I’m an artist, and I’m looking to make a difference using my craft. Any advice?
A quick glance at the paintings and sculptures that our parents kept from our childhood would show that art is not our strong suit. But for those whose creative side appeals to an audience outside immediate family, there’s a world of possibilities to use your gift for good.
We were reminded of this after meeting the amazing Donisha Prendergast, 27, a successful documentary filmmaker who just happens to be the granddaughter of reggae legend Bob Marley, whose message of “One Love” shone through his music and inspired millions around the world.
As a teen, Marc first turned on to Mr. Marley while volunteering during a high school trip in the Jamaican slums of Riverton. The singer was an icon whose music was the soundtrack of everyday life in the Caribbean country.
Ms. Prendergast, who was born three years after her famous grandfather died in 1981 of cancer, told us she wanted to understand his influence, but also, the way of life made popular by his music.
When we met her, she was volunteering at the Kisaruni girls’ high school in the Maasai Mara, as well as attending the opening of her film, RasTa: A Soul’s Journey, in Nairobi. It documents her round-the-world quest to understand how Rastafarianism manifests itself in people’s lives.
In the film, she says, “Just because you wear red, gold and green, doesn’t make you a Rasta. Just because you have dreads, it doesn’t mean you’re a Rasta. Being a Jamaican doesn’t make you a Rasta. You must live it; you must live it every day.”’ Rasta teaches mutual respect, caring, and to see each other as equals, regardless of colour or race. We’re all brothers and sisters.
But Ms. Prendergast told us that in today’s cutthroat world, people find it hard to live in such a simple, giving and loving way.
She has tried to live her life in a way that she can use her own creative talents, as an actor and filmmaker, to talk about the issues that are important to her.
She began acting at 17, and has hosted Star Search Traxx, the Jamaican equivalent of American Idol. But her real work, she insists, was as a social activist empowering young people in violence-wracked inner-city communities through art. “Celebrity means nothing if you don’t use it for the positive of the people.”
We asked her what advice she would offer to an aspiring artist who wants to use his creativity to make a difference.
“Don’t wait, just create. If you wake up every morning with a vision in your head, or a vision in your heart, manifest it,” she said..
“Every man has a role equal to the next man. I always tell people that my grandfather was just a man on his mission – that was his role. You have to find a platform for yourself.”
She explained further, “help others to make their life experience better. This doesn’t take money – it just takes time. Or a song – that’s what you tell your aspiring musician. Use your music to make one person’s day better.”
The key to making meaningful art, says Ms. Prendergast, is to stay true to yourself.
“Even when my grandfather was an international superstar, people even in Jamaica still thought he was a just a dirty Rastaman – they looked down on him like he was a criminal, a rebel. But he was a rebel – a rebel against the social walls between people. He didn’t change himself to what other people wanted him to be.
“And he made real change in people’s lives.” That’s the power of art.