Offense of Commercialism in Sacred Arts

The richness of a civilization is determined by its arts and culture. When arts and culture are decadent, society progressively impoverishes itself and its inhabitants because only the spark of enlightened creativity represents enduring prosperity. Indeed luminous creations found in certain regions of the globe have always been signs of great advancement of the old civilizations that bred excellence. Even though we live in an era of excessive materialism and thus mediocrity, evolved creations still manifest.

At particular times on Earth, always appear phenomena reflecting a tradition from glorious past times which had been corrupt, destroyed and appropriated by mischievous forces in history. With the mercy and permission of Allah (swt) such richness often is recovered, it may take centuries in order for it to manifest anew in the world yet when it reappears it is recognizable because such grace always remains in the memory and historical records of these people whose ancestors witnessed its grandeur afore time.

Thus cultural figures whose works reflect different phases of the illuminated tradition which is as old as the Creation should know within themselves that no amount of money could ever equal the value of their contributions to mankind. The value of such rare timeless works can not be established on material terms, no financial offer can ever reward any surrendered soul for the sacred works it crystallizes by the grace of Allah Most High (swt).

Contemporary institutions that claim their mission is to preserve such rare, timeless arts no matter when or where they appear on Earth, should be the first ones to implement the preservation of such arts’ integrity yet they seem to do just the opposite out of ignorance, greed, elitism, prejudice, or pure intellectual dishonesty. Thus under such appropriation, sacred art can end up being presented as mere fragmented, commercialized products devoid of all the cultural depth it initially was conceived to convey.

I’m often offended by this notion of vulgar commercialism that is suggested toward sacred arts and culture nowadays and this doesn’t exclude the ego promotion that goes with it. This is such a contradiction because meaningful arts should aid to defeat the ego… In essence true artists are childlike, humble in their hearts which are consumed by the wonders of The Divine, this is why they create, they don’t create for financial profit nor recognition; these are mere accessories so the fact that these enlightened artists are expected to be seduced by some exploitative art dealers’ promise for “success” through vulgar commercialization of their arts is strange to me. Pomp and vanity are not the purpose of sacred Art, they are the downfall of it.

Personally, I’m more so concerned about the pulsating heart of Art, how its energy speaks to the human soul and if it does, how does this spiritual Conversation soothe and make their existence more pleasant and in tune with the Source of all… This is what I care about: the preservation and sharing of the tradition that reveals itself anew after centuries. I’m concerned about the legacy for the generations to come and the timelessness of the Conversation such Art can generate for all of humankind.

copyrights 2007 Aida Toure

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4 Comments

Filed under Contemporary Islamic Art, Gabon, Inner Reality, Islam, Spiritual Art, Sufi Poetry, Sufi Prose, Sufism, Tasawwuf, Visual Arts

4 responses to “Offense of Commercialism in Sacred Arts

  1. Salaam Dear Sister:

    You’re right, of course, and it is a sad testament to civilization when commercialism rears its ugly head in any artistic forum, but sacred art should make such panderers especially wary, yet it does not, alas.

    Ya Haqq!

  2. Salaams Brother, you know I’m under the impression that sacred arts attract these panderers even more. I went through some peculiar experience with a gallery art director with seriously questionable ethics. Al hamdulillah, his mask fell off quick so I was so glad he didn’t end up representing any of my art work.

  3. Salaam Dear Aida, I have just discovered your blog and I have also just looked at your website and I am so happy to have found them. Your poetry is very inspiring and the art of visual poetry is something I have been thinking about recently so it is a blessing that I am seeing your pieces and the beauty and deep feeling that you bring forth.

    The sad and misplaced contemporary connection between sacred art and commercialization is disturbing. To me it is also about the setting in which the art is experienced. Art that has come truly from a clear and surrendered heart is its own sacred space and its setting should best reflect that. Of course in Islam there is no demarcation line between what is sacred and what is secular, the whole world contains the Signs of God, but the difference is in the heart of the one who cares for, views, experiences the art and to see it in an appropriate context of loving respect is what will assist the observer to become a participator in a spiritual interaction.

  4. Walaikumsalam and welcome Yafiah, thank you… this all-pervading sacredness you referred to so clearly touched me.

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