Artist, Kunle Adewale, tells his story in Atunbi

A review of Kunle Adewale’s Atunbi: The Grit, The Guts, The Glory

In Atunbi, Kunle Adewale answers difficult questions about the process and journey to success for the ordinary man in a world increasingly becoming political, where gatekeepers, money and connections seem to be the thoroughfare to dreams and accomplishment.

Atunbi serves as a guide, a light through the story of the author’s process, the author’s reconnection to his childhood fascination with colours, designs and patterns. How through the darkness of despair and the mire of incessant abuse in a domestic climate of polygamous rancour and poverty, Kunle finds a shimmering light of hope through sheer determination, courage, persistence, endurance, and by playing deaf to the voices of doubt.

Atunbi recounts the story of the young Kunle in the slums of Lagos, whom devoid of a significant birth order (ninth of 14 children) to lay claim to some form of specialness and attention from parents, battled daily with a crushing lack of confidence and esteem; how surrounded by failure and debilitating poverty—as all seventeen of the family were cramped in one room for shelter in Mushin, Lagos—there was no image within his existential space strong enough to anchor the possibilities that his mind was nudging him towards.

Yet, like air, he rises, as Maya Angelou once wrote in her celebrated poem, ‘Still I Rise.’ Kunle is today a renowned artist in health and wellbeing. His project in Nigeria, Art in Medicine, has found a nexus of disciplines in order to provide hope, succor, refreshment and expression to health and physically challenged persons in hospitals and health centres.

Every August 2 was earmarked as Kunle Adewale Day in honour of his selfless passion and development work in Nigeria, the US and around the globe.

The answer, from Atunbi, is the same age-long wisdom today’s generation have been “trained” to ignore.
Because while everybody sought avenues where which to earn the highest pay, Kunle sought a space where he could be of the most valuable service regardless of material compensation.

And it is in that path of genuine service that every other thing took shape.

Atunbi makes it clear that the process is not for the fainthearted, those seeking the easy way out, those with a myopic mentality of service, who want their rewards now. Instead, it shows another way: a way that not only requires one to trust and respect the process but a way that shows a gleaming end that faith in the process guarantees.

Writing about the book, Paul Modjadji, founder, Breaking Down Borders Africa Initiative, South Africa, says, “There is a potent word in Southern Africa termed Ubuntu. A word that means ‘I am because you are.’ The word is derived from the Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” directly translating into “A person is a person through other people.

“Kunle Adewale’s story is a testament of this old age African adage. Kunle’s existence has always been tight to others in a uniquely intrinsic fashion. From his humble beginnings, born to an impecunious polygamous family, he was baby number nine out of a long line of 14.

“Even as a young adult when life offered him the opportunity to drop the burden of carrying the community on his back, Kunle remained passionately committed to serving the greater family of humanity.

“Through this inspiring book, Atunbi, Kunle candidly shares a story of trauma turned to triumph, enduring tribulations and countless forms of abuse to come out on the other side a champion of human rights and a selfless Art doctor who heals the downtrodden and the sickly through his Art.”

Also, Alexandria J. Maloney, 2019 Forbes Under 30 Scholar and Fellow, White House Initiatives for Historical Black College and Universities. The United States, says, “It’s rare to come across an inspirational book that encapsulates the author’s trials and tribulations while providing such hope and joy.

“When reading this book, one feels as though you are sitting next to young Kunle at his grandparents’ house playing with the cat on the roof or stepping off the airplane in New Orleans on his first trip to the U.S. Adewale does a phenomenal job of taking the reader by the hand and walking us through a vivid life journey – one of great sacrifice, trauma, and triumph.

“Adewale introduces us to a very gifted child born into poverty who fights his way into a better life. But instead of moving forward and never looking back, Adewale uses both his artistic gift and his light to help and heal those around the world. His story is an inspiration to young people who are told they may never be good enough or have a chance to succeed because of the cards they are dealt with.”


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