"...It has become more obvious that art doesn't have these answers, but can either make us forget issues or live through them. There are still art enthusiasts and artists that believe we can find the answer to everything in artistic expression, but that's not what I want to talk about..." - Ehiorobo Derek (The Philosophy of Apollotheyouth; Art I)
So, how does Damilare, pen name, Apollo the youth, manage the impending doom that seems to hang over the head of the world today? He does this by being human.
I have always seen art as a gift to mankind from forces well above our own, like how the Greeks saw inspiration as something handed to selected humans by the gods, or other spirits. Because of this, expressing humanity through art felt strange.
Even in modern times. With musicians, writers, and so on, being elevated to a certain god status because they seem perfect at certain things we wish we could do ourselves is a testament to the fact that we still see art as something separated from the concept of humanity. But if we can interpret art as an expression of self, and that self is human, doesn’t that mean it should express humanity?
One of the primary qualities of art is that it is aesthetic (well, usually aesthetic), and most of us have this expectation that a work of art should be beautiful.
This has hindered the full expression of humanity, as not everything about being human is beautiful, so a challenge comes in how we can express these ugly sides of ourselves. And present them in a way that doesn’t hurt the beauty of the medium used. Damilare does this well in his pieces.
In his poem, ‘small talk for teens and twenty-somethings,’ he highlights the dread that comes with living in this disappointing era, the ugly parts of being young and burdened by all the expectations we have for ourselves and that people have for us. In this poem, he asks the questions that have plagued many young minds but provide no answers.
This shows that just like the young people the poem is talking about, he doesn’t know the answers to, and has to fight off or try to cope with the rancid taste these questions bring to our mouths whenever we ask them.
He doesn’t put himself on an elevated pedestal, or assume a position where he can drop the answers or relief to our pain like he’s feeding pigeons at a park. Instead, he shows that he’s just like us, on the same plane, feeling the same things.
Damilare’s art isn’t one that tries to help you forget or offer misguided help. It is one that lets you know you’re not alone in whatever you’re going through. Now, while this helps bring some kind of relief, it’s not the ultimate goal of his work.
He shows us the ugly part of being human, while not condemning it, but offering empathy. ‘I am just like you, so I understand.’
Showing us that even in the twisted, cracked, messed up parts of ourselves, we can still try to find a sliver of hope and beauty. We don’t have to look down on ourselves because of our flaws and certain limitations, and we need not elevate anyone because of their perfection in certain aspects, because they’re just as imperfect as us in other aspects.
You see this scattered in several of his works like, ‘Kid ‘Salome’s interlude,’ ‘how we discovered colors,’ ‘a naïve inquisition.’
Not only does his art appreciate imperfections, but they also work to challenge the expectations of perfection where it just shouldn’t be, like in romance,( in his poems ‘falling in love sounds like this, I think,’ or flower boy‘ etc,) family life, (8 short memoirs of a Nigerian house).
He also opens up himself. His own imperfections show up as reoccurring themes in most of his work, and he presents them with a level of intimacy and delicacy that helps his readers appreciate his art because he is voicing parts of themselves they don’t know how to give voices too.
Humanity is messy, and the world doesn’t make it any easier, but while art can’t bring us the salvation we so desperately need, it can help us come to an understanding of our condition.
Our inability to solve these problems is one of our many flaws, and part of what makes us human. Art helps us see that even in this, and many other flaws, we can still find beauty to appreciate.
These imperfect parts of ourselves might be too ugly to show the world. But there are also beautiful parts of us. While the beautiful parts of you do not make you any more perfect than the next guy, the uglier parts take nothing away from who you are.
We damage ourselves when we expect beauty all the time, or focus on the ugly for a period that is longer than necessary.
This is what Damilare tells us through his art.
“These imperfect parts of ourselves might be too ugly to show the world. But there are also beautiful parts of us. While the beautiful parts of you do not make you any more perfect than the next guy, the uglier parts take nothing away from who you are”— Ehiorobo Derek