By Adaora Mbelu
Today, a group of young men walked past me, wearing T-shirts with politics-related inscriptions, ‘Register Select Vote Protect’; ‘My Vote Is Not For Sale’. The message was simply great, but the creative designs were even greater.
In recent times, Nigerian youth have taken a stand against the political chains of slavery, forming coalitions, while heralding the movement of change across the country. They have created various platforms to express their frustrations, and their mission statements are glaring.
While advocating for political change in our country, we have stumbled on a ‘Creative Revolution’ that is occurring simultaneously as we battle for control of power. ‘Stumbled’ might be an inappropriate description, as one could argue that the creative revolution has been in the works far much longer than our political ambition. Perhaps we just didn’t pay much attention to our creativity in the past, and danced to the tune of our elders describing our ideas as ‘youthful exuberance’.
We spent countless hours studying the science of logic, Boyles Law, thinking that our success at these subjects would determine our future success in life. Woe betide you if you mentioned to your parents that your favourite class was clothing and textile. The bottom line is: academics was king; logic was the prince; and creativity, the pauper. Our teachers made it clear that they wanted their exact words replicated in our examinations, and we cringed every single time a seemingly brilliant idea seeped into our minds. We were taught that Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, and only few dared to ask why Humpty Dumpty was sitting on the wall in the first place.
Today, there seems to be a paradigm shift in the global definition of creativity. In a speech delivered at a TED conference, British author Ken Robinson stated that “…creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”
People are comfortable being writers, videographers, stylists, designers, animators. We are now cognizant of the power of ideas, especially in tandem with action. Entrepreneurship is booming in Nigeria, and people are no longer afraid to express themselves creatively. The optimist will argue that by venturing into entrepreneurship, we are building platforms for the next generation. Permit me to cynically burst your bubble. We are making the same mistakes that the entrepreneurs before us made –businesses based on sentiment rather than passion, and passion without structure.
There seems to be a non-mystical allure that is attracting our generation to entrepreneurship. We are angry that we are contributing our skills and ‘paying dues’ to a society where we are constantly exploited. We are spending countless hours working for companies where our talent is unappreciated and our creativity ridiculed. We are limiting ourselves by the thoughts that the ‘big boys’ have the money and hence have monopolized the creative industry, and that our time will come — forgetting that we play a very crucial role in the success of these big dispassionate boys. In a reflexive effort to emancipate ourselves from what we refer to as the 9-5 hustle, we are starting businesses that have shaky foundations and, in some cases, no foundation at all. We are launching businesses with zero growth strategy, with the mentality that we will cross that bridge when we get there. We are building one-man businesses, where the same person designs, cuts, sews, and sells.
We are too busy trying to become “the key player”, and we fail to realize that we need to spark the minds of people who are passionate, who share our vision, and who will eventually effect the change we seek. We need to let loose of the ‘it’s my thing and I’m going to do it alone’ mentality. In simple terms, we need to be radical champions of collaboration and create a conveyor belt system where one person designs, another cuts, another sews and another sells.
In the words of the Nigerian rapper Naeto C, ‘things are not the same. Levels don change now’. Young creative folk are tired of waiting for power to change hands; they are building alternative ways to reach out to their audience. The real question is, when the change happens, will you be ready?
I believe that in this generation, the few people that have mastered the art of investing in the right people, who have tremendous ambition and passion, and who are willing to take on the challenges of being young and staying relevant in this new age industry, will lead this creative revolution. These people realize that the new Nigeria will not belong to those who choose one way of thinking over the other but to those who with equanimity will create a world where context and content seamlessly merge to create meaningful innovations that people will desire to consume. Kaboom! There will be no stopping them.
Originally published here. Republished with permission from the author.