By George Samwayo, SAYWHAT, Zimbabwe
George works on SAYWHAT’s DREAMS Innovation Challenge project, using his artistic skills to create graphics and messages for young people, about how to achieve their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
When I was seven, my parents got separated, and I began to stay with my grandparents. This brought loneliness at first, and then I began to enjoy spending time alone. When I was alone, I always felt safe and secure. My grandparents were around, but I hardly felt their presence.
I developed a passion for art. I traced pictures of cars from magazines and newspapers using a clear plastic bag and then reproduced them on different paper. I enjoyed using black ink in all my drawings, and every time I completed one, I was inspired to do more. Self-motivation became my strength.
But my father was against the idea of me drawing. He would say, “You are wasting your time drawing instead of reading your school books.” Every time he visited, I quickly hid all my drawings and pretended to read. I felt tense when he was there, my space was being invaded.
One cloudy afternoon, as I was sketching outside on a small, wooden stool beneath an avocado tree, my father showed up unexpectedly. Right away, he began to criticize me, saying I wouldn’t achieve anything from art. But then my aunt came forward and said, “Don’t discourage him -- if it’s a gift, let him pursue it.” I couldn’t believe it.
She began to encourage me and even took me for lessons at a local art gallery. I knew that even though my father was against me drawing, I just had to believe in myself, because I had no other vision of what I could be. After taking art in primary school and high school, I found out about different careers I could do, with art. I spent many nights drawing, to create an impressive portfolio for my college application. I was accepted and completed a four year program in 2015.
(George, you didn’t mention what your relationship with your father is like today. If it has improved, you might think about adding a line here, such as, “And my father? He was so proud, in spite of himself.”)
Some of the young people I work with today tell me about the pain they feel when their parents try to push them in school subjects or careers they don’t want. I always think about those kind words of my auntie, when I encourage them to hold on to their dreams, no matter what.