NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 16.2: Fall 2016 - Page 44

Spirituality as a premise for creativity is not easy to fathom by those committed to scientific logic or the naturalist , such as the novelist , Richard Wright , an advocate of realism who preferred the naturalistic detailing of the social maladies that impacted black life , and disavowed any notion of spirit in the creative process as Forms of Things Unknown . Yet , Jackson explains that “ spiritual , does not mean religious or sacred ,” but rather , “ an intangible dynamic that informs the transformative process ” ( Oliver L . Jackson , En el pico del águila : Una introducción a la cultura afroamericana ( Madrid : Ediciones Ardora , 1998 ).
We are informed by Bewaji that “ African art encompasses the visual and the non-visual , the tangible and the non-tangible elements of artistic representation and presentation , such that virtually every aspect of living constitutes a veritable domain for the preservation and application of art ” ( 313 ). In Christian theology , it is noted in John 1:1 that “ In the beginning was the Word , and Word was with God , and Word was God ,” an acknowledgement of the power of Word-force antedated as early as 3200 bc by the Dogon of the West African nation of Mali , who recognized that Word or otherwise Nommo , however insinuated , spoken , gestured or signed , was the spiritual vector for the transformation of ‘ thing .’ The Dogon people ’ s version of the Word is the Nommo , the creative force that gives form to all things .
In the corporeal world , Word-force becomes manifest as the procreative essence of spirit in the creative process of making , i . e ., weaving , carving , oratory , song , dance , and drum . The power of Word as life-force , however , is diminished without rhythm — the pulsating changes in the constant flow of cosmos — which is observed by the Senegalese poet , Léopold Senghor , as :
“ the architecture of being , the inner dynamic that gives form , the pure expression of the life force . Rhythm is the vibratory shock , the force which , through our sense , grips us at the root of our being . It is expressed through corporeal and sensual means , through lines , surfaces , colors , and volumes in architecture , sculpture or painting , through accents in poetry and music , through movements in dance . But , doing this , rhythm turns all these concrete things toward the light of the spirit . In the degree to which rhythm is sensuously embodied , it illuminates the spirit ( Senghor , L ’ espirit de la civilization ou les lois de la culture negro-africaine , Presence Africane 8 . 1956 : 60 ).
Of course , African cultures are not the sole beneficiaries of rhythm in the construction of art production , as can be clearly witnessed in the calligraphic artwork of Asia — where signs are given form as expressive art — or the textual cadences of Shakespeare , and the august scale in staging Wagner ’ s mythic Ring Cycle . However , those expressive gestures are driven by cadences of a different Drummer . At the expressive core of women assembled in a circle during the creative activity of layering apparently random fabrics in a quilt is rhythm , the procreative element that activates the fullness of Word , which assures a linguistic / social / cosmic communication that bonds them in the process of transforming a “ thing ” into something of beauty that is collectively meaningful . The benefits of the Nommo are received primarily through the dynamics of a specific secular or sacred ritual that promotes a cosmic bonding with the spiritual energy stored in ancestral memory , the source of Àṣẹ that guides the imagination for the release of aesthetic objectives that Robert Farris Thompson refers to as a flash of the spirit ( Paul Carter Harrison , “ Form and Transformation in the Performance Modes of Church and Black Music ,” Black Theatre : Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora , edited by Paul Carter Harrison , Victor Leo Walker ( II .), Gus Edwards , Temple Univ . Press , 2002 , 316-17 ).
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