Can art change the world runner up: Massiah Abraham Begashaw

In Spring 2016 we ran a competition to find 13-25 year olds who are creating art that aims to make a difference. Massiah Abraham Begashaw, a written/spoken word poet and photographer, was one of three runners up.

Can art change the world runner up: Massiah Abraham Begashaw

First of all, congratulations on your selection. Can you tell us a little about the project that you entered to this competition?

Thank you! This project is one that revolves around the concept of free thinking; thinking for oneself. Living in societies formed on the basis of manmade constructs, it is easy to be conditioned by certain 'rights' and 'wrongs'. At times we not be aware of the lasting impression that those ideals can create.

The trauma experienced in childhood can be imbedded into the psyche on a very unconscious level, to the extent that we may carry some of the damage into adult life. The 'mind control' series started out as a way of conveying how we affect one another on a daily basis in ways that we are not aware of. Our ideals, perceptions and energies rub off on others. At times, the rose petals convey a deliberate release from a way of thinking that is unwanted and at other times they convey the intentional and unintentional passing of energies.

Was the idea of 'changing the world' something you had considered before the competition?

Not at all, to be honest. The prospect or goal of changing the world can feel slightly intimidating. Questions like 'Who am I? Why me?' can surface. If someone asked me to create something with the intention of changing the world, I'd probably back out. It seems too heavy of a burden to take on. Yet, the thought of inspiring or potentially helping just one other person through something I've created means everything.

Why do you think it's important that art attempts to bring about change?

It's important because it's an undying medium of expression and connection. There will always be a need for it. People will always have a thirst for peaceful rebellion. Artists are never just artists; they are activists, healers, humanitarians and so much more.

Do you have a favourite piece of art — in any art form — that really changed the world for you?

Hmm…Off the top of my head, it would have to be Saul Williams' Poem Coded Language and Rumi's Whispers of the Beloved collection. One activist, the other, a mystic, yet both reminded me of what I thought I had lost in this world: a voice.

When did you start making art?

I've been creating for as long as I can remember. I think I became aware that I was making art in the second grade, when one of my teachers mentioned it to me. She left a note in my yearbook saying that she hoped to see my name as a best-selling author one day. I thought: 'Me?? Author??'

What else are you up to right now?

I've been getting back into performance poetry, spoken word, over the past year and will continue to do so over the next few months. I was recently part of the Words First spoken word program launched by BBC1xtra and Roundhouse and just last week I had the opportunity to perform at Roundhouse's main space.

Other than that, I've just completed a degree in BSc (Hons) Management and Marketing, so I'm going to take some time to figure out which direction to take my art in. I'm currently working on a new photo series and a few spoken word projects. I've also been thinking about compiling a collection of poems for some time now.

What would be your ideal project to work on?

My ideal project would involve poetry, photography, music and dance. These are all mediums that truly speak to me.

What can we expect from you in the next year or so? Do you have any plans for new projects?

I've got a few spoken word performances lined up across the UK; I'll be performing at a couple of festivals—Farmfest (and potentially, Leefest) as well as some intimate venues. As far as photography goes, I hope to create more conceptual photo stories. If all goes to plan, I may have a collection of poetry and photography published sometime this year or at the beginning of next.


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