The creative boy who shrank the world

Strive Karadzangare | April 23, 2021

Of a boy who scaled down the world to his level. Join me as I share my past experiences and reflections from my childhood creative activities.

Image: Young boys from Africa playing outside

All my expectations were shattered and all of my plans had been disrupted. I stood in utter disbelief as I watched my most magnificent creation lay in ruins. “If only I had been there earlier, all of this wouldn’t have happened”, I thought. It felt as if I had abandoned my duty as a creator and custodian of my creations. However, it wasn’t entirely my fault. People just did not appreciate the value of my most precious creation. I cherished the value of my work but I did not understand why other people could not think highly of my creation just as I did. I was just a ten year old boy, and my most beloved creation had just been met with the worst fate ever.

Yes, the small clay model of a stadium that I had recently completed, had just been demolished. One of my relatives had torn it down citing that it was making our yard unsightly. Although I initially got angry, I lightened up when I realized that I could make a bigger and better one. But why had I become so disheartened when my model was demolished and why had I been elated when I thought of creating another model on a different site? After all, it was mere clay enmeshed with sticks and cardboard, that was carefully crafted to resemble a stadium. The fact that the structure made of "valueless" clay had been demolished couldn’t hurt, or could it? At that time I never pondered over that question, neither did I have any thoughts that explained my creative tendencies. It is only now when I'm a bit older, that I can reflect and think about the forces that governed my creative tendencies.

Image: The high rise buildings in Harare.

Please allow me to take you back to a time when it all began. It all started when I visited Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. Pause for a moment and picture a boy, from a small infra-structurally unsophisticated town, moving to a big city that is decorated by majestic high-rise buildings. To him, everything is new and unfamiliar. The experience is just thrilling. Well, that boy was me, several years ago. I was deeply amazed by the feats of engineering that stood right in front of me, when I first visited the city of Harare. What captured my interest more however, was the National Sports Stadium.

I was so awestruck by the engineering marvel, that I planned to build a miniature replica of the stadium by the time I returned to my hometown. I was going to build the replica at home using clay, cardboard, pieces of wire and twigs as well as other locally available raw materials. Those were the best materials at my disposition at that time, especially since I could not afford to acquire the Lego toy sets that some of my friends owned. Besides that fact, using clay, cardboard and wire to build a miniature stadium, felt more intuitive than using plastic blocks. It wasn’t the first time that I had used clay to create something. I had previously used clay to make toy cars, huts, miniature clay pots and model bridges. However, the miniature stadium presented me with a new and unique challenge. I was going to singlehandedly mimic an engineering marvel that was, no doubt a product of the hard work and creativity of many highly educated engineers, mathematicians and architects.

Fueled by passion, I quickly gathered the necessary raw materials, clay, water, twigs and cardboard. Not so long after that, I was already working on my project. Through hard work and a burning passion, I managed to create a miniature replica of a stadium. I furnished it with LED lights that I took from a broken torch. The LED lamps glowed during the evening, and all that the light touched was my miniature stadium. To officially open the "magnificent" structure, I invited over my friends to play a friendly soccer match on the field of my little stadium during the evening. We played the match using a small ball and twenty-two bottle tops which represented players. It was a wonderful experience. In fact, it was lit!!!

Having realized the joy that it all brought me, I started devising plans to improve the magnificence of my creation. So, I planned to install a miniature onsite steam-powered generator that could power the lights at night. I also planned to expand the terrace wings. Little did I know that all those plans would be thwarted and that all my progress would be nullified when I would wake up one day to find my precious creation ruined. Ironically, I never attempted to rebuild the initial structure after it was demolished. What only remains up to this day is a vivid memory of the magnificent structure, the paperless planning and the creativity that were involved.

Of late I have found reminiscing about my childhood experiences to be rewarding. When I think about my mental disposition back then, I am constantly impressed. Back then I was curious and I believed that I could create anything that crossed my mind even when implementation details were largely obscure. That attitude was mainly manifest in my childhood activities. I used to create miniature houses, cars and shops out of clay or cardboard. The most hilarious thing I ever did was attempting to perform surgery on tender and unripe mangoes. What I did when I was younger proves that, I always yearned to create unique experiences for myself and to bring down the world to my level. It was as if, I shrunk the world through my creative processes. Much of that shrunk-down world and its civilizations, are now history since I managed to outgrow them. What now remains, are vivid memories of the joys and the setbacks of my childhood creative processes. Sometimes, I am so fascinated when I recount how my past creative experiences shaped certain aspects of my worldview, that I am reminded of the words of Louise Gluck who said, “We look at the world once in childhood, the rest is memory”.

What particularly took me back to my past creative processes was the World Creativity and Innovation Day which took place on the 21st of April 2021. Pondering over what it meant to be creative, I took myself on a time travel adventure back to the time, when I created my own reality and solved my own challenges in ways that were novel and peculiar only to me. To be creative according to Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard a Nobel Prize winner means that we can combine facts that have not been connected before. Doing so may imply finding hidden connections in unexpected places and combining ideas in novel ways to create new experiences. That sentiment about creativity perfectly resonates with what I did when I was younger.

At times, creativity entails an independence of thought and the ability to continue with a course of action even when it is contraindicated by contemporary wisdom. History has it that, Albert Einstein was a very creative man. He managed to propound a scientific theory that brought a major paradigm shift in the scientific conceptualization of our universe. However, it is reported that Einstein was at odds with many people because of his tendency to reject the contemporary way of doing things. He would sometimes skip his lectures to play his violin and when he attended lectures, he would daydream about the universe during class. However, he preferred to label his daydreams as “thought experiments”. Interestingly though, those “thought experiments” that he conducted were instrumental to his major scientific breakthrough. That’s right, creative people are not always understood. They may have bizarre tendencies which may be unpopular with people around them. Even though they may be at odds with some around them, ironically they usually create solutions to the problems faced by people in their community.

Image: Albert Einstein's most famous equation: A product of his creativity and his ingenuity

Most often, creative people improvise and use the resources at their disposition to solve local problems. The whole essence of creativity is to combine readily available resource in novel ways, so as to create solutions. A Malawian man called William Kamkwamba did something similar at the age of fourteen when he solved a local electricity shortage problem by creating a wind turbine out of wooden poles, bicycle parts, and materials collected from a local scrapyard. Those materials were probably all that a 14-year-old boy from a rural area in Malawi could acquire. However, that did not impede him as he went on to create a wind turbine using only those resources. That was surely very creative of him. You do not need a lot of resources to enrich your environment. Work your way up to the top using what you have at the moment. In fact, creativity permeates humanity. Wherever you are, and with whatever you have you can create a solution to a problem. After reading the preceding accounts, I am sure that you have been moved to unleash your inner creativity and solve a problem. Are you?

Image: A wind Turbine created by William Kamkwamba

If you are moved, that is what is called inspiration. Inspiration is the major drive behind creativity. Remember, how I was inspired to create a miniature replica of a stadium just after visiting the National Sports Stadium. For you to be more creative you must engage in experiences that infuse in you, a passion to create something. You may have to read about exceptional stories of people who took creativity to the next level. That is commendable since it can infuse in you, a burning desire to improve your creative tendencies. I have already shared the accounts of Einstein and Kamkwamba, but they barely represent the prolific population of all the creative men and women who creatively solved different problems. Make it your effort to read up their stories, make it an obsession and be inspired by their accounts. In fact, Inspishare, just as its name implies, aspires to share some of those stories that inspire you to unleash your inner creativity.

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