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  • Ilandi Engellbrecht

The Effect of Art on the Brain and its Creation of Unity amongst Africans

An Instalment by Ilandi Engellbrecht


“The brain converts the movement and energy we see in paintings into real felt emotions and feelings.”


Art has a significant impact on the human brain, whether we are creating art or viewing it. Art can also be used as a tool to bring communities together. This article will explore the neurocognitive and psychological effects of art, as well as its potential to unite Africa's diverse communities.

Viewing art triggers embodied cognition, which means that the brain envisions and places itself within the reality of the painting subconsciously. Mirror neurons convert the movement and energy seen in paintings into real emotions and feelings. The more a painting is analyzed, the more active and stronger the mirror neurons become, leading to stronger emotional responses. For instance, a painting of a dry desert landscape may induce a sensation of warmth on the skin, and images of happy characters may induce positive thoughts.

Studies have shown that art increases feelings of empathy, tolerance, and love. A visit to an art museum can improve critical thinking skills and empathy towards others. Viewing art also triggers a dopamine spike in the same areas of the brain linked to romantic love. Art classes, therapy, and group painting classes have been growing in popularity, providing participants with relaxation, improved social skills, and better mental health. Art therapy is a very effective outreach tool, improving self-esteem, self-awareness, attention, general awareness, and emotional control.

Art also improves problem-solving skills by stimulating both unconscious and conscious brain functions. Art may be beneficial to individuals suffering from PTSD, sexual abuse, dementia, cancer, depression, and anxiety.

The African continent is diverse in culture, race, and language, leading to disputes, misrepresentation, and disagreement. Africans need content that provides a platform for cooperation and coexistence that represents understanding, respect, and empathy towards one another. Art can be used to encourage embodied cognition and represent both the hardships and victories of different cultures and viewpoints. Art can help Africans envision togetherness despite differences, allow for empathy and acceptance, and heal some very broken hearts. Art can change Africans' perspective and understanding of diversity by giving it a positive and necessary representation. Art specifically portraying true Pan-Africanism can unite Africa's diverse cultures by strengthening empathy, tolerance, awareness, and understanding.

In conclusion, art has many beneficial effects on the human brain and can be used to unite diverse communities. Art triggers embodied cognition, increases empathy and tolerance, and improves problem-solving skills. Art can also be used to represent diversity positively and bring people together. African artists have the potential to use art to create a more united Africa, one that embraces diversity and celebrates unity.

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