The beginnings of a creative professional
My earliest memory of intentionally making art is from around the age of 5 or 6. I can picture it so clearly: a family friend, Auntie Bridgitte, sitting with me at our dining table, showing me how to make interesting shapes by overlapping letters and numbers and colouring the spaces in between. I loved it! And continued to make up all kinds of creative challenges for myself until …
well, actually, I still do!
Throughout primary and secondary school, I excelled at pretty much everything academic that was thrown my way. The stereotype that art is something people do when they “can’t” do other things is a mindset that really frustrates me. I feel that it’s part of why the creative industry isn’t valued as much as it needs to be. I mean, consider the fact that artists are guardians of our culture and how we see ourselves in the world. And that designers are responsible for a lot of how we actually interact with and make our way through it.
I grew up in Kenya, at at time when the creative scene wasn’t a quarter as dynamic as it is today. I didn’t know of any creative professionals who were making a great living from their craft. I didn’t even know that there were so many potential paths for somebody wanting to pursue a creative career (and to this day I still keep learning of more)!
Fast-forward to the present moment when one of the projects I’m working on involves a team that includes a Design Researcher, an Interaction Designer, a Business Designer and me, a Communications Designer!
Art or science?
Growing up it was tough to fit into the boxes that people wanted to put me in. People wanted to know if you were into the sciences or if you were into art. I was into both! In fact, mathematics was my favourite subject. A little naive, before the internet was as accessible and ubiquitous as it is today, I decided I wanted to be an architect. My little knowledge on the subject convinced me it was an opportunity to combine maths and art.
The unconscious wisdom of youth
Although my architecture decision didn’t stick, I did still go to a specialist art school for my higher education. Something rather shocking to some, in a society that expects people with excellent grades to be doctors and lawyers. I’m so grateful for my supportive parents who are, in many ways, anomalies for their generation.
I can’t say I had a clear vision of why art school – even years into it and afterwards! It’s only now that I can appreciate that unconscious wisdom of my younger self.
It is now, almost 20 years after making that decision (and several more that were equally confusing to some people such as: going from art school to pursuing an MA in African Studies and; the fact that an African needs to study African and Africans…), it’s so clear, to me, how everything has come together.
Getting to the root
I realise that, one of the main things at the root of what I’m interested in and passionate about is: problem-solving. Math is one tool for that but, so is design (and art and creativity in general). The more I practice, as a creative professional, the more I realise how effective this work is when done well because, it has human need at the centre.
So what’s at the root of your interests and passions?
We need more creatives…
The Afri-love blog was born out of a desire to celebrate African creativity and inspire more people to embrace its value and all the side benefits of that (especially – an improved collective self-esteem). We need more creatives and more people who support their work.
… and this includes you!
Often, the first step to appreciating something is empathy so, I want people who don’t even necessarily consider themselves as being creative, to unlock the creativity that is no doubt within them. It’s in us all!
This is some of why Afri-love Fest exists and writing all this I realise that, on some level, it’s a movement :). I hope you’ll join us !
5 reasons why design matters: An argument for African parents, businesses & other skeptics