It is typical, during a time of great fear or tyranny, that the arts get neglected. Survival takes precedence and creativity is squandered. The arts provide an immeasurable amount of avenues for releasing negative feelings like fear, doubt, sadness, grief, and silence. It is something that we take for granted; those of us who feel free and safe enough to immerse ourselves in it.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding politics today, and bringing up North Korea typically strikes a negative chord. It can illicit fear and anger almost immediately. While it is a serious situation, I want to shift the attention away from the leaders to the citizens. Think about their lifestyle and what fear they must experience every day. Now, think about their lack of artwork. Photos of North Korea highlight breathtaking views of beautiful scenery, but lack color within everyday life. There is no art. There is no expression. Anything that is created is done so for one purpose: to glorify their leader. That does not mean they do so willingly and that is their art. Their devotion is typically not by choice, and their art (or lack-thereof) illustrates that. There is no freedom to think critically or to express themselves.
What would it look like for children to fulfill their dreams of taking dance classes or learning to play instruments? Someone might paint a canvas of the sky above their new home or a mural of their indescribable journey. Feet that have never danced would carry someone away from their fears. Voices that were silent would suddenly be heard. Hands that served would finally create. Generations of emotion would come pouring from them as they describe their ordeal in a language that the entire world could understand: art.
It is easy for them to fade from our memory altogether as we go about our daily lives; standing next to art that we barely notice is hanging there anymore. Let us be compassionate and empathetic to the people there who are just like us, but who are yearning to be free. Let’s remember the spirit inside of them that they may have forgotten. One day, they will need us to watch and listen as they are liberated through creation. When that day comes, we will see some of the most powerful art that we have seen throughout history.