When we speak of the arts, and more so when one engages with the arts as a practitioner in their various contexts, the questions of legitimacy and legitimation take a very different turn. This spans across a wide horizon, whether it is that of art-making in the studio; of showing in the gallery; of performing in the hall; or of teaching, learning and unlearning in schools, colleges or universities.

To start with, one needs to understand and find a way of differentiating between legitimacy and legitimation. Legitimacy implies a degree of conformity, whether it is with the law, agreed rules, or a grammar of speech, practice, and procedure. Legitimation is the action by which legitimacy is or could be claimed. In terms of images, by which we mostly make art, the process of being justified and verified, and more so, in terms of a manner by which a process of legitimation comes forth, emerges from that which is shown in terms of what it represents to groups and individuals who, in being recognized as sources of legitimacy, are then ready to give it.

This raises an immediate question: is legitimacy a gift that is expected from others? In turn, this could imply that as recipients of this gift, human actions only gain the validity of what they represent so as to have a value that is identifiable with forms of legitimation established outside them. Values that immediately come to mind, when the arts are presented within this realm of legitimacy, would include those aesthetic, pedagogical, social, and moral categories from which one could always glean a political set of assumptions. These are often sustained and justified by socio-economic metrics that are now linked to the so-called culture and creative industries. The latter seems to have completed the circle of legitimacy, where the arts are not simply seen, but expected to justify their existence from perspectives that are tangible, and to which the institutional voice of the arts is increasingly and often actively, giving assent.