Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.
By Monita Rajpal, Anchor World One
I often think of artists as people who are courageous and focussed. They aren’t afraid to do or say what they think. They are not held back by their fear—whether it’s fear of opinion, thoughts, and even change. These are things that can often leave many of us paralysed... crippling us from progressing in life and going for what we want. So when a major artist is condemned for being true to his feelings, it leaves us questioning what are those doing the condemning afraid of?
Ai WeiWei was arrested in Beijing on April 3rd as he was about to board a flight bound for Hong Kong. Chinese authorities contend he has been detained for suspected “economic crimes”. And no one has heard from him or about him since. Artists around the world are showing their support and are demanding more information on the famed creator. Sculptor Anish Kapoor has called on museums and galleries to shut their doors for a day in protest. Others are holding exhibitions in honour of their Chinese counterpart. China has remained silent.
It’s interesting to see how the Chinese government has reacted to Ai WeiWei now; after all, this is the man who showcased Beijing as being a world-class city by designing (alongside Swiss architects Herzog and DeMeuron) the famous bird’s nest stadium. With that iconic structure, Beijing’s skyline was forever enhanced and differentiated. For a country that holds national pride and patriotism in the utmost esteem, it’s perhaps strange to think that the person who brought them that recognition as someone they will also condemn. China keeps showing they are on the path of being a superpower—and they are. But that’s at the hands of its own people. It’s through their hard work and determination to grow that is fostering such a stratospheric climb into the echelons of success. And success doesn’t come from control and repression.
We’re seeing this in other parts of the world too. The Arab Spring is a vivid indication that people have a right to determine their own paths. People have a right to grow and to realise their own dreams. No one has the right to, nor can they, silence one’s spirit. The more violence that’s being used against peaceful demonstrations, the more I want to ask those governments what are you afraid of? Change is never comfortable. Trust me, even on a singular, personal level, to change one’s own habits and thinking is never easy. But we have two choices, stay stagnant and die having lived a stunted life or push through the pain and experience a life that’s a true reflection of your soul. Having a choice is a God-given right. Isn’t that why we’re here? Perhaps in that way, we’re all trying to be artists, creating a life of our choosing. And those who are willing to die for their art are heroes.