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Togolese Prelate Awarded Literature Prize, Says He Uses Art as “means of evangelization”

A Priest receives the Literature Prize awarded to Archbishop Nicodème Barrigah of Togo’s Lomé Archdiocese.

The Archbishop who was awarded the Togolese Grand Prize for Literature 2020 last weekend has, in an October 29 interview. Described art as “a way of being,” which he uses to share the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Archbishop Nicodème Barrigah of Togo’s Lomé Archdiocese received, on October 24, the Theatre Prize in the 2020 Literature Awards courtesy of his play “The Royal Throne” published by the New Africans Edition of Togo in 1993.

“For me, art is essentially a means of evangelization; it consists of expressing something beautiful, good, great. And I willingly place it at the service of God, of the great values that guide my life,” Archbishop Barrigah said

He clarified that “art is not a decoration, an ornament that you add to what you do.”

“(Art) is essentially a way of doing things, of communicating what we experience. Thus, through singing, as in my writings, I pursue only one goal: to help others discover something beautiful and good,” the Togolese Archbishop said.

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The 57-year-old Prelate went on to describe art as “a way of being, of feeling, of living. It is a predisposition that one discovers and patiently cultivates.”

“The aim of art is not primarily to produce commercial works but to transmit what we feel or grasp about life. Art expresses an inner reality,” he further said October 29.

The Local Ordinary of Togo’s Lomé Archdiocese since January is the writer of 100 songs gathered in six albums. He is a vocalist and plays the guitar. 

Admitting that composing songs and writing plays takes time, the Archbishop said that it does not limit him from actualizing his episcopal ministry.

“Of course, it takes time to write and compose, but it's all a question of organization,” he said adding in reference to art, “It is inseparable from my activities… (it) is inseparable from my responsibilities; it is part of the way I carry out the tasks entrusted to me”

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The inspiration to compose and write songs comes from prayer and meditation, Archbishop Barrigah disclosed. 

The Togolese Prelate who doubles as the Apostolic Administrator of Atakpamé Diocese also noted that there are some members of the Laity who “have the soul of an artist but face great difficulties that prevent them from developing their art hence they cannot use their gifts to serve the Church.”

“When one is sorely lacking the vital minimum, one does not have the time to devote oneself to art. Similarly, when one has no one to learn from to cultivate one's natural dispositions, one often remains at a nascent stage because works of art require a lot of exercise,” he observed. 

He acknowledged the fact that “so many young people need help to develop their potential,” adding that the Church “must try to create frameworks that are conducive to the blossoming and development of artists.”

Started in 2013 by the Togolese government, the Literature Awards aims at supporting Togolese artists in their artistic endeavors so that they can contribute to the development of the cultures in the West African nation. 

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