Creative Music, Movement, and Arts
“There is no story that is not true,” said Uchendu, "and the world has no end."
Nigerian Novelist Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart
Mythology points out that every person who undergoes ordeals has a medicine to be brought back to the village. Making this medicine practical is activated by embodied mythic creativity in the arts. Much indigenous wisdom is only knowable through the non-verbal realms of feeling, imagination and spirit. Embodiment of mythic imagination can be called ritual. Art has, in fact, been called “simply a modern form of ritual.” Anthropologists say that indigenous people spent 80% of their time engaged in these kinds of ritual artistic endeavors.
The indigenous approach has been to engage in art and ritual not simply as a personal creative pleasure, but also as an essential life saving conversation between the human community, the natural world and the mythological world. The modern world is in desperate need of some kind of practical healing process for all community members—both human and the “people” of the natural world. Indigenous cultures saw everyone as having the responsibility to communicate the particular frequency which their own wild genius was attuned to in the ongoing healing and balancing conversation of life. They created the doorway for these messages through ritual activities.
Seeing a musician, dancer, painter or sculptor as the bringer of a message to the human community for the purpose of rebalancing life meant that communities gathered together eager to hear the latest news which could only be delivered by the process of linking the wild genius to the mythological realm. The new/old information coming from both indigenous peoples and some academic voices verifies that some indigenous methods for working with the wild genius have survived into modernity hidden in fragments of the arts. What is emerging from these accounts points to a kind of art which integrates both tradition and innovation, an attitude that art is a sacred activity, and a picture of art as an activity of participatory involvement with no distinction of audience. These principles translate into a practical curriculum of how to work with music, movement, and the arts to encourage the wild genius in the 21st century.
The spiritual context of indigenous art requires several features: technical skill; imaginative ability; openness of thinking; and finally the creation of ritual space. There is strong evidence that this kind of activity helps the human body to do self healing. Indigenous music, for example, relies on a certain mathematical structure called polymetric rhythm which alters human consciousness. Polymetric rhythm creates the possibility for such phenomenon as trance possession, and also creates stronger links between brain hemispheres. Dominance of the left hemisphere may be a culturally enforced bias which contributes to the ability to ignore the needs of the ecology (or our own) even to our own detriment. By including both logos and Eros (knowledge and feeling) this indigenous umbrella imbues the whole world with the sense of the sacred and this becomes a navigational guide for both individuals and community.
Today there is a huge need to reconnect our visceral experience with intellectual ideas about spirituality and environmentalism. Just as in music, there are indigenous techniques of movement and art which are accessible to modern people and yet may require an introduction due to their unfamiliarity. As Paul Hawken has pointed out in his recent book Blessed Unrest, the environmental, spiritual and social justice movements need to work together. Indigenous ways provide a bridge between the three that is sorely needed. Music, movement and the arts provide a doorway for people to powerfully converse between the mysterious inner worlds of spirit and imagination, and the outer worlds of nature and the human community.