Standing On Only One Leg
Well, we begin to look at the work of art as if all that mattered about it is its form, its structure, its outside appearance and so on. Many writers in Africa — I can’t speak for all of them, but many of them, the ones I know, think that that kind of theory is standing on only one leg, and it is not likely to be able to stand for too long, because we also have to look at content. There cannot be manner without matter. There cannot be container without the content.1
In Yoruba culture, one aspect of the philosophy of art has to do with this. The Yoruba talk about ẹwà, ẹwà is beauty. They also talk about ìwúlò, ìwúlò is utility. Hardly would you see anywhere where the two will be separated, because they are always together. A thing is either beautiful, because of the beauty it contains or because of the beauty of what it is saying. And it is this holistic — it’s through this holistic prism that I look, not only at art, but at culture and at the world. And it takes me back to what my father used to tell me when I was young, balance.2 You need to swing both arms by your side for you to be able to run the race of life. One leg will not do, one arm will not do.