Policy Paper    03rd Jan, 2019

The Role of Art & Popular Culture in Promoting Democratic Principles & Social Justice

This paper discusses art as a medium of expression and explores its application in the promotion of democratic principles and social justice in Uganda. It builds on the premise that art is a universal language, accessible to both the literate and the illiterate. That said, art is a complex narrative which manifests itself in a wide range of formats; and to benefit from it, it is imperative that we bear that in mind.

by Winnie Watera

High art, as Prof. Cecil Todd (1961) once remarked, is generally recognised by the educated and elite. High art, whether in sculpture, painting, advertising, fashion or other media, is usually intellectually engaging. Low art, on the other hand, is generally produced and presented in a manner that appeals to the immediate senses of ordinary people.

Such art ranges from crafts, sometimes referred to as material culture, to simple forms of visual representations produced in a journalistic way. Popular art falls in this category. I, however, would like to caution that the divide between high and low art is a false construct, because, as Margaret Trowell explained, “these two categories stem from the same roots, which is man’s desire to create things of beauty as well as his need to use his products in the service of the community”. Although these intangible urges are more obvious in figurative (high) arts, they also exist in crafts (Trowell 1960, 13).

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