Beauty from the Depths of Human Resources
"Artists are like volcanoes.
Those who are able to erupt, should do it.
Those who can't, should keep silent."
-Azerbaijani Artist Rasim Babayev (1927-2007)
Left: Editor Betty Blair with Azerbaijani
artist, the late Rasim Babayev (1927-2007). This painting of
"Locked Doors" is one in a series. Rasim depicted these
doors as always barred and obstructing entrance, despite the
fact that they were not affixed to any walls.
If we can use mud volcanoes as a metaphor for human creativity,
the fact is that sometimes out of the depths of human despair,
profound beauty bursts forth - a type of beauty that makes us
even more conscious of the meaning of life.
Let me suggest a few parallels in this issue. First of all, Mstislav
Rostropovich (1927-2007), the world-renowned cellist and conductor,
who passed away in April. He was born in Baku where he lived
until age four when his family moved to Moscow. But since 1997,
Rostropovich had been returning quite frequently since President
Heydar Aliyev celebrated Rostropovich's 70th birthday on the
state level. After that, "Slava" as his friends called
him, was very generous with his concerts - both in performing
as well as conducting, and in challenging Azerbaijan's budding
musicians with his Master classes.
Mstislav and his wife Galina Vishnevskaya, the famous soprano
opera singer, faced severe difficulties themselves after offering
the dissident writer Solzhenitsyn a place to stay in their winter
"dacha" in the 1970s. The decision led to Soviet authorities
canceling their concerts and stripping them of their rights as
citizens. But when you listen to the Maestro play his cello,
beauty and consciousness transcend description.
Azerbaijani artist Rasim Babayev (1927-2007) also left us this
April. During the Soviet period, authorities sometimes directed
guests to his studio to prove that there was a place for dissident
voices in Soviet art. All his life, Rasim refused to bow to the
dictates of the Socialist Realism style - which meant that content
had to propagate the tenets of Socialism, and style had to be
natural or "realistic".
Left: Rasim Babayev. Much of Rasim Babayev's
work was introspective. He often painted numerous portraits of
himself. Here, on his 79th birthday (December 31, 2006), he stands
in front of the door to his studio loft in Baku.
Quote by Arabic philosopher Yakzan Ibn Tureyli reads (in Russian):
"Those who are not skeptical are not seekers of truth. And
those who don't open their eyes remain in darkness and hesitation."
But Rasim loved to fill his canvases with brilliant colored "divs"
and dragons, which to him represented evil forces that he believed
deprived and demeaned individuals of their rights as human beings.
Visit Rasim's studio - it's still possible - and see how out
of his depths of pain, he made explorations in the beauty and
Then there's Zara Imayeva, journalist who now writes and directs
children's drama. She was caught up in the devastating tangles
of war in her homeland Chechnya and arrived in Baku, widowed,
and psychologically broken. It's been a difficult slow process
back to normalcy. Zara realized that many young people also were
suffering from traumatic memories of the war and disabilities.
She felt it was unfair that they would have to carry such baggage
throughout their lives. With the help of friends, she created
an art drama studio called "Didi" which means "Baby"
For the last three years, she has been using drama and dance
to help restore "childhood" and the "joy of play"
to these children's life. And, in the process, surrounded by
love, she is gradually recovering her own self-worth and ability
to make plans and dream for the future. The miracles that she
has produced in these children's lives are truly ones of beauty
Who among us can take the "Bubbles, bubbles, toils and troubles"
(to misquote Shakespeare) - meaning life's misfortunes that often
erupt into volcanoes of life-threatening and life-altering circumstances?
Who are the rare individuals who can take these experiences and
create beauty - a genuine beauty that leads to greater responsibility
and consciousness throughout society? This is the challenge.
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