Currently working for Nissan in their high-tech initiatives, Shala Akintunde has also been an artist for his whole life. He began expressing his thoughts and feelings in art because he really felt a desire to be understood. Not only that, he wanted people to care. I think we all have a deep need to be understood and cared for. Having someone to listen and appreciate, react in an appropriate way, is a great therapy and it helps us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. A belonging and sense of friendly community helps us to make more balanced decisions. It's a primary need for many of us, and Shala expressed this through his creations.
It appeared to him at first that getting people to care was a big hurdle. We are bombarded with input on a daily basis, some of it is deliberately made up like tv drama for example. We perhaps don't always see the diamond among the glass because the glass is crafted to look exactly the same. No doubt, we hardly care about the characters on the screen, sure the stories tamper with our emotions and pull at our strings, but we don't involve ourselves more than perhaps a brief conversation over the ending credits. Real people don't have ending credits, and their stories don't warrant impersonal conversation. We want personal interaction, we crave it, we desire a sense of validation that we fit in somehow.
When Shala isn't contributing, he says he feels like he's in a “dark and gloomy place”. Yet with the arts, it's sometimes difficult to see how our work contributes. It's only when we get people saying to us that they understand and appreciate our art for themselves when we feel that we are contributing. Passive art is always powerful stuff, subconsciously we absorb all the images and phrases put before our eyes, so all the artists who feel underrated can take solace in this fact of life. It all nudges us in one direction or another, to varying degrees of freedom.
Tackling this issue for Shala was important. He wanted to assert a practical and clear benefit to his art. Maybe as assurance that he's not a narcissistic personality who knows the world would be better because of his random creations, he's looked towards real issues that actually do need our creative input. Solar power is one of those issues. Because of dirty fossil fuels and sinister nuclear power, the need for renewable and sustainable clean energy solutions is greater than ever. Being a Nigerian American, sunshine is something close to Shala's heart.
Sculpting with solar panels and painting them with classy imagery is the genius idea that might just get people interested in not only Shala but solar power too. With the help of his techie friends at M.I.T., a porous film was developed that held the pigment and allowed light to pass through it. When we have sunshine we have power and when we have power we have progress. It's important to make sure the progress is in the right direction, ethical and responsible policies must replace the outdated self-serving and non-future proof dinosaurs that came out of the industrial revolution. We learned from those days about giving workers decent conditions, decent pay, and now we are learning about cleaning up our processes. Shala has found freedom by contributing and by putting his creativity into the equation. One without the other doesn't lead to freedom for him.
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