An essay by Jiji Ugboma originally published in the Ottawa Design Club Zine 003.
When I think of the word “Raw” I think of the concept of being unfinished.
The state of rawness communicates a need for transformation into a different and often more desirable state. Think raw meat, raw ideas, raw sketches, raw clay. Rawness signifies that there’s room for improvement, a need for more, and the start of a journey.
By this definition, to be raw is to be unfinished and as an artist, I am always unfinished. I am both fueled and burdened by my discontent. The discontent of an artist is what breeds growth and the never-ending need to create more, to push the boundaries, to challenge myself and the world. It forces me to always ask: How can I add more value? How much more can I give? What else can I create?
I’ve always understood the importance of structure and applied this to my life specifically in my schooling. However, as a budding artist, I was drawn to the freedom that came with creative expression. My free-spirited predilections often clashed with my structured path. It was clear at a very young age, that this clash would be a recurring theme and it was a telling sign of the battles that will define who I am. Choosing a structured path indicates the start of a journey where you can already see the end. You have a clear vision of your path, and nothing is unexpected. To me, that meant that I was finished even before I started. But I was not meant to be “finished”.
I am raw because there is always more that I can do. There is room for improvement. Room to improve my goals, my values, my perspectives, my ability to love, my ability to dream, to improve who I am.
I am an adventurer, a romantic, a free spirit, and a tempter of fate. I am my best self when I am unfinished. I prefer to at least try, to play my hand, to give it a go, to take a step outside my comfort zone, and then another and another till it stops hurting. To believe with so much ferociousness in my dreams that the universe has no other choice than to fulfill them. So, I take leaps without fear or hesitation, and I take them often. Sometimes I fly and sometimes I crash hard. And when I crash, with my face in the dust, when my dreams seem the farthest out of reach, I take solace in the fact that I am unfinished. There’s more to come. I will try again.
To be unfinished means there’s room to grow but it also means there need to prune. Pruning requires the most insight. The discernment to take away what is not needed. To shed yourself of the shadows of doubt and the shackles of bad habits, to put away childish things, to simplify yet magnify.
To be raw — unfinished — imperfect — a work in progress — comes with a mix of excitement and fear. Ecstasy and dread. Confidence and doubt. Highs and lows. But hear this! Black and white keys make the music of the piano and so do highs and lows make the music of life.
Like raw meat to fire or raw clay to the potter, the chase of my creative dreams causes a char, a sting, some sizzles, frequent meandering, a necessity to first be bent out of shape, and maybe a scare or two. But what comes out the other end makes it worth it. A delicious and beautiful rendering of life experiences, sweet, sour, and beautiful on the whole, ready to stand the test of time and ready for the next challenge. My journey defines me.
Being unfinished is not a burden, it’s not a sign of failure or a sign of weakness. It is the only state in which true artistry can exist. It’s a deliberate imperfection that I embrace.