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Sustainability...it's about people: A Student's Reflections on Creative Defiance

November 4, 2019

 

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Image: Chaz Maviyane-Davies

 

Like many faculty members, I encourage and reward my students for getting out of their comfort zone and exploring new perspectives. Erica Stone, a senior majoring in Supply Chain and Information Systems, attended a talk recently by graphic designer Chaz Maviyane-Davies as part of the Nelson Mandela Lecture Series. I found her reflection--and his artwork--quite inspiring and wanted to share with the Triple Bottom Lion community.

 

Here's Erica's reflection...as you read it, consider how important it is for today's business students, like Erica, to be exposed to these kinds of experiences and perspectives.

Designer, filmmaker, educator and activist Chaz Maviyane-Davies spoke at Penn State's University Park campus on Tuesday Oct. 22, in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium. His visit was sponsored by the Africana Research Center in the College of the Liberal Arts as part of the Nelson Mandela Lecture Series.

 

Chaz Maviyane-Davies grew up in Zimbabwe and later studied graphic design in London. Growing up in Zimbabwe was the inspiration for his "creatively defiant" work. When he left his hometown in the 70s, Zimbabwe was overrun by political corruption, racism, and economic disparity. The repressive obstacles he faced in his lifetime are the fuel for his graphic design and incredible artwork.

I think that making someone try hard to see the issue clearly, is a metaphor for how we actually treat--or don't treat--inequality in the world. We know it is there but it seems we would rather ignore it or downplay it.

During his presentation, he shared samples of posters and images he designed inspired by social change, human rights, and the environment. His artwork was extremely moving. Most of his art was very simple and direct. You couldn’t miss the message. However, other pieces were more complex, they made you really think and address the issue on a personal level.

 

Image: Chaz Maviyane-Davies

 

Chaz repeatedly referred to "creative defiance" as the theme of his presentation. He challenges the status quo and beautifully captures difficult global truths in our treatment of nature and one another. 

 

My favorite image was from a poster advocating for Black Lives Matter (featured at the top of this post). It features a computer tab of the American flag in which the red and white stripes were replaced with black and white. The white bars were uploaded while the black bars were "still loading".

 

At first glance, it’s hard to see the social issue. That is what I liked about it. I think that making someone try hard to see the issue clearly, is a metaphor for how we actually treat--or don't treat--inequality in the world. We know it is there but it seems we would rather ignore it or downplay it, perhaps to avoid change.

In the end, being "sustainable" is not about the Earth, it’s about people.

Social and political inequality often get overlooked when studying sustainability. Maviyane-Davies' work highlights in a powerful way the people aspect of the "triple bottom line." In the end, being "sustainable" is not about the Earth, it’s about people. The Earth is not going anywhere, but we will not thrive--and some won't survive--if we ignore issues of inequality and don't achieve a shared prosperity. r

 

Maviyane-Davies showed me how the arts can play a role in raising awareness and inspiring change. He showed me a way to enact change and promote prosperity through creative defiance.

 

 

 

 

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