Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Making Art out of Truth – the Legacy of Ntozake Shange

Image Ownership: Public Domain

The recent passing of the feminist playwright, Ntozake Shange, has expanded my appreciation for artists who extend their voice to the most creative realm, fearlessly expressing truth through art and surviving waves of criticism that usually shadows great work conceived ahead of its time.

Even today – while there are many women who applauded Shange’s 1976 “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered …,” Obie Award-winning play, contrasted to the majority of critics having been men at that time – a number of millennials did not embrace the artistry and feminist commentary that the film conveyed when adapted by Tyler Perry eight years ago, which, in my opinion was his best art to date.

The positive reception from the twentysomething generation of the 70s in contrast to the indifference from those millennials of the 21st century brings attention to the generational mind shifts that have developed over three decades.

Looking at the social traumas addressed by Shange’s characters, and mirrored in Perry’s film are still experiences realized by today’s females, but, as I observed, the alarming indifference was as if some could not relate to the characters’ experiences, which was possibly due to the inability to bear the gravity of these experiences as visualized on film, thus their affinity to relate were numbed or blatantly negated in a non-conscious state.

As the Me Too Movement has found its voice, we are in a haze of female empowerment, and misogynistic conditioning that have some women thinking they are not women unless they can successfully compete in providing male pleasure at the expense of their souls.

In the voices of her characters, Shange arrested this concept, and should always be remembered for creating her masterwork in her twenties.  I believe "For Colored Girls ...," saved her life in having the courage to address various female realities and their ill encounters, leaving such women with no place to turn but within to find their esteem and embrace the tenets of self-love and respect.