So many years after Pink Floyd immortalized those lyrics, society still struggles with the fact that it is better to involve youths than to suppress them. ‘den young pipil crazy. I just no andastan dem at all’ is a common chorus sung by many parents, teachers and elders in society. It is easy to blame the generational gap, but how many of you take the time to actually listen to the voice of the youth?
I recently had the opportunity to speak with two young people about Art, Politics and sexuality. Briheda Haylock and Ruhiel Trejo candidly spoke about these topics after showing me their artwork. “Society Killed the Teenager is the name of the exhibit” said the pair in unison. I resisted the temptation to ask why they had chosen that title. As the interview progressed however, I noticed that the recurring theme in their work was ridicule.
Is ridicule something that impels you to work? “Society discourages people from expressing themselves and being their true selves” said Ruhiel. Would you boldly say then that Belizean society suppresses rather than supports youth? Briheda and Ruhiel answered with an emphatic yes.
What leads 19 and 21 year old persons to such a drastic conclusion? I never profess to have all the answers. Still I believe that our society, though warm and seemingly tolerant of difference, is intimidated by square pegs which try to accommodate themselves in a round hole. We have openly accepted house music but shake our heads and laugh at any young woman sporting a fluorescent green Mohawk hairdo.
With curiosity about the title of their upcoming exhibit, I ventured into the interview. I asked both artists to discuss what they say with their artwork. Briheda said that her artwork is about self expression, being confident and not worrying about what people say. “I also incorporate Gay Pride in my work.” Haylock said after a short pause “We imitate everything American, except homosexuality. Motivation should be focused on fighting for a better Belize, not banning homosexuality.” Briheda said that she feels that people are afraid to be themselves in Belize for fear of being ridiculed about dressing differently or for being different.
Ruhiel, in answering the same question, said “I say everything that everyone else thinks, but I am brave enough to say it out loud. Sometimes I am even ridiculed by people who feel the same way.” He also said that he is more of a thinker than a talker and lets the art speak for him.
Andy Warhol said ‘Art is what you can get away with.’ What do you think about that?
“I think you can get away with anything. Just be you!” was Briheda’s response.
Trejo said “that is actually my favourite quote from him. I also use it to explain things. Another quote which I like from him is ‘Do things that the average person doesn’t understand because those are the only things that matter.’ I believe that these are things that promote a better place. For example, with public art, a meme is something that people can connect with and relate to.”
Who or what influences you to create?
Without hesitation Haylock answered “Society and my own struggles; also creating things that have never been done before, painting, sculpting, and graphics. I got into stone work recently. I am eager to continue but I have no equipment at present.”
Trejo said “at first I was inspired by video games especially the 8 bit graphics as in Super Mario. I grew up on the Southside (of Belize City) and so I got used to hearing a lot of different genres of music.”
He also said that he believes that the music a teen listens to says even more about him than the words that come out of his mouth.
“As you listen to music you hear things which you also say and feel. It makes you feel like you aren’t the only one who thinks or feels that way.”
Honestly I am impressed to have had such a mature conversation with the artists. I am amazed at the force in their work, and that they have chosen art as the platform to discuss their political ideas. It is certainly thrilling to experience art which transcends its canvas. Here for us exists an opportunity to truly listen to what two youngsters have to say. They have opened the floor for discussion on how society killed the teenager; so let’s listen.
Society Killed the Teenager will be launched at the Image Factory Art Gallery on March 16 at 7:00 pm. The exhibit will be on display for one month.