The Problem with Art Poverty in the Pacific – Lesley Wengembo

Every human being on this planet has their own choices to make. They can choose to live based on their passions, based on their obligations, or based on something else entirely. However, our gifts, talents, potential and abilities make this world function. That will never change.

When I was younger, I thought that being an artist was a profession. It was about making money. But, I now realize that being an artist is so much more than a profession. Artists can inspire, influence and motivate people to understand more about reality through creative expression. A few years ago, I heard another professional artist say that contemporary art is a “Voice of Change.” Now, I realize that it is so true. A piece of art can inspire many people. And, art speaks no language.

Unfortunately, not all artists recognize the value of their paintings. And, they give away their art too cheaply. Now, I must say that there are many reasons why an artist might undervalue their work. So, I don’t want to judge other artists. But, I do want to point out that this leads to Art Poverty. And, Art Poverty is a serious problem for many local communities around the world.

In Papua New Guinea, we face Art Poverty. Unfortunately, there is a complete lack of support for artists in my community. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can put an end to Art Poverty. But, we need the government of the day to implement strategic policies that promote art in Papua New Guinea. For example, the government could reduce the tax for major companies in exchange for supporting or promoting our artists.

Of course, there are many strategic policies that could be used to promote art in our local community. If we implement a few of them, I know that our artists will slowly start to appreciate their own work and put an end to the habit of giving away their art too cheaply. In the long-term, that will bring an end to Art Poverty in Papua New Guinea.

Lesley Wengembo is a 2015-2016 Pacific NexGen Artist. At only 17 years of age, he won second place in the 2014 Port Moresby Arts Exhibition. He was also recognised with a merit award for the exhibition’s theme Meri (Woman). After receiving coverage from the country’s biggest broadcaster (i.e., EMTVOnline), Wengembohas been able to cultivate new cultural exchanges through art, including participating in the Deutsche 1914 project.

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Image Credit: Drew Douglas via Flickr CC

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