Does art have the power to ignite real political change?

Ruth Ochugboju discusses political change and how art can stimulate it.

Edited by Isabel Aruna.



Before engaging with this question I asked myself what is real political change and how would I see it in my daily life? Political change can be described as a disruption in a government, be it minor or revolutionary, that then leads to new or modified leadership or policies. Nowaczyk stated that political changes can arise from the social issues a country may be facing, such as racial and ethnic tensions or policies that benefit the privileged few. I believe that the arts have more power to shine a light on social issues, and ease some of the negative effects that these issues provide, than given credit for.


The beautiful myriad of artistic forms that grace this earth provides a variety of mediums in which individuals can express themselves and pursue passions. Throughout centuries political agendas have had a presence in art through paintings, music, theatre, poetry, novels and dance where artists use their artistic licence to reinterpret and convey their opinions. Contemporary examples of this can be seen in the works of Banksy, a renowned street artist whose stencilled pieces have strong and controversial political themes. Street art has an ancient history of being an expressive political art form; however today some forms of street art are labelled as graffiti and are criminal because of the damaging effects it can have on property. Certain forms of street art is legal and I believe that these legal forms of street art should be encouraged to criminalised graffiti artists as a form of reintegration.

Discontentment with political structures has been the motivator for many artistic pieces and with the right acknowledgement and backing can instigate real political change. As society changes, the devaluing of art continues and is perpetuated in schools and other institutions which refuse to provide sufficient funding to these areas. The power of art should not be quelled by those who fail to see its worth and provide access to it. I believe that encouraging artistic expression in people, young people in particular, can have a positive effect on society. Everyone experiences their share of trials and stresses in their day to day life; different art forms have been proven to be a healthy cathartic release that can ease the woes everyone experiences. Art has the power to improve lives and affect society and deserves to be valued as such.