Recap: Art as a Tool for Transformation

Have you ever thought of art as anything else but art? Is it just something you thought is pleasing to look at as in great works to be appreciated, or men and women to be recognized for great talent; or have you ever thought of it as going beyond the art and the artist itself? Going beyond the work, beyond the individual behind the work, but actually to the immense influence it has on self-awareness and societal mindfulness at large? Well, AWiB definitely did when it hosted its monthly event entitled “Art as a Tool for Transformation” this October, with two renowned artist as their guest speakers. 

Solomon Bogale

With over 18 years of experience as a film and theater actor, Solomon has been in over 64 movies, 16 theatrical plays, 8 TV drama series, and continues to work both on television and radio as a prominent artist. Two years ago he established a foundation called “Hibret LeBego” meaning “Unity for Good” which is now accommodating 2159 children and senior citizens of Ethiopia. With a very humble demeanor he resisted from introducing himself at first questioning from Sewit, AWiB’s moderator, instead, making sure he made it a point to acknowledge his respect for women at large.

With a passionate stance he insisted the audience read up on the great females that were a product of Ethiopia, and the importance to really look at all those less fortunate than us, and to each do something, whatever we can, whatever it may be. He said, “working alone is like trying to clap with only one hand”, while describing his organization and how he first thought of the idea of helping his society with a group of his friends by helping a couple of kids go through school by providing their bare necessities.

Very emotionally he mentioned a song’s lyrics, he said is true to his heart that says “when my neighbor’s door knocks, I hear it at my house” and looked at the audience, with such pain in his eyes, for one can see he has had to see some of the realest extreme living conditions of many unfortunate people. He emphasized that when associations such as AWiB get together, the dialogue and discussions should circle around how we are individually contributing to our communities and how we can collectively make a change as well.

He joked about America having three main institutions at its core; the White House, the Pentagon and Hollywood. He mentioned his disappointment in the fact that Ethiopia has yet to use its artists for the betterment of the country at large. He talked about how the art industry has still not been tapped into for its value as a bridge between the government and its citizens. Art, he said “is the most valuable capital a country can provide its people, and has the ability to influence and bring change like no other field of work”. He ended his piece by answering a question he was asked about who his role model or mentor was by simply saying, “I did not start out studying art, but it became my calling to be an artist and I pursued it”.

Brook Yeshitila

A painter, an inspirational speaker and a social media positivity advocate, Brook has managed to surpass the challenges of his reality and created a following of fans inspired by his mental strength and resilience. Diagnosed at the age of 12 with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), a rare disease affecting the spine and large joints of both arms and legs, Brook was left paralyzed from the chest down by the time he turned 18, leaving him bed-ridden for 9 years.

After loosing all hope and lost in his misery, Brook says he remembers being taken to a local spiritual “holy water” treatment, where he witnessed the realities of so many others in much worse states that he was in. He said he felt spoiled for having spent so many years in darkness and in misery when all around him, he had an abundance of love from his friends and family. He then began to read inspirational self-help and spiritual books slowly reprogramming his mind from what he had conditioned himself to believe for the past 9 years.

When asked by one of the audiences what he possesses within him that gives him the will to continue each day regardless of the state he is in, he jokingly replied, “well, inside, I’ve got my organs, and my lungs”, with a smile on his face. He said he’s always been moved about Mahatma Gandhi’s concept that when one person sleeps, its as if he’s dead and wakes up to be rebirthed and alive again. Brook said he makes sure everyday is a birthday for him, always a choice to be alive, always a choice to make it either a great day or a bad day, ultimately his choice.

He said that although life was hard and the challenges were real, he chose to approach each challenge, each obstacle with love, peace and always with good intentions and to focus on his art. He stressed that as a garden needs care, love and patience while working at it to get its flowers to bloom, so does an individual when in the transition of self-transformation, its all a process, a process that requires time and persistence. Throughout his speaking, Brook portrayed a contagious smile, ending his piece by saying he was almost glad he was handed the cards he was dealt because of what of it resulted in, him being able to inspire others and be a voice of positive and hope for others through his art.

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