When unlearning is an art

Michael Onsando
8 October ,2019

“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

  • Rob Siltanen

We all have a picture of what kind of person becomes the “creative.” The one who can’t sit still, with a head full of ideas and a heart full of passion. The one who you couldn’t convince to sit through anything because their mind was racing too far too fast. The one, as I read somewhere, who clings to childhood all the way through to their adulthood and has the ability to bring the child out in almost anyone.

Even if they don’t see it themselves it is seen by the people around them – the creative “genius” is often led down every path except the one that is painfully obvious is best suited for their temperament.

And it became even harder for the generation that came up during the time when art and music had been scrapped from the national curriculum. It’s not even that the subjects were unavailable to be taught (which they were). But because they were completely removed there was a connotation of non-importance that came about. So even to an uncomfortable child who had the means to learn art, music, sports and so forth outside school “why should I?” and “What’s the point?” quickly became the questions in their minds. These questions were then further reinforced by societal pressure, further insisting that a skill be buried, not worked on, pursued as a hobby in lieu of  something more “serious.” And so those who could draw pushed into architecture, those who could write to the law and so forth and so forth.

“Even if you let em’ kill your dream. It’ll haunt you”

  • J Cole

It never goes away.

We know this because Sting only became Sting after being a teacher for all those years. Our very own Mwalimu Gregg Tendwa only really broke out after working in the NGO world for a good number of years (bad number of years? What constitutes… I digress). This is because by the time one digs beyond the years of social conditioning to find their voice the path has often been long and winding. The path to being an artist here often involves leaving (for a residency or course or something) or self discovery through whatever you find along the way as you work odd jobs – something I wrote about here.

The art of unlearning by Chief Nyamweya charts the winding path taken by one Gituma in his bid to cling to his own creative voice while still trying to make something bigger than him. The 112 page, beautifully illustrated graphic novel is packed with vivid imagery and philosophy as his three mysterious teachers hand him the key to unlocking the vault within his own mind.

Writing about unlearning Chief Nyamweya himself writes:

“Unlearning is simply an inverse vision of learning. Whereas the traditional view of learning was about accumulating information, unlearning recognizes the abundance and ubiquity of digital information and therefore emphasizes instead how we can discover our innate potential or passion and share it. Passion is the rocket fuel behind all learning pursuits. Unleashing this energy is the purpose being The Art of Unlearning.”

With increased digitization we are left with an unsure image of what the future will look like, whether the traditional economies will be able to absorb as many people into working roles or even whether traditional jobs will exist. Yet still we seem interested in creating a future of prosperity of opportunity (not even sure if the present is one of prosperity, but that’s an entire different essay altogether). And, in these uncertain times, it’s the builders of a new terrain that hold the advantage – something that the Art of Unlearning explains.

“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.”

  • Miles Davis

But more than explains, it encourages, affirms and offers tools to aid the still lost, still confused, still reaching and still trying artist to reach within themselves to find a way to sound like themselves in a world that’s constantly telling them to sound different.

In the words of the chief – this is your time.

The Art of Unlearning by Chief Nyamweya is available at www.artofunlearning.com

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