I remember when I was in senior secondary school decades ago, I wanted to drop out of the Fine Art class so I paid very little attention to it. I never completed any painting and at the end of the double lessons, I would deliberately store my unfinished , unsigned painting in a drawer for the lower classes’ work. Each week I would have no painting to complete so I would start on a new one right away. Surprisingly, the Arts teacher never noticed my trick. It went on for almost a year and it would have continued had not the Ministry of Education changed the grading and examination for the Ordinary Level students. Among the new changes was that the course work for the two years would account for 33% of the total marks of the final examination while the examination papers themselves accounted for the rest. I was in a total mess so I came up with the idea of talking the Headmistress into allowing me to drop Fine Art and devote the extra time to French. One afternoon ,I talked to her, I pleaded, begged and cajoled for her to allow me to drop Fine Art. She opened the big record book that contained all the students’ results for some years. She combed through mine and looked up, “ I ‘ve heard your request and I ‘ve also studied your examination results from Senior two to the present. All the years you’ve been able to pass all the subject brilliantly except Fine Art. I know that you haven’t paid attention to it. If you put your mind to it, you would pass it too.’’
I cried hysterically but the white lady never gave in. She had seen enough African tears to tell the difference! She had told me the bald truth. I walked away in despair but changed my attitude towards the subject there and then. The first thing I had to do was to find my own time to start and complete as many paintings as I could under the genres of Composition, Drawing, Still Life and Nature. It was a daunting task but since the course work was to account for a third of the total score in the finals, I focused on it. I gave it my all.
Guess what ! I passed Fine Art with a good credit. For my Headmistress it was a case of ‘ I told you so.’
The two great lessons I learned from this experience were: when you start something with enthusiasm, you have to finish it with enthusiasm and secondly that unfinished work is as good as no work; you stay where you are.
Fast Forward, 2018 has passed and we are now in 2019.
Out with the Old and in with the New. Each one of us has a mission and purpose on this earth and each new year gives us an opportunity to start afresh on something that fits into our life’s mission.
Before you start on the new, you have to complete the old by taking time to reflect on it.
You have to go through what you set out to do in 2018:
List your success, your achievements and failures.
List your strengths and weaknesses
List what you would have done better and how you would have done it.
List the great lessons you picked from your experiences of 2018.
Bearing your life’s mission in mind, then go on to determine the true priorities for 2019.
From here, then set your Vision and Goals for 2019. This should be followed by drawing a clear, specific , achievable Plan of how to achieve the goals for 2019.
Immediately, get into action to paint the New Canvas.
We are all artist ; creating our lives and writing our own scripts as we fulfill our visions and goals for each year.
I have come to look at the journey of life as a Marathon and each new year allows me to focus on the end in mind. The race starts in my mind then I plan and set my pace to get to the end without forgetting that there are other runners around me.
While creating our lives and living them, we have to remember that creating great works demands for great imaginations. It is the imagination that helps you to interpret the world around you in an artistic way.
Michelangelo the greatest sculptor said:
“ I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’’
“ Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the Sculptor to discover it.”
It is always hard work to release the potential within you. You need to find a balance between childlike spontaneity, openness and maturity, skill and wisdom to create a better life as you uncover the buried potential in you. Your creations express who you are and what you think and know at that moment in time.
Over time, you become so good that your creations express the beauty and significance even in the most horrible experiences like the loss of a spouse. You can only produce your greatest work: things that are deeply meaningful, beautiful and moving, after you have come to know, accept and appreciate who you really are. You create things out of the truth of who you are. If you are a writer, this is when you are said to be writing down your Soul , if a singer you are said to be singing from the heart and an architect is said to be creating houses with souls. Your heart, mind and soul work together in tandem. Your efforts to create no longer feel like work or labour but instead give you a sense of great joy. It is fun to do what you love and enjoy.
The aim of creations is to bring out the beauty and significance in your life and of others around you.
The losses, the doubts, fears and failures we experience each year serve to inform us as we create our lives in the New Year. You never deny anything that happened to you but you accept them as worthy and valuable. What you have overcome, dealt with or failed to achieve teaches you a lesson you need later in the New Year.
Honesty and authenticity tend to come to us in old age for by then we have stopped living in defined roles instead do what we feel is right and is our own to do. It takes a lot of courage to break all the rules and norms to be ‘you’. This explains why expressing your true story is a painful process and yet it is a great moment of liberation.
If each individual is true to herself /himself then we can collectively make a better world.
Jane Nannono, The Last Lifeline(2015)
THE GIFT OF TIME
We all mellow with the years.
Like good wine we become better people:
older , wiser and respected,
we have hindsight and know who we really are.
We have found our purpose and meaning in life;
We have learnt from our mistakes and grown from our failures.
We are comfortable with ourselves ,
we look at things in their true perspective;
no jaundiced views, no tinted glasses, no veils or masks.
We are our own bosses and have learnt to say ‘no’,
we have stopped playing along to get along.
We have stopped feeling guilty and now do what is right.
We have learnt to forgive ourselves and to laugh at ourselves.
We have learnt to love ourselves and unashamedly put ourselves first.
We only do what adds value to our lives;
what we love and enjoy doing.
Being comfortable with whom we are, simply being ourselves.
In this New Year are you ready to respond creatively and anew to each new experience?
Or are you still limited by social conditioning ; working within predefined roles and being defined by the roles?
The New Year has already begun so you should have started painting on the New Canvas. Do not wait as I foolishly did in my Fine Art class decades ago; it caught up with me and I paid a huge price for it. The wisest among us always learn from other people’s mistakes.