…for Daniella Godwin Effiong and that beauty-full 2017…

2017 was one year I spent almost entirely in the heartbeat of Africa: Lagos, Nigeria!

The thing about Lagos is this: whatever its strangeness inspires, its busy-ness takes away, so those artistic thoughts will keep cooking up in busy minds and evaporating.

True, in Lagos, every second is a story, every minute is a painting, every day is a sculpture. While this will naturally lead to a lot of works if one has time, Lagos brings out a dreaded side of my Arts. If I have no avenue of expressing it, the artistic thought tortures my mind before evaporating, that is if it will ever go away . I suffered in Lagos until Daniella…

Daniella, “My Arts Teacher”

We are so used to our lives being modeled after our failing school system, where everything is based on grades and exams; where those who ‘cram’ thrive but ideas die. Of course I too attended schools where the best of behaviours was to sit still and not talk, where the best books are those without any ‘stains’ of external ink or pencil, writings and drawings not part of the curriculum. Of course I grew up when focusing on academics was synonymous with being serious.

Will I now say I was lucky in that era to be allowed to read books for fun, write and draw things not related to my academics deep into the next morning? Maybe I was not too lucky because I remember making unique toy cars, carefully crafting them and evolving the models over a period of two or more years, only to wake up one morning and they were gone. My older siblings thought as I was starting secondary school, it will distract me, so they called it “trash” and trashed it far away from home, where I could never retrieve them. It pained me, but it never stopped me trying other things out. All said, life is really a ‘Montessori’, or at least it should be.

There is no need of dreaming dreams for youngsters, you can see things they are good at and guide them to choose. I was good at many and was allowed to choose the many. Parents and peers should make young ones see careers for what they are.

I don’t know what Daniella will be in future even when she lives streets away, but when I saw the speed at which she draws…the details, the imagination, and even the accompanying verbal stories, I marvel. I have been wowed by her artistic strides, and even more proud that her parents do not stop her, or call her talent ‘a distraction from schoolwork’.

Summer Blues by Daniella drawn on EKOes journal

I call Daniella “My Arts Teacher” because she converts the inspiration Lagos gives me to tiny art bubbles: a poem here, a sketch there. She makes me do them by her own contagious expression of arts.

This Summer Break, she reminds me of our drawing class every day we meet. In those ‘classes’ I merely watch her draw and listen to her stories.

Life is a Montessori, so we should not cage our lives by following stringent paths of career, jobs, family…as if all our activities will be scored and graded into academic report cards. Life is Arts, Arts is Expression….

(written in 2017)



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