Indigenous American and African Americans on Art & Creativity

Creativity is at the heart of our being human beings. 

“The Moon Goddess Welcomes the New Year” by Carol Hayman (Serie Project XVIII | Latino Art Studio Screen Print) On Flickr.

Among the songs of the Mesoamerican peoples are the following hymns about the Toltecatl artists.

The true artist, capable, practicing, skillful,
maintains dialogue with his heart, meets things with his mind.
The true artist draws out all from his heart.
The good painter is wise,
God is in his heart.
He puts divinity into things;
he converses with his own heart.

Notice the role that the heart plays in creativity.  Dialog with the heart, drawing “all” from the heart, God residing in the heart, conversing with one’s own heart—all this is integral to the work of the artist, the work of creativity.

One poet described himself and his creative process in the following manner.

Antique Mexican folk art painting: deer frolicking, bird, purple and orange flowers, Hotel Belmar, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. Uploaded to Flickr by Wonderlane

Who am I?
I live flying.
I compose hymns, my heart relishes them.
I sing the flowers:
butterflies of song.
They leap forth from within me,
my heart relishes them.
I have arrived among the people,
I have come down,
I, the bird of spring….
My song arises over the earth,
my song bursts out. 

Dona Marimba Richards, in her iconic book, Let the Circle Be Unbroken: The Implications of African Spirituality in the Diaspora,  recognizes the profound spirituality of community imagination and makes explicit the link in the African spiritual consciousness between ritual, music, and the making of community. 

“The Freedom Singers originated as a student quartet in 1962 at Albany State College, Georgia with congregational-style singing…which fused black Baptist acapella church singing with protest songs and chants. Their performances drew aid and support to…the emerging Civil Rights Movement and communal song became…a powerful social weapon of influence in the fight against Jim Crow segregation.” Photo uploaded by bswise on Flickr.

Few have understood what music is to us. Black music is sacred music. It is the expression of the divine within us. 

She emphasizes how music connects the African soul to the cosmic powers and the divine spirit within those powers Through music and ritual, cosmos, Divinity, and the human get it together. Ontologically,

we gain meaning, force, and being through relationship with the universal life force; by feeling ourselves to be a part of the whole. Our music manifests that relationship, as it puts us in tune with the universe. It explains to us the mysterious workings of the universe and ourselves as cosmic being…. As in ritual, in music the human and the Divine meet.

Lyla June Johnston, Indigenous environmental scientist, educator, community organizer and musician of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages, performs her call to unity, “All Nations Rise.”

Dance brings spirit and soul together in a cosmic context.

Through dance we experience reality as immediate to us; that is, we are identified with the universe…. We have experienced cosmic interrelationship… Dance, for us, is a religious expression.

When we dance, through Rhythm, we express ourselves as cosmic beings. Music transcends us to ultimate realities. Dance and Song; Rhythm and Music, then, are part of the matrix of the African Universe.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater remotely dances to “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.” Posted to YouTube by The Call To Unite

Richards names the black experience in the Americas as a “nothingness” experience that was transformed by way of creativity. Nothingness was not achieved through meditation but through politics and degradation.Slavery stripped the African to the bone. 

The African universe was disrupted…. the benefits of African culture were stripped away—not one by one—but brutally, in one sudden and total act. Family, language, kinship patterns, food dress in one sudden and total act. Family, language, kinship patterns, food, dress and formalized religion were gone. What replaced them was the order of slavery. The objective of the new order was to demonstrate our lack of value.

Creativity saves; it heals; it moves beyond boundaries.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells, pp. 228, 240.

Also see Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet.

Banner Image: Untitled. By Sofia Coeli on

Do you find yourself dialoging with your own heart?  Putting divinity into things when you create? 

Do you find that creativity heals and saves yourself and your communities?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin


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3 thoughts on “Indigenous American and African Americans on Art & Creativity”

  1. Avatar

    Love the Alvin Ailey dancers, thank you – and, of course the whole meditation!
    Are you all safe?
    Margaret N

  2. Avatar

    Another gorgeous and uplifting meditation. Is there any possibility of starting a FaceBook page for people to share ongoing discussions and comments? Is there an admin on staff to do this? The opportunity for comment here is appreciated, but comments disappear with the meditation. Thank you.

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