Creativity in the third world

Most artists in any field - film, literature, or painting - find that when they give full rein to their creative imaginations, their work often becomes inaccessible, or simply uninteresting, to mass audiences.

In Western, developed countries a majority of artists not only accept this, but take pride in it. In the third world, on the other hand, it presents a serious problem for many creative people. There, the select few who can appreciate abstract, intellectual art inspired by trends in Paris or New York are often few indeed. Many third-world artists feel that this kind of art caters to a small, often wealthy minority and ignores the poverty and oppression afflicting the majority of their countrymen.

These artists will often concentrate on making ''people's art,'' art not only accessible to the masses, but often depicting the life of the poor, social injustice, and the struggle against it. They place great importance on creating works free of the foreign influences that have traditionally dominated art in their countries. They search for an ''authentic'' national art.

Some artists, especially filmmakers, will gear their work to the mass market, but without any particular social message. While they may speak of the necessity of transcending an elite audience, they are basically aiming for large-scale commercial success.

Ironically, the rhetoric employed by these capitalist-minded artists often resembles that of the more radical artists, since both groups stress a need for expanding the market for art.

Other third-world artists find an obligation to create ''popular'' art suffocating. They think their purpose as artists is constant innovation and the stretching of creativity to its outer limits. They reject the slavish imitation of foreign art. But they feel close to some work done abroad and want to follow their own inclinations without worrying about the ''national authenticity'' of their work.

This group values independence above all else. Often, they will criticize the mass-market films of many commercial directors as the trashy products of a money-mad capitalist society. In the same breath they will go on to castigate stylistically simple paintings denouncing social injustice as reminiscent of the soulless ''socialist realist'' art of the Soviet Union.

In many developing countries the art world (and indeed the whole society) is rapidly polarizing between the commercially minded powers that be and a socially conscious opposition that enlists art in the struggle against injustice. In this context, artists who value independence are becoming increasingly isolated.

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