4. CLIFF JOSEPH
Rise, People, Rise, 1985, 12’ x 16’
“When I heard of the opportunity to be part of La Lucha,” remembers Cliff, “I responded because I wanted to produce a visual image of the African struggle for the community and for the wider public.
“The work is not just about apartheid. It is about the struggle in all of Africa against the legacy of imperialism and today’s corruption of neo-imperialism.
“The colors represent the African liberation flag. The red sky symbolizes the conflict; the black center, the people; and the green base, the nurturing life of hope.”
The following excerpt from Cliff’s 1989 article “Art, Politics, and the Life Force,” published in the Journal of Socialist Thought, resonates today.
We are all one flesh. Creative communication is our responsibility, not only to ourselves and our oppressed communities, but to our oppressors as well. We must demand the economic means for our survival, and for theirs. As artists and members of humanity’s global community, we cannot separate ourselves from the political process which will decide our ultimate fate. Our work is political, regardless of pretension to purity. It supports the status quo; it questions it; it condemns it, and if our work transcends the present world, we must struggle to make this transcendence a possibility for all.
In our struggle for transcendence, we cannot separate our professional efforts from the totality of our day-to-day lives. Resolution of contradiction is the essence of the creative process, in artistic production and in our commitments to social cause. Our creative gifts obligate us to a larger responsibility in the course of history. We have the opportunity in this year of political decision to look honestly at the reality around us, and to make choices consistent with the affirmation of life.
Long a civil rights activist, Cliff is a pioneer in art therapy. He helped start the art therapy program at Pratt Institute and developed arts intervention programs in prisons throughout the United States through the Black Artist Emergency Coalition.