06/07/2008

Tolerance Through Art

WOLCOTT: Etonism teaches tolerance through art

By Bill Wolcott
E-mail Bill

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

LOCKPORT On Saturday morning, my bride asked, “What are you doing today?” I replied that I as doing a story about visitors from Angola who were interested in chain saw art.

It was not Angola, the town on Lake Erie, west of Buffalo, but Angola, the high-plateau country on the west coast of Africa.

It was a late assignment, a “quick hit” before going to the 100 American Craftsman at the Kenan Center. The “quick hit” lasted two-and-a-half hours at the Market Street Art Center and it could have gone longer.

I had a 150-minute lesson in art, philosophy and politics along with chain saw art.

Antonio Tomas Ana “Etona” and Patricio Batsikama of Angola came to Lockport with interpreter Luis V. Riggio from the State Department. Who knew that folks in Angola spoke Portuguese?

Americans are generally in the dark regarding the Dark Continent. It’s not the fault of the media, it’s just that we’re more interested in Britney and Paris.

I have a 50-year-old stamp collection worth of a Boy Scout merit badge, but 50 years ago most of the African countries had different names.

Did we know that Angola is recovering from a 25-year civil war that took the lives of thousands? Even the United Nations lost count. Batsikama said there are three sets of numbers, the official, the officious and neither one or the other.

“We don’t think they are concrete,” Batsikama said. “Some who were counted dead are alive and some who were counted alive are dead.”

“My family was one of the victims in that process,” Etona said. “Everyone in our country has lost two or three members of the family and were victimized.”

A former political science major, I asked about history and politics as much as I did about art. Was Etona an artist, philosopher or politician? Batsikama, who studied in England and who coined the word “Etonism” answered. Etonism is tolerant reason. “Art is the mother of everything,” he said. “Politics equals art.”

Etona and Batsikama are co-authors of “Etonism a Philosophic Suggestion in Angola After War.” Etona saw the war firsthand. “Once I got to the front,” the artist said. “I realized we were fighting among brothers. Those who were ordering the fighting were exploiting our wealth.”

Etona paints and sculpts artworks with messages that call for social harmony. He exhibits his artworks and his philosophy.

Etonism identifies racism, tribalism and discrimination as sequels of colonialism. It is a word the nation recognizes. It gives Etona the freedom to express to the government what he wants to have done in a child of a nation.

“Art is the means for which we would be able to achieve the tolerance necessary between the various peoples,” he said. “It’s a nation that needs to be educated in the process of tolerance.”

“The idea is to spread it throughout the country,” the artist/philosopher said. “We want people to create peace in the country. The objective is that its people continue to live in peace.”

Contact reporter Bill Wolcott at

439-9222, ext. 6246.

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