Every artist aspires to influence and elevate their art and the creative culture. When asked Tongo’s response is as poetic as any of his works. He says in short that he strives to be timeless. To enter time and space as an artist is a process without set space and time. Our works echo through the halls of time and continuously ring our message.
Tongo continues saying, “My craft, and in many respects my life, responds to the works of other artists (living, dead, or living where we will never cross paths). I would like my poetry, in turn, to reach artists and give them something to respond to with their creativity.” This type of impact is one of pragmatic elevation. His journey to inspiration is evident in his work and in his approach to life.
True art comes when you push the boundaries of the relationship between the inspiration and its offspring. Tongo reaches for this height of exellence. As he says: “In this exchange, I want my art to be associated with pushing; pushing the relationship between creative possibility and material grounding. I engage a very real world and respect each layer of it, but I think, through art, each rational layer can be explored through the insane lens of word play. In this process, the insanity itself becomes explained. Ground and imagination flesh each other out.” These are the quintessential elements of truly heartfelt art.
When we move beyond our art to the full extent of our talents we begin to broaden the view of the artist and their art. “Second, to enter time and space as an artist is a political act. There is no such thing as art for art’s sake.”The very history of art is steaped in political and societal commentary. Poets especially have been the harbingers of history’s secrets, woes and triumphs. “Our art plays a part in the historical process, whether that be to serve the oppressed or the oppressor.” This poignant thought causes a deeper delve into the true meaning of art and its power.
Tongo says that his “work with youth of struggle extends from the principles of my upbringing. People are more important than money; more important than means; more important than production.” Very often artists lose the heart of their purpose when faced with economic advancement. He goes on to say to “further the oppressor’s power structure constantly attacks people. Education and art defend us in very important ways. Just as important as physical safety, is mental, even spiritual strength as born of collective consciousness. Work with youth and art both feed each other as they exist for the purpose of movement.”
When asked about the legacy that he wants to leave, his immediate response is: “Legacy is a concept that I believe does not belong inherently to one person. I am part of a collective, continuous legacy of resistance to oppression and creative expression. All the mornings I have woken up have seen that legacy continued. And I will continue to play my part. You are a part of this legacy. It will never surrender.” The legacy lives on.