Winning in spite of
Ifirst heard of Yinka Shonibare when I stumbled upon his headless art sculptures during a random Google search. I was so intrigued with his work that I got lost in hours of research, drinking up every piece of info on this very talented creative. Every painting, sculpture, photography, film and installation he created was geared towards examining race, class and cultural identity. From the headless sculptures to the oversized Nelson’s ship in a battle and his creative use of brightly coloured Ankara fabrics, it was all so fascinating.
What struck me about him was how effectively he communicated his art despite his disability. He decided that being in a wheelchair wouldn’t stop him. And to be honest, one can only imagine how difficult it was for him. While working on this edition, someone mentioned that if Yinka Shonibare were resident in Nigeria, he wouldn’t be as successful, and my response was that it is debatable considering we have produced the likes of Cobhams Asuquo and Yinka Ayefele, who are great success stories in their own right. But that conversation also served as a reminder that when you have a physical disability, you have to fight harder than most of your peers to reach your goals. And you have to fight even harder to prove that you got there because you deserved it, not because the world felt sorry for you. When you think about it, success stories about persons living with disabilities are often reduced to singular charity narratives and inspirational speeches, regardless of how hard they strive to be more than that. As someone who grew up with a very close relative who is disabled, I know this to be true.
The sad truth is that in these parts, disability per se is still considered a barrier to self-enhancement and making significant contributions to society. And that is largely because we live in a society that is subconsciously and consciously socialised to have negative attitudes towards the conditions of persons with disabilities. Yes, there are discussions around inclusion which often centre on infrastructure and equal treatment without recognising that equality cannot be achieved when people are not starting from the same point.
This is a conversation that would go on for a very long time. It’s easy to assume that because you are understanding and supportive towards people with disability, discrimination never occurs, and full equality prevails for everyone with a disability living in Nigeria. That’s just wishful thinking. Disabled or able-bodied, we all have the power and responsibility to make society more inclusive for everyone. From living experiences to listening to the disability community, let’s all strive and do what we can to make our world more accepting of people
Konye with disabilities.