House and Leisure (South Africa) - - View - MAL­I­BONGWE TY­ILO

in­vent your­self and then rein­vent your­self, don’t swim in the same slough. in­vent your­self and then rein­vent your­self and stay out of the clutches of medi­ocrity. in­vent your­self and then rein­vent your­self, change your tone and shape so of­ten that they can never cat­e­gorise you. rein­vig­o­rate your­self and ac­cept what is but only on the terms that you be self-taught.

The above is an ex­cerpt from No Lead­ers, Please, a poem by Charles Bukowski. I came across it around the same time I de­cided I was go­ing to learn com­puter cod­ing and build an app. I watched YouTube videos by self-taught coders say­ing how any­one can mas­ter the skill in as lit­tle as three months. A speaker was talk­ing about the magic of liv­ing in this cen­tury where, if you have ac­cess to the in­ter­net, there is more knowl­edge at your fingertips than you can con­sume in a sin­gle life­time.

It’s been eight months since then and no, I haven’t started cod­ing that app. I am also nowhere near fin­ished with my les­sons. I found cod­ing to be te­dious and chal­leng­ing for some­one with an at­ten­tion span as short as mine. But I did take that speaker’s mes­sage to heart and, over the past eight months, I dove into other more en­joy­able in­ter­ests in which I had dab­bled be­fore, namely video edit­ing and mo­tion de­sign.

Oc­ca­sion­ally I get to ap­ply these skills pro­fes­sion­ally, but I’m still mostly a hob­by­ist who is ex­per­i­ment­ing and post­ing the re­sults as Instagram sto­ries. But with all that I learn from that seem­ingly friv­o­lous ex­er­cise, the op­por­tu­ni­ties to use my new-found tal­ents in­crease. I con­sider my­self a sto­ry­teller, and am fas­ci­nated by the idea of telling sto­ries in which­ever way I de­sire. Learn­ing ad­di­tional tech­niques to add to my sto­ry­telling arse­nal is noth­ing short of lib­er­at­ing.

Much of my adult life has been driven by the pur­suit of new skills. Af­ter high school, I stud­ied fash­ion de­sign, which led to my be­com­ing a buyer in my twen­ties. In my early thir­ties, I got into writ­ing, blog­ging and street­style pho­tog­ra­phy as fun af­ter-hours pur­suits. My abil­i­ties de­vel­oped and my path changed as I left fash­ion re­tail for a ca­reer in mag­a­zines. And here I am, at 39, more fas­ci­nated than ever by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of sto­ry­telling and the tales of cre­ative com­mu­ni­ties within South Africa. If I’ve learnt any­thing from my past, it’s the im­por­tance of cre­ative play.

It’s easy to de­fine your­self by your daily ac­tiv­i­ties; to say, ‘I’m a de­signer and that’s all I do.’ It’s easy to limit your cre­ativ­ity to what­ever pays the bills, or to think you’re too old to play. Re­sist. My 63-year-old mother re­tired as a school­teacher a few years ago. Now she makes and sells beaded neck­pieces, and is also tak­ing up paint­ing this year.

I am ad­mit­tedly bi­ased when it comes to sto­ry­telling and cre­ativ­ity. I think of sto­ries as one of the most es­sen­tial tools in life, and be­lieve that most of the things we con­sider to be im­por­tant are that way be­cause of the nar­ra­tives we at­tach to them. How we see our­selves is closely linked to the sto­ries we be­lieve about our­selves, and how we view the cre­ative out­put of our com­pa­tri­ots is re­lated to the nar­ra­tives we be­lieve about our coun­try.

With so many sto­ries to tell and a world of knowl­edge avail­able, do we still have a rea­son to limit the pos­si­bil­i­ties of our cre­ativ­ity to a life stage or ca­reer path? The more tools we have at our dis­posal – be it clay, beads, paint or pix­els – the bet­ter our chances of telling, rein­vent­ing and con­tribut­ing to that great South African story. mal­i­bongwe

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