) and Peter Hitchens would want “humanities subjects to return to absolute qualities in the form of the literary canon and narrative history” (Peter Hitchens, 2011)

Inspiring peace through Arts and Humanities
Arts and humanities can be used to protect the future of humanity from, extinction and, the hazards of nature and social diplomatic relations among nations that often lead to cataclysm, catastrophe and conflagrations. In the build-up to the reminiscences of the first and second world wars the appreciation of arts and humanities got a boost with the emphasis on the teaching of humanities in higher education curriculum and the emergence of artists, artisans and curators who not only identify beautiful works of arts commemorative of the idyllic in concept but also identify talents who need to be promoted on appropriate platforms.

In teaching and pedagogy, arts and humanities have been of use as a powerful foil to project culture, peace, history and political and economic stability as well as the voice of the populace. Arts, as the engine, propeller and ballast of peace initiative, is used to tell the stories of today and how they give a sense of who the people of the present are and how they ought to manage and cope with life ethically, socially, economically and politically while humanities’ disciplines as Courses in the tertiary institutions build capacities through teaching of the subjects and training of professional artisans as artists and curators. It is also at the same time imbibing in the younger generation the emotional and cognitive prerequisites or psychological values and emotions necessary for their personality and social development.

It is, therefore, imperative to periscope arts and humanities’ peace initiative in the 21st century from the prism of the promotion of culture qua cultural studies, cultural excellence and human amity and development in general. It is also important to view it from the foil of technical and scientific artistry of creating visual, auditory and performing arts and artifacts within which the brain is stimulated from sounds movements, colors and sizes; in its various forms the aim is to promote culture, peace and human development.

Adaora Mbelu – Dania interlocuted this as a canon for individual development thus: “arts is a language that allows us to express and develop our ideas and emotions (Adaora., 2016). Within it are process that cannot only help children to grow but also guide them to being limitless in their thoughts and aspire to becoming the very things that solve challenges they see around them”. This in conjunction with a curriculum of humanistic disciplines like philosophy, language, religion and history in the higher education in the world would impact positively on confidence, self-esteem, behavioural health and breaking down language barriers and cultural prejudices that often lead to extremisms and genocide.

The portrait of God as the artist and humanist
Arts and humanities inspire peace and shape the future advertently. To appreciate this we have to look at their diachronic and synchronic significance, how the visual arts, sculptures, folk arts, drama, poetry and the whole of creative arts are peace gladiators in their several and collective transformations and modulations of human existential and psychological morphology. There is a sync between, on the one hand, philosophy, history and languages, and on the other hand, visual arts, drama, poetry and sculpture in the propagation of human heritage, subliminal consciousness and historical artifacts ,of peace. While the former is in the form of philosophy, narratives and prose, the later is in the form of impressionism, surrealism, drama and poetry. The former in symbolic representation is a humanist and the former is similarly an artist. Both have the portraits of the other. Above all both the humanist and the arts have the portrait of God because God is a humanist and an artist as well as the maker of peace.

The portrait of God, the creator, as an artist and humanist is best told by the story of creation in the Bible. Genesis opens the creation saga as follows: “In the beginning God created the heaven and earth”(Gen. 1:1) whence he created the light, day, firmament , water, whales, man and other things. After creating man in his composite forms, male and female ,he blessed them and gave them dominion over every living and non-living things. Interestingly again Genesis affirmed God as a supra-anesthetist and artist in the recognition of the goodness of all the things he created thus: “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day” Gen 1:31). As an artist, He symbolized knowledge of good and evil with a tree and commanded not to eat of it “for in the day that thou eateth thereof thou shall die” (Gen. 2:17) God is an artist, sculpturer, designer, aesthetician and philosopher in the totality of the way he had found the earth “upon the sea, and established it upon the flood” {Psalm 24:2). The same God called His begotten son, the prince of peace. This means that the portrait of God of peace as an artist and humanist logically implies that the artist and the humanist is an agent of peace. It also follows logically that God is peace, meaning “the portrait of God as peace” and “the artist and the humanist as God meaning” the portrait of the artist and humanist as agent of peace and this point had been validly and syllogistically symbolized.

With the metaphysical, phenomenological and logical analysis of peace, we certainly have been able to adduce the portrait of God as the maker of peace and the portrait of the artist and humanist as God, then portrait of the artist and the humanist as agent or gladiator of peace.

The artist as the agent of peace
Before we proceed it is imperative to denote a special and practical sense in which the scientist also is an artist and humanist and in the secondary sense in which the scientist too is also an agent of peace, though his works and creative out puts are convertible to agents of wars and conflicts. Great scientists like Galileo, Newton, Bacon and Albert Einstein were not only humanists but also great artists in imitating God in His creative process without which they would not have discovered the science of nature. As cosmologists they were artists and as ontologists they were inventors. This is not accidental in history because in the pre-Socratic period of the ancient Greece and in the primeval civilizations in ancient Africa the scientists were all artists and humanists and vice-verse.

There is the need, therefore, for a proclamation of the unity of all sciences in the arts and humanities, as it were, in this 21st century for the initiation and promotion of peace in the world and avoidance of conflicts and wars. Accordingly, the stake for peace is high and the stakes for peace are varied in this 21st century. In other words, scholars and students of philosophy ,religion, history, languages and arts are as committed to the building of capacities for peace as the ecologists, the environmentalists, the physicists and so on.

In initiating peace in the 21st century, the ecologist, the environmentalist, the physicists or any of the practitioners in the special sciences first configures artistically the forms of scientific artifacts in their immutable, impressionable and peaceful substantiality before translating them into spacio-temporal reality. Phenomenologically the more accurate the scientists’ observations and projections of the firmament are the more peaceful the world would be. In other words, the history of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the history of oil spillage and gas flaring in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria are predicated on wrong artistic analysis.

The moral values, apart from their economic values, of visual art, graphic, design, printing, photography, painting, sculpture, textile and fashion and ceramics, can be better appreciated through their imaginative and aesthetic impact on the consciousness of humanity in its sublime tranquility and university. Visual arts provide and initiate peace in the private and public, individual and society’s consciousness which all together could be elevated to a cosmopolitan and universal peace. This is a psychological peace which upon an intersubjective simulation, social praxis and political participation will build capacities and modulations for peace in and among nations. It is said that health is wealth wherein the substance of health is the peace of mind without which there will be no wealth, therefore, we advisedly seek first the peace and health of the mind, and afterwards, every material thing comes.

On the other hand the condiment of the moral peace is the much often appreciated ‘in-thing’ in creative arts, poetry, drama, theatre arts and literature (fiction and non-fiction). In all, the imaginative succor is the food for a healthy living and the precursor, embellisher and edifier of peace in the offshore and downstream planks of human consciousness.

The guitarist as much as the drummer scintillates the canal mind into sense of unflinching possibilities of aesthetic satisfactions totally independent of material and sensual satisfactions. Traditional music in every art and culture, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Idoma, Tiv, Edo, Isoko and so on have much in abundance to offer in the production and sustenance of peace. There is none of the above cultural musical tapestry that does not have praise and peace songs for the unities of each and every one of the ethnic groups, which if globalised would become a global peace gladiator and initiator. The 21st century has more than enough historical heritage, artistic and humanistic cultural poetry, drama, music and culture extolling the intrinsic and extrinsic capacities for global propagation and promotion of peace. The portrait of God as an artist and humanist and vice versa have symbolic and ritualistic expressions in African arts, culture, religion and philosophy which I called Theistic Humanism severally as a concept, philosophy, theory and magnum opus. In other words, Theistic Humanism can pass as the philosophy of African arts, culture and humanism (Dukor, 2010).The history of poetry, music and drama cannot separated from the history of peace initiatives and there are innumerable poetic and musical peace initiatives from both the West and the African continent. Modern and contemporary creative writers, poets and musicians are peace interlocutors.

From the flipside, arts and culture as components of humanities, if globalised, will become an industry capable of raising the standard of living and revenue of nations. It is an avenue of self employment and self reliance through visual arts and tourist attractions and destinations as well as through drama, music and poetry as forms of entertainments and tourism. All these will result to peace and harmony in the societies and among the nations.

The range and scope of what constitutes arts and humanities need to be articulated in theory and practice with the objective of formalizing and institutionalizing a culture of peace at individual, community, national and global space. It is important to evolve the teaching of the significance of arts and humanities to human development in primary and tertiary institutions and it is equally important to have these cultures of peace in the lived or living experiences of human beings in the creative industry, entertainment, fiestas, recreation clubs, sports, Nollywoods, Hollywoods and cinemas, poetry, drama and dance.

In this age of globalised world, peace initiatives from arts and cultures of different nations and countries must come to the centre stage of global cognition and recognition as this is the way nations and people would imaginatively and culturally come to agreement in one voice on multilateral and bilateral differences bordering mankind. If nationalities and ethnic groups could speak in one voice in Sports, that is what has been demonstrated in various world Sports fiestas including the Olympic games. Therefore as arts and culture become instrument for world peace in the 21st century, the more it is conceptualized, formalized and practiced as an art of peace the more peaceful the world would be.

Also the entertainment industry of each locale as indicator of peace at micro-level should be globalised with the objective of embedding cosmopolitan peace. Radio and television art listeners and watchers can attest to the potentials of this electronic media in imbibing or desiminating peace: the entertainment industries including the Nigerian Nollywood movie or film industry and the U.S. Hollywood movie or film industry are prime time and television programmes whose message of peace or otherwise have captivated emotional and rational audience of different people, races and nations. In this 21st century their scripts, plays and verses must re-invent their age long mission as touch bearers of peace.

The 21st century poetry and drama should emphasize peace in both their normative and ontological foundations and in their process and praxis in the society. As many of the poetries and dramas in the schools and in the public forum should be made compulsory so long as they are focused on propagating peace.

Accordingly, dancing, proverbs, wise sayings, music and any art and culture of any people must be oriented to inaugurate the message of peace onto the impressionable and natural minds in the 21st century. Equally, painting, designand sculpture in the visual arts categories have been and should continue to reflect ideas and concepts of national, domestic and international peace.

Finally, scientists and artists of local and international environments, ecosystem, nature, physics and engineering have it as a duty to promote peace in the material extractions and use in the world. Global peace is also a function of averting wars through environmental protection and alleviation of poverty and instrument of mass destruction of life and properties.

• Entitled The Portrait Of God As An Artist And Humanist: The Artist And Humanist As The Agent Of Peace In The 21st Century, Prof. Dukor presented this paper at the Faculty of Arts Conference of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University on November 24, 2016

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