During his opening remarks he explained that he has been painting for a very long time. He explained that he would exchange bottles at Champions Bar in Dangriga in order to buy paint and paintbrushes. He explained that he would meet with other artists like Benjamin Nicholas and even a painter Sosa from Mexico. He was networking with other creators and they shared ideas and concepts. Cayetano then paused, maybe for effect, he resumed by saying that young people are creating too, that they have lots of new technology but that they need to be careful with it. Cayetano said that we (young people) “need to stop with the gun thing and do the right thing!” He is a musician so even the advice he gave was lyrical and rhythmic.
On Tuesday morning, while checking my email, the news I saw on the screen was not very pleasant. “Diaspora co-founder dead at 22”. The headline gripped me so I read the article. It was quite short, and though much is still unknown the general gist of it was, 22 year old Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of the recently developed and successful social network Diaspora, was found dead, and that suicide is a possible explanation. I had not heard of Diaspora before, but it was certainly making waves as the founder of the monstrously successful Facebook Mark Zuckerberg was named as one of the investors in the project. What could have led a successful young person to an early end? Could it have been social networking instead of networking socially?
In the e-book El Fleco by Yasser Musa, which was based on a series of interviews, I was asked about life, art and Facebook. I told him that I thought that Facebook and other social networks were part of the reason why young people have problems connecting in the real world. We can log in and log off of any virtual platform whenever we chose. We can be 116 years old, widowed, and have a video vixen as our profile picture. We become avatars, and this shields us from having actual interactions with people in the real world. It gives us the illusion of connecting, and being able to access everything, while broadcasting to a massive audience: the world. Still after 15 plus hours logged in to that world of avatars, who have you confided in? Who was even the slightest bit concerned about you as a person? Who knew your real feelings? Where is your actual expression? Are you still not every bit as alienated as before you logged on?
Is there any hope for the youth in this world of social networks, where emotions are virtual and everything is on sale?
On November 16 2011, Brother’s Habet presented the winners of the 4th annual ‘Penta Paint-up The Place Art Competition’ at the Image Factory Art Gallery. This is one of the few remaining real competitions. There was no photoshop and no virtual theatrics. In this world of new technology, there were 30 pieces mounted on the gallery walls, all of which are 100% original and made by an actual hand. The competition has steadily progressed in the quality of work submitted. Noteworthy too is the fact that several entrants this year had previously submitted works. It is visible in the new submissions where these students have improved and developed. The entries, which came from schools which have art in their curriculum, are very progressive and it is obvious that those environments are conducive to creativity.
The young people from various primary and secondary schools showcased their actual expression. The artwork will be transported all throughout the country to be displayed in various Belizean towns. These entries will also be featured in the Brother’s Habet ‘Penta Paint-up The Place’ 2012 calendar. The winning piece by Amir Smith of St. John’s College, which shows a black hand and a white hand holding up, what I can only describe as, all things Belizean, will be prominently displayed as a mural on his school’s wall.
So here we have a real alternative to this new problem of the ‘un-social’ networks. Competitions of this sort offer the students a real platform to express themselves, and an actual audience that will consume their un-doctored images with ready eyes.