In times of crisis, we often immerse ourselves in art for cathartic or pleasure-seeking purposes.
Amidst the chaos of covid-19, different art forms and artists have become part of my everyday coping mechanisms and have allowed me to maintain control over my anxiety levels.
Everywhere I look, there is a constant reminder of the danger that lurks just outside our walls. Trying to juggle university work, housework as well as the constant feeling of panic, can become overwhelming at times.
I have struggled with anxiety and sometimes, even panic attacks, my entire life. However, during the highly stressful circumstances caused by the global pandemic, I have turned to music, literature and film for comfort.
Reading has become the perfect distraction from my day-to-day worries. Books have the magical power to transport you into a new literary world, which has allowed me to escape reality, even if just for a moment. Pride and Prejudice transported me to 1812 England, where I fell in love with Mr Darcy. In this world, my real-life stressors disappeared.
Additionally, I have sought comfort in film. Netflix has not only provided entertainment and pleasure during lockdown but has also aided in reconciliation efforts after arguments. Watching movies with my family has allowed us to bond after long and stressful days.
Yet, the industry that has helped me cope during my experience in lockdown is facing its own challenges. As a result of the national lockdown, museums, stadiums and other performing venues have had to shut down. Consequently, according to the Daily Maverick, some artists have been left with no form of income.
On March 25, Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa announced that R150-million was available to assist struggling artists, athletes, technical personnel and other members of the sector. To qualify for the funding, they were required to apply for relief by April 6, and provide evidence of their loss of income as a direct result of the lockdown.
Ironically, during hardships like these, we often immerse ourselves in art. Throughout history, art has been somewhat of a consistent factor in times of crisis. World War I inspired a wave of war poems and inspired soldiers to express themselves through poetry.
The famous poem, Dulce et decorum est, written in 1920 by Wilfred Owen, a soldier and poet, showcases the way in which poetry was employed as a means of catharsis. Owen refers to the Latin quote, meaning, “it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country,” and goes on to disprove it:
“If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer.”
Adding, “You would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.”
Thus, through poetry, Owen is able to express his distaste for the nationalistic pride in wars and the grim reality of war itself.
Apart from its creation as a coping mechanism, art has also helped those who don’t create it. During the Great Depression of 1929, jazz music helped lift the spirits of Americans. According to an article in the journal, Studies in Popular Culture, jazz was used to maintain emotional stability during the Great Depression.
Similarly, music has helped me regulate my emotions during lockdown. Being cooped up with family for long periods of time generates built-up tension. After arguments, music offers a soothing effect and allows me to block out my thoughts and calm my intense emotions.
When anxious, I often turn to artists such as Miguel and Lewis Capaldi, who create beautifully relaxing melodies with meaningful lyrics.
Although art has always been important in times of crisis, we are experiencing a global pandemic in a new era, and so have access to a wider variety of modern forms of art. Thus, we are lucky enough to have countless volumes of online books, music and much more at our disposal.
If it wasn’t for art and the artists who create it, my lockdown experience would be nearly intolerable. Art has truly been my saving grace.
FEATURED IMAGE: Catia De Castro is a student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: File.
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