fidelia unongo © I am Benue 2023

The Power Of “You CanNot”

Inspirational, Stories 17/05/2017 by Miss Fidelia Wuese Unongo

At age 9, I remember gleefully climbing the staircase which led to the primary 3 classrooms where the fine art club weekly meetings were held when surprisingly, I was welcomed with “What are you doing here? “Do you see any girl here? “She is always odd… I just stood there, trying to understand what was going on.

You fell and it hurt then your life took a turn, you can feel it girl, you can change the world… you’re still that girl…”

… coming from a home where boys and girls cleaned dishes after meals, took turns jumping ropes, played basketball, played football, participated in cooking competitions, boys helped girls comb their hair, and so on. I found it bizarre and incomprehensible that I was rejected from an association simply because I am a girl. I really could not understand the crime I had committed by being the only girl interested in the fine art club or perhaps, there were others who had gone through this same experience. All I wanted was an opportunity to create wonders with colours.

Stubbornly, I stood there searching for the right response to give, but staring at a class filled with 8 to 12 years old boys, I wasn’t sure I could take on all of them. I had stood there for a little longer than I should have which made it embarrassing for me to walk away when I had decided there was nothing I could do about being rejected. I had shamefully turned away, two steps down the staircase was when I heard him say “You cannot be here, go to the home economics club” I froze for about two seconds, turned around to confront the voice only to be faced with a group of little bullies sticking out their tongues at me. In that instant, I felt there was nothing I could do about it. I felt these hot tears forming around my eyes, preventing me from seeing them clearly. Staring at them I knew they meant to hurt me but I doubt they knew the gravity with which those words came at me. In that instant, all I could do was ask for the future. I promised myself that I would be so good in art where ever I find myself that where ever they may be, they’d hear about me and my art.

Gracefully, I was granted the future. At Federal Government Girls College Gboko I was one of the best fine art students of my time. Yeah! You can ask around. I finished school, national service, and so on. I worked at several offices but something was definitely missing. There were days when I felt I was just pretending to be an adult, other days I wondered what happened to everyone acting so serious, there were those moments I felt like I was in the wrong generation, the puzzle wouldn’t just match up.

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One day, I was listening to music and the lyrics said “You fell and it hurt then your life took a turn, you can feel it girl, you can change the world… you’re still that girl…” the lyrics took me way back to childhood remembering who I was before I started feeling lost in this huge world of ours, and there was art, I remembered my promise and decided to take art more seriously to satisfy my 9 years old self which is definitely benefiting my present self.

Today I can proudly say that I was inspired by the voices in my head “You cannot do it, you should be in the home economics club”.

Do not accept limits from yourself or cause someone says so. Set no boundaries to your goals. I try out everything, people may say you don’t belong here, you shouldn’t be doing this or that, but only you know how you feel and what you truly want. No matter where you are or who you are, if you let go of that one thing that sets your soul on fire… you’d always feel incomplete and that’s because you have accepted defeat just because you fell once, or twice, or three times. I’m still trying to find a balance in life but regardless of what people think, I would not give up on art because with art I have no limits, where ever I am I’d always have my painting brush.

Go back to where it all began and find that one thing that sets your soul on fire. It is never too late to start over. I proudly dedicate my first official artwork; acrylic on canvas to those boys who said I could not be a member of the fine art club at school. I am also delighted to inform you that I am with the Association of Nigerian Artists, in Abuja. Do not tell me “I cannot” because I will.


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