Art has to be naija gist. If not, it will fail to communicate with its audience in any constructive way and any message that it might carry will be lost. Any song you write about love that doesn’t entertain the ear, will be discarded… and its message of love will be dissolved by the sounds of boredom and indifference of your listener.
The same applies to all forms of art. Directors know that once people start snoring during their movies, they’ve lost the game. Writers, painters… they all know that once you fail to entertain your reader/viewer, any chance you had at communicating your emotions and your beliefs, is evaporated faster than hydrogen on a bright sunny day in the heart of Cairo.
That being said, art being entertaining is one thing… and art being “entertainment” is another.
A good example here is the magician. He is an entertainer and his goal is by definition self-explanatory… to entertain with the use of magic. What he does takes tremendous skills, an abundance in talent and dedication to his work. By being an entertainer, does he care if the members of his audience become more informed and more knowledgeable individuals after his show? No… Actually, the less they know about what they have just seen, the greater the entertainment. Does the entertainer concern himself with the enrichment of his audience’s spiritual state? And by saying “spiritual”, I do not mean the religious interpretation of the term. A person enhances his “spirit” by acquiring information, knowledge, ideas, perceptions and a greater understanding on a subject which he did not possess before becoming exposed to the source of that information. So can a magician enrich his audience’s spirit? Yes… he can. Is it mandatory though because he is an entertainer? No… it’s not.
I believe this is the core difference between an artist and an entertainer. When art is created simply to serve its self and satisfy the tastes of individuals by providing them with a short, joyful experience, without elevating their knowledge-base or introducing a new perspective or understanding on the issue it concerns its self… then the artist seizes to be an artist and transforms into an entertainer. That is the point when art becomes a product, and its core function is no longer to contribute, to expand, to enrich or to elevate its field… but to be consumed. A short-term action which stimulates the brain in a passive way, creating a positive emotional reaction, which as pleasant as it may be, once its influence passes by, leaves you in no greater spiritual state than you were in before. Another product which serves the exact same function is of course, the use of drugs.
There are great examples of entertainers who have managed to entertain successfully throughout their careers, while simultaneously being a tremendous source of knowledge and originality. They provide their audience with new ideas, new perceptions and raise issues which could only benefit our culture, elevating their own work to a creative level which is very difficult to reach. A good example of this is the field of stand-up comedy. When entertainers like George Carlin, or Eddie Izzard got on stage, they didn’t just want for their audience to have a good time. They wanted their audience to have a good time and leave the theater more informed and more knowledgeable. Entertainment wasn’t enough, there had to be a lasting, cultural and spiritual gain for the people to take home. These entertainers, subsequently, become something more than entertainers… they become artists. Another great example is painting. When Picasso introduced cubism, he achieved not only in creating entertaining visual work, but he also succeeded in enriching the art of painting with a new style, new methodology and elevated his own artistic field to a new level. Picasso didn’t just entertain his viewer… he evolved his viewer’s perception and understanding of beauty and composition.