The way the world works has changed drastically ever since the pandemic struck. Never in all my years of existence has the quote, “adapt or perish” been so meaningful and literal.
ADAPT OR PERISH – H.G WELLS
In his book, The Passionate Friends, H.G. Wells prophetically said it with this quote: “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”
The Passionate Friends is a philosophical essay on human relationships disguised as a novel. Wells provides a quirky insight into the social contexts of the time with historical references on religious, political and other issues.
While Wells’ explorations of the concept of adapt or perish may have been a deep dive into the universal idea of the human condition, the lesson we can all take away from this prophetic quote is that with or without us the world is going to change.
Yes, the world is constantly changing. And if you do not want to be left behind in obscurity and misery – the place where dinosaurs go to die – you must change along with it. You must adapt.
THE ADINKRA PHILOSOPHY OF ADAPTABILITY
Long before H.G. Wells ever contemplated about the concept of adapt or perish, the Bono people of the medieval state of Gyaman in West Africa crafted the Adinkra symbols to better philosophize about this, and several other prognostic concepts and aphorisms.
Adinkra symbols have a decorative function. They are widely used in fabric patterns, logos and pottery designs, and incorporated in traditional architectural elements. These symbols can also be carved into stools for domestic as well as ritualistic purposes.
As such, although Adinkra symbols have an aesthetic function, they also symbolize objects that convey subliminal meanings and evocative messages. The Adinkra is composed of many different symbols, each with their own distinct meanings.
One such symbol is called Denkyem, the Adinkra way of saying adapt or perish. Crocodiles live in water and yet breathe air, which according to Adinkra belief, demonstrates their ability to adapt to different circumstances and changing situations. And so, the crocodile is used to represent adaptability in the Denkyem symbol.
ADAPT OR PERISH – AN ARTIST’S PERSPECTIVE
If there is one thing for sure, it is that my many years of practising art have not only equipped me with a crocodile skin, but they have also earned me the adaptability of a crocodile. Since I began my art journey several years ago, my art has gone through many seasons, cycles, evolutions and permutations. Inherently, I have always known to adapt or perish.
When I first learnt to make art, I was taught to make oil paintings on canvas using a palette knife. My subjects were mostly African masked dancers. I used a wide palette of bright colors to depict these colorful masked dancers, and the only way to capture the intricate detailing of their costumes was to build up my paintings in several layers.
Now, anybody who has used oil paints before will tell you that they are thick and take ages to dry. I had to wait patiently for a layer to dry before painting the next one on top of it. This long drying time in between layers meant that it took weeks just to complete one painting. Not to mention that I ended up with bulky and heavy paintings since the palette knife applied the oil paint in thick slabs.
After a couple of years of using this technique to paint, I realized that if I wanted to make a decent living as a fulltime artist, I needed to sell a lot more paintings within a shorter space of time. I needed to make art a lot quicker. It was time to adapt or perish.
I traded in my oil paints for acrylic paints, and my palette knife for paint brushes. Acrylic paints are water-based, and so lighter than oil paints. They dry extremely fast, and it does not hurt either that they are generally a lot cheaper than oil paints. Changing my materials from oil paints to acrylics was the perfect solution.
Going by the mantra, “adapt or perish”, my art would go through several more cycles and evolutions to arrive where it is at now. Long gone are the days of labouring over large canvases, squinting at the work in progress in a badly lit room.
The digital-based art that I make now – which you can check out here – means that I am constantly working on my laptop, transforming blank monitors and untapped virtual ether into works of art. I realized that the Internet changed the game on virtually everything forever. Digital was the way to go if I wanted to stay in the art-making game for the long haul. Adapt or perish.
IF ONLY LIFE IMITATED ART
I believe that if I were as adaptable in other aspects of my life as I am with my art, life would be much simpler. Sadly, this is not the case. Beyond the art, I am about as adaptable as a doorknob.
When I first moved to Canada, things were so tough that I was on the verge of homelessness a couple of times. That was roughly three years ago. Now I live from minimum wage pay check to minimum wage pay check. Things could be better, but at least I am by no means on the brink of homelessness. Although I still act like I am.
It is a good thing to be prudent with your money, to live within your means and save as much as you can for the future or a rainy day. But it is one thing to be smart about your money, and quite another to be a penny pincher.
I am the latter, a penny pincher. I am such a penny pincher that I do not even know when the last time was that I bought new clothes. The problem with penny pinching when you can actually afford stuff is that it could be the cost of missed opportunities.
Spending some money to buy a decent outfit for that interview could be the difference between staying in your crappy job and getting a job that pays better. Spending a little more on rent could mean finally moving out of your dingy bachelor apartment in that seedy neighbourhood that bogs you down. Splurging a bit on a night out could just land you your dream date.
I understand this on a basic level. But somehow, I cannot seem to leave the past behind, and adapt to my new circumstances. I am still making decisions out of fear, and you can’t grow as long as you’re making decisions out of fear. I just never seem to know when to adapt or perish in my real life.
ADAPT OR PERISH CREST – MY ART THERAPY
As an artist, I like to unpack deep thoughts using my own form of art therapy. It was deliciously liberating to design the Adapt or Perish crest that is the feature image of this blog post. As you can see, the design features at the core the Denkyem crocodile, which is the symbol for adaptability in Adinkra philosophy.
I love me some Art Nouveau too. This art style flourished throughout Europe and the United States between about 1890 and 1920. This may have been a whole century ago, but the intricate linear designs and organic flowing curves characteristic of the art nouveau style are still fresh to me.
It was fun incorporating these elements in my Adapt or Perish crest design. And of course, a crest is not complete without a shield and banner. My choice of color for the shield is red because it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire and love. If these are not the things required to adapt oneself, then I don’t know what are.
Not only does green complement red, but it also matches the organic, flowing curves of the art nouveau-inspired motif, and so I used it liberally throughout the rest of the design.
Since I wanted to give my design a regal quality, a sort of charcoal-blue color was the choice for the background. Blue is the color of the sky and the sea. It is associated with depth, stability, trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, tranquility, and calmness.
YOU CAN DRAW WITH IT TOO
I used a graphic program called, Krita, to create this beautiful artwork. It is an open-source program, and totally free to download and use as you please. However, don’t let the fact that it is free fool you. It is a powerful program with impressive functionality. It is especially intuitive for those who intend to use it for digital painting. But be warned, if you have never in your life touched a graphic program before, the learning curve could be frustratingly steep.
Since it is free without compromising on quality, I would recommend this program to anyone, whether you are a professional artist delivering high-end commissions, a beginner trying to figure this whole digital art thing out, a hobbyist or you might simply be curious.
Full disclosure: I am not getting paid a dime to recommend this program. I just think that the world could do with a little more happiness and art.
Adinkrahene. Adinkra Meaning and Symbols: West African Adinkra Symbol of Knowledge. Adinkrabrand.com, April 12, 2019. https://www.adinkrabrand.com/blog/african-adinkra-symbols-and-meanings/
Wikipedia. Adinkra Symbols. Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia, Aug 25, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adinkra_symbols
All artwork created by Artistrophe.