Talent and access

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Yoruba people have a saying about fingers on a hand being of different lengths. If it is appraised beneath the surface, it becomes clear that this proverb could be referred to notions related to access and opportunity. We accept varying finger lengths as natural because we see it on hands all around us and we grow up from childhood noticing that this is the case for most human beings.

This saying could also be applied in reference to talent, drive and ambition. Sometimes artists of similar levels of talent start out at the same time in the business, but ambition and drive can make a difference to the distances they travel on their creative journeys.

Stamina is another factor that can be taken into account. Some folks are well suited to long distance journeys, whilst others are sprinters. I remember describing an artist’s presence of the scene as a “flash in the pan”, many moons ago. It might have seemed like my observation was disparaging at the point in time that it was uttered, but I haven’t heard very much about that same person’s work in a very long time.

This leads to the issue of patronage and support. Some people are fortunate enough to get material support for their projects from the state, private patrons, or even from their own family inheritances. Does this mean they are more talented than others?

Perhaps the most important thing is that the work should continue to be done, regardless of where each of us stands within the overall picture. A “flash in the pan” artist could produce work of lasting value, regardless of whether he or she has a sustainable expressive range or not.