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Art And Politics


Voting is something I have never taken lightly. My immigrant parents and their generation that arrived in Canada don’t seem to trust government and believe it is futile to vote. I understand why because of the stories I heard growing up in my family. Their anti-government influences have given me deep reverence for the act of voting.


Different Country – Different Politics


I have had the opportunity to travel several times to Portugal, it is my parents native land. The first few times were with my parents and it was those trips that made the most impression on me because we did not travel like tourists. We went back to see family and places they grew up in. I was 5 years old the first time I went and even at that age I recognized the beauty of the landscape and the oppression of the society.


On this trip I vividly recall being in the beauty of hilly landscapes, breathtaking rocky and sandy shores and near wild and domesticated animals. Steps away from beauty is an understatement because I recall feeling the ocean breeze and hearing the ocean waves crashing. As a child in Portugal my parents gave me a wonderful sense of freedom in the landscape. There seemed to be cliffs everywhere and no boundaries to approach them.


Then there was the opposite experience of walking through the city and noticing the military presence almost on every corner. Young men dressed in army fatigues with automatic weapons hanging from a strap over their shoulder. They cradled the guns across their chest as if they were ready to spring into action. I asked my parents what the soldiers were doing and the response was something along the lines of…”they are watching us to make sure there is no trouble.” I understand why my parents always digressed when they were in public places. They never spoke freely and they kind of instilled that fear in me a bit. I imagine their behaviour was part of experiencing political oppression.


So How Does Art And Politics Go Together?


I believe that artwork is the perfect platform to get everyone noticing something and its expected that people will comment. People that are commenting are speaking freely about the art piece and are also divulging how they feel about the issue at the same time. Quite often they will blame the artwork for their thoughts. I think it might be more effective then rallying people around one speaker at a protest. The only person receiving the backlash for anything controversial about the artwork would be the artist not the person critiquing.


I personally like to tell or see a good story in politically themed artwork but many artists do not have that freedom in their country. Usually, political artwork is used as a symbol such as the fist painted throughout cities all over the world. A raised fist represents solidarity for oppressed people and you will see it in many themes. For instance international socialist parties will use variations of a fist holding a rose, such as the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. It is suppose to represent power to the people or does it mean power over people?


Next time you noticed an artwork making a political statement see if you find the artists signature. If you don’t then is that a message in its self?


Image - Graffiti that is known to represent Socialist views / Unknown Artist