In 2020 the world’s focus was propelled towards change, from the constant fight to bring about action on climate change, to the shocking brutality that continues to unite people of all races behind Black Lives Matter, to the realisation that such a global society as the one we all live in enables a pandemic such as that which has overshadowed the whole of 2020. Here at Welsh National Opera we collaborated with the team of artists behind our new opera, Migrations, on Creating Change – a series of digital films creatively commenting on the issues facing humanity. Shreya Sen Handley’s piece, The Pledge, explores what we in the Arts can do to influence change.
Shreya tells us ‘The ancient civilisations turned to goddesses, especially mother goddesses, in times of crisis. These goddesses nurtured, renewed and rebuilt, unlike some of the war-like gods intent on destroying a transgressing humanity. At the heart of my illustrated poem, The Pledge, is such a figure, a composite of many influences but primarily inspired by a powerful Hindu mother goddess. This goddess battles ignorance, aggression and hate. But to redeem not annihilate, to reconcile not tear apart, wielding the weapons of empathy, enlightenment and creativity. Our world, facing climate disaster, mired in a pandemic, is fast sinking into ignorance, dissonance and apathy. In reimagining her role in our strife-torn world, she becomes the embodiment of equilibrium and equality.
My poem invokes such a goddess to come to our aid at this time. But she is an inner goddess. She is all of humanity, and the humanity in us all. Representing the hope, strength, and creative energy residing in each of us, she personifies the need to bring them forth to effect positive change. In that she is not only us, she is the arts. The arts have the power to instill, enhance, and draw on exactly those qualities. The ability to calm, open eyes, bring people together and enable them to empathise. The energy to influence and inspire our world to do better daily, so that we make the changes the planet requires to heal and regenerate. The Pledge then is the artist’s vow to do everything in their power to make a difference.’
Through The PledgeShreya inspires us to think about what we can to do create change, how we can alter – even in a small way – the way we go about our daily lives to help instigate positive change, to bring about a better future. WNO is committed to opening up the world of opera to all, telling stories that reflect all of our audiences’ experiences and broadening our work to appeal to all of our communities. As the new year of 2021 continues to throw out challenges, what will your pledge be?