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 accomplishments.
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 17 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 rose, as Maya Angelou once wrote in her celebrated poem, ‘Still I Rise.’
Kunle is today a renowned artist in health and well-being. His project in Nigeria, Art in Medicine has found a nexus of disciplines in order to provide hope, succour, refreshment and expression to health and physically challenged persons in hospitals and health centres.
Every August 2 has been 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 faint-hearted; 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.
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Rays of the afternoon sun pelted her head as she fanned the embers beneath the half-cut iron drum with the smoke permeating the air. “This smoke is unbearable, Iya Maria,” said one of the three neighbours conversing under a makeshift shed about five meters away. Their voices rose and fell intermittently…