Creating to Survive

It is Day 4 of the #WinterABC2021, still in the spirit of Creatives. For the past couple of days I have been thinking about whether Creatives are born or made, and something someone posted today concretised those thoughts. It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and usually, on hearing this I think of the “bigger” inventions like the light bulb, the aeroplane or the telephone, but how about the day-to-day seemingly small “inventions” people are forced to make in order to ease their lives?

I am reminded of my childhood years. Born in a Uganda emerging from years of civil war to parents who had lived through the crazy times, creativity and minor inventions were a way of life. Everyday items were frequently repurposed to serve a need. Nail-holes punched through the bottom of a tin can made a functional grater, plastic holders of medicine ampoules nailed to a wooden board was a perfect holder for the family’s toothbrushes, using the cardboard hearts of toilet rolls as pan holders or to keep curtains in place  And loads of other things.

My siblings and I learnt from and applied our parents’ frugal ways. One thing that really stuck for my sister and I was repurposing clothes. In the true spirit of “omwana akula” (the child is still growing), the clothes purchased for us were usually a couple of sizes bigger. Mum would stitch and tuck to make them fit and they would be let out as you grow as opposed to buying new clothes every few months. Of course, that was quite a bit of stitching and tucking for a household of 5 children, so mum taught us how to do a lot of it ourselves. She showed us how to hem and tuck, make buttonholes and add little decorations here and there to turn a basic outfit into something fancy.

As we got older, my sister and I still made modifications to clothes. A few memorable ones for me were turning a maxi, overly tight skirt into a freer knee-length one, turning trousers into skirts, or ordinary trousers into fancy bell-bottoms with some jean detail. We were usually complimented on our good wardrobe *wink* There was the one time I almost burnt a black trouser-leg while ironing and to cover up I stitched a flower pattern over the almost-burnt area. No one could tell. To date, I still make modifications on my skirts and trousers to counter that waistband gap, and hide small rips in clothes with pretty patches, flowers or strategically placed button detail.

There is the application of creativity in other areas besides clothing and dressing. I recently rented a studio apartment for nearly a year. I was not at liberty to make serious permanent modifications to the space though I really wanted to separate the living and sleeping spaces. Enter creativity. I opened out the box of a fridge and used that not only as a partition for the space, but also as a board for hanging verses and d├ęcor on the living side, and jewellery and hair accessories on the sleeping side.

Then there are the things I do with my dreadlocks, but that is a discussion for another day. I might not be one of those Creatives out there, posting or releasing content for the world to consume but my side-hustle creativity does keep my life interesting and saves me a few coins here and there. Creativity today might be viewed as a way to earn a living for some but for others, it is a way to survive.