The bell had just tolled.
She is smartly dressed in a new ‘School Outfitter’ uniform. The shoes are a tad too big. The sign on the gate says ‘Allan Grove’. Shy, timid, small with wide eyes hungrily looking and absorbing anything and everything she sees. She peers in the class, and is surprised to see other little kids dressed like her, look at her.
Day 1, kindergarden. The strap of the heavy milk bottle around the neck is hurting. She slowly and carefully removes it from her neck, holding it tightly around her hands. Pauses, unsure where to go. Suddenly the bubbly teacher sees her and beams, ‘Come in, there is room for you here’. ‘What is your name?’ A small lapel pin badge with her name written with a fountain pen is stuck on her small chest. She smiles ☺ She steps into class Yellow A.
Sing-a-long. Colour. Play. Daydream. Break snack. Scribble. Learn to write Name. Story telling time. Count 1,2,3. Lunch. Siesta. And on and on, day in day out. She grows to like her class teacher and Kate the girl with the braces. She likes the ‘alone’ activities. Collects stickers and smiles when she sees the gold stars stuck on her homework page. It is so pretty and glittery. Shinny and bright. The pictures in the colour book needs to be coloured. The black ‘makaa’ scribblings on the walls of the house is a temptation but she recalls the ‘slippers’.
The report card reads, ‘Teresa is shy and obedient. She likes to draw and paint.’
Skip – skip – skip to my loo. Katii. Shake. Swim. Scottish Dance. Michael Jackson. Paper aeroplane. Kiss, Command, Promise. Paula Abdul. Drama Festivals. Bendings. Junior Championship galas. Bootie knitting. She has grown and so has her skills. Her favourite companion is her Sony Walkman. Class. Novels. Games Captain. Badmington. Soccer. Prep Time. Enough with the activities, primary had endless renditions. Gold fish dies.
The thread is unraveling, winding, leading, suggesting. Unconciouslyly shaping her. Today everything is good and wonderful. Tomorrow everything is horrible, news from the television is sad. Tempers flair. She has the greatest smile ever! Busted with nail polish, ‘panoed’ and the polish is applied again the next day. She bends a long safety pin, puts it in her front teeth. Cool, braces.
Calligraphy. Paper Crafts. Hand made Christmas cards. 32 letters to mum. She can’t get enough of them. ‘Description is vivid’ she says. High school is so anti-katii. Math is uncomprehensible. They say she is a tomboy. Drops French for Art. Learns Gothic calligraphy. Tells dad she needs Fevicryl acrylic paints, Osmiroid callig pen and four horsehair bristle paintbrushes. Zile original. Pocket money drama. Matron busts her sleeping under the bed past ‘wake up’ time. She turns to hiding in her wardrobe. Ace Physics and Art. Made a ‘Red Rag’. Sneaks in a blow dryer to use after swim training.
Soldier or Dancer? Design or Architecture? ‘You will make a good plastic surgeon. Look, look at how fine your hands are. Straight and handsome like your fathers. Precise and stable firm hands. Medicine is best.’
Results are out. The subjects that matter are aced. Those that don’t are ignored. It was a given. She is admitted. A.D.D. is her sacred sanctuary. 6 hours studio. 15-minute lectures. This must be the best course in the entire campus! Eye – hand co-ordination. Print the Helvetica font. Impressionism, Cubisim and Makonde Art. The dark room at the photo lab. Light-sensitive paper, (or was it photo chromatic?) now you don’t, now you see it. An image magically appears. It is all a fascination. She smiles, excels and spends mindless hours in that space. That space of wonder, colour, precision. History of Art. Statistics. Trans-nighting.
‘Isn’t it gloomy not to be able to see the wonderful object and animals that God has put in this world?’ she muses over ‘still life drawing’. Quick caricature. 3D modeling. Ergonomics. Scramming to book for a chance to sit at the only ancient Pentium computer to finish off typing a rushed CAT. River Road. Science Scope. Luthuli Avenue. Dressed scruffily to fit in with downtown style. Bling is left in the hostel. Meals money is allocated to purchase materials. ‘Pin-up’ is approaching. Panic. Coffee addiction. Starved and zombiefied. True friendships made.
Graduation Square. Bling bling in hot pink, shinny brass, and christmas tree green is flapping over the black costumed soon-to-be-graduates. Hundreds seated to await their turn. An accolade is bestowed and camera snapshots clip tirelessly. Merry laughter, hugs, relief. Finally it is done, school is complete. ‘I now bestow you the powers to go forth to the world and do all that pertains to the degree.’ Clapping. Handshakes. Goodbyes. Celebrate.
‘So what next? What is your plan? Have you started applying?’ The dreaded portfolio is requested for. Meanwhile she is also training on the outdated MS Publisher and other packages. Selling some campus work. She is lucky to be filling in for the still vacant secretary position for her aunt’s business. Sent resume to 6 agencies. Tarmacking. Interning at Stan Images meantime. Book Illustrations toiled on despite measly wage. She is hopeful. Optimism and patience are cultured values.
Graphic Designer. Ehem! A break through. The journey has just began. Her eyes brightly dance. Humans relate with her musings. Everyday is a strive to sharpen her imagination and learn about the target market. Probably 8% of what was learnt in school is what is being applied in her work. Psychology is a point of interest. Online & Offline strategies are merging. No day is alike. No brief is precisely the same. The exploration continues. It’s a gut feeling. It comes from her heart. No one can take it away. It is her birthright.