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>Art and Living: thinking out loud

by Tony Creech on Saturday, September 5, 2009


David Maybury Lewis once asked “why do we separate art and living?” in his documentary on the Wodaabes tribe of Niger, who, in his terms, doesn’t make a split between art and everyday life.

His phrase juxtaposes shots of the tribe in their artist regalia and some western family in bland button up shirts, ties, and pull-over sweaters walking looking at paintings in an art museum. His point is that they integrate art as part of living itself, while we separate it and leave it in museums.

I wonder that David has got us westerners wrong.

We, in the west, are classically too hard on ourselves and count the things we don’t deal with everyday as exotic and artful, and forget that our lives too, are art in all parts- from the bland suits we wear to the bottled water we drink from.

try telling the clothing designer that he is not an artist who makes his life on his craft.

it’s fair to say that different societies view art differently from one another, but that perception is just that… perception from a certain plane of thinking. As well, very very very few cultures actually do not distinguish between art and life.

what does that even mean? who would say art is not a part of life? when i think about it, it must mean everyday life, and even that point seems farfetched when i really think about it.
we make distinction between paintings in museums and the make-up we put on our faces, but that line is pragmatic.

show an exotic tribe at one of their very few festivals, all gussied up and differently ceremonial about everything than us, and it will look like we keep art in a museum and they live it out, but that is far from the truth. methinks it is taking advantage of that festival and the fact that their garb for the occasion is much more elaborate than our common t-shirt and jeans.

And even the Wodaabe women carry around their ‘calabashes’ (pottery) which is never used but set up for display at their festivals a couple times a year… which sounds like an art-show to me.
Tony Creech
anthony thomas creech is Founder of Citadel Magazine. He's a marketing executive, filmmaker, screenwriter, columnist, and university lecturer on film, audio, media, and faith. You can find him at

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