If an artist’s duty is to reflect the times, who is reflecting your existence?


The late legend, Jazz icon and civil rights activist Nina Simone once said that “an artist’s duty is to reflect the times”, not only did she say it but she lived it and dedicated her entire existence to the principal. To this day I believe Ms Simone’s words to remain true amongst the many other roles that an artist can take on within society, such as being an entertainer or an advocate. The voice of the voiceless or a beacon for the underrepresented. I must say that to reflect the times, as far as I’m concerned is not necessarily synonymous with social and political activism but rather and more simply, it is synonymous with authenticity and integrity. It cannot be fickle, it cannot be solely money-driven or popularity-driven and it must have purpose. I say solely because as much as an artist can state that they do not work at all for recognition or money, we’re human and it is always nice to be genuinely acknowledged. Need I mention that artist’s have got to eat too?

As an artist of any specification, to create anything that is both honest and genuine is to reflect the times. If I use myself as an example, by virtue of me being alive in 2015 anything I create or express to the world in this era, as long as I remain true to myself and my environment, will naturally be a reflection of the times. There is no doubt, nor is there a choice. Why? Because naturally as humans we’re inspired and influenced by our surroundings, so the only way you can not reflect the times is if you are either holding back and playing it safe, or telling a story that isn’t yours. Only the impersonator or the imposter fears the truth.

Many if not the majority of the artists that we feature here on Certified UK are independent artists who because they creatively direct themselves, manage and fund themselves, brand themselves and market themselves they are in the best position to reflect the times. Except from when desiring to “blow” too quickly or to achieve instant success, there is no pressure to mould into a digestible stereotype that can be easily packaged in bulk and delivered to those who don’t care to look at the contents of what they’re consuming. Some would call them “starving artists” who are for example juggling working a 9-5 job to make a living and investing themselves into creating something that they love in order to share it with the world. Some battle with different levels of depression, anxiety and isolation. In agreement with a statement that Mr Jacob Banks made via Twitter, some allow what they love (their art) to almost kill them but they push on anyway because they cannot imagine themselves being anywhere else. These are the reflectors of the times.

So, what I intend to do is to share with you all a series where every week we focus on artists from four different practices, who you as well as we, would consider as reflectors of the times. I wrote this partially because I feel like generally there is a lack of appreciation and mutual respect in the relationship between artists and consumers and distributors in the UK. The people are often too proud or too cool to come together and openly uplift great work, whilst the artists can be so self-entitled and arrogant that they forget to show simple gratitude towards the people who provide their work with a home outside of their own minds. I also believe that genuine effort is not something that for the most part we cannot rely on mainstream (for a lack of a better word) distributors put in. Unless they’re created for the people and by the people, it is likely that they’re not doing enough along the lines of accurate representation or the distribution of the truth, but with money being at the core of business one cannot expect much else.

The four categories are as follows:

  • Music (musicians, DJ’s, radio channels, singers, rappers, journalists)
  • Film/Video (filmmakers, directors, producers, screenplay writers)
  • Still Art (photographers, graphic designers, painters, illustrators)
  • The written word/spoken word (both prose and poetry)

You are the people, who are the reflectors of YOUR times and why? Contribute to the list that we’re compiling, as much as I hate the word at the simplest of levels a list is what it is. Take part in the appreciation of all that is good in the UK, tweet @Certified_UK or @CharisseeC using the hashtag #ROTTUK with your suggestions.


Your thoughts on this post?