People say “a house divided against itself cannot stand” and thus automatically doom me to a certain fall. The conflict within me has, on several occasions made me and even broken me. Torn between two identities, divided into two different entities; none are me, but I am both. I believe in the possibilities of one having both graceful and skilful attributes; in the combinations of logic and magic; of reality and imagination.

I am the artistic scientist?

I would expect one to argue that nothing of the sort exists. After all, the artist and the scientist are considered as extreme opposites. The scientist searches for, records, and argues based on facts. Speculations and assumptions are disrespected in science. Wild ideas are dismissed if they cannot be ‘proven’. I understand that scientists are constantly under pressure to ‘prove’ themselves, to support everything they believe in. The amazing world of scientists is one where truth is valued; accuracy and facts are given the ultimate recognition. A scientist understands what things are, why the are and how they can be played to his/her advantage. The scientific method involves systematic observation, measurement and experiment, and the formulation, testing and modification hypotheses. I have come to realise that I am, in the typical sense of it, a scientist.

However, my line of though often seems to gravitate more towards art than science. I see myself as an artist, carrying out activities that are based largely on imagination and technical skill. I find that the artist believed strongly in creativity of thought, awarding all respect to individuals who are able to represent their thoughts in tangible ways; be it literary, visual art, or even performing art. The artist often values perspective over truth, and he/she deems those whose art appeal to the viewer, as most accomplished. The artist believes in observation, imagination, skill, manipulation and presentation.

I have no problem with being an artist; despite the fact that artists are looked down on in modern day Nigeria. I am convinced that passion, hard work and the grace of God is al one needs to succeed in whatever field of life they go into. However, being an artist alone is not enough for me. The scientist within does not lake lightly to being ignored or silences, and the conflict aroused by both opposing entities throws me completely off balance.

I feel as though I have one leg deeply rotted in the coil of the arts, and another in the sciences. I am a tree, planted on the boarder of two warring countries. When the battle between them becomes too harsh, I am temped to uproot myself from one side. However, the way I see it, I am not likely to survive on only one.

Every few months, I see the troops line up on each side and my heart sinks. I see them holding weapons. The foot soldiers are my teachers, the archers are my doubtful thoughts, and the horsemen are the stereotypes. The scientist army is complete. I feel the arrows of scepticism pierce me as they shoot, I feel the blood of the dead splash on me, as they compare me to those who went before me, and throw their failure all around me, in an attempt to scare me into their territory. I shut my eyes but I cannot dismiss the sound of the horsemen. They preach,, “the smart ones are scientists”, “artists are lazy”, “there’s no money in art”, “you’ll disappoint your parents”, “you’ll be a disgrace to society”, “don’t throw your life away, “you’ll regret this”, “there’s no place for an artist in Nigeria”.


‘That can’t be right’, I tell myself. I know for sure that our culture is based fundamentally on art. Consider the fact that sculpting plays a huge role in Ifa worship, and that building of important structures. Think about dance, and how the Yoruba Bata dance is used to appeal to their gods. What about literature? My people use orature to teach their children morals and language. Nigerians sing during their weddings and this brings the congregation joy. Music is even a part of traditional healers’ ceremonies. ‘This must be a huge joke’ I murmur.

“Nigeria is the artist’s playground”, I shout back.

The artists are lined up, in their colourful rows and columns. I am afraid that their focus on beauty instead of force will cost them this war. They do not have weapons; they have colours. Baby pink, hot pink, royal blue. They have nothing but a large percentage of my passions and interests. They need not prove themselves to me, I already believe in them. The writers in baby pink scream to me. Their words move me. The visual artists show me things that speak to me and the royal blue form numerous groups which all work together to help win me over.

I am, again, torn between two worlds which, with the purpose of hurting each other, hurt that with is between them. I feel as though all my councillors are in the war; and I have only myself to turn to. My broken, indecisive self.

Every few months, this war forces me back into my shell, allowing for me to understand myself more. My interests are streamlines, and I feel as though the problems around me in the fact of this conflict, force me to create peace within.

I often fear that I will one day dismiss my rooting in one of these countries, but for now, I am perfectly content with being a part of both.

Now, when they ask me what I am, I can say without doubt or shame:


-Similoluwa Aluko

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