In the sitting room of the Gilma’s sits a variety of artworks adorning its unassuming wall with the intent to allow visitors to gaze at the creations of a member of the family.
All portraits are hung in one place as if not to distract onlookers when they savour the exquisite piece of Rabi’a Hallilu Gilma.
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Her painting of sunset lurking over a bridge to that of a dolphin basking in a deep-blue sea and a painting of a princess walking to the moon revealed a hidden talent brought to the limelight through passion and quest for creativity.
The works by the indigene of Katsina lightened the bland milk-coloured room of her parents thereby stating the seal of approval for their daughter to practise a skill not common in the region they reside.
18-year-old Rabi’a had a passion for art since she was little. She started with modelling different objects using cardboard paper and other materials. But her passion for art led to the discovery of new skills and she did not let her gender nor societal stereotype serve as an impediment to her skills.
She found out that her creative mind had more in store for her when their family moved to a new place – all thanks to the new school she was enrolled in which organises creative day for its students by tasking them to create innovative materials that will be showcased to their parents.
With the school providing the platform to enable her to ruminate on something else to produce, Rabi’a said she took to drawing, bringing out fine details of pictures she laid her hands on; a skill she taught herself without guidance or prior expertise.
“I used to model houses, cars and other things since when I was young but when I started my new school at Ennoble Scholars’ Academy, I discovered that I could draw. I can’t remember when I started modelling, but I know that since I was young, I had a strong passion for art. That is why when I was in primary school, I used to take responsibility for decorating our class when we had some school activities.
“The school organised an annual creative day for students which gave us the room to showcase our talents. That was when I knew I had a hidden treasure in me. But during the pandemic in August, I started viewing videos on YouTube and that was how I was able to improve myself.”
Using graphite, charcoal, eraser, pencils, tombow mono zero eraser, brushes, paper, she decided to surprise her parents with her new-found talent; she recalled how her mother could not contain her joy when she drew a portrait of her.
“My mother was so happy when I drew her picture. I decided to surprise her with the drawing which I did without her knowing. That was my first drawing of a human face and when she saw it, she was bewildered, asking repeatedly who taught me how to draw. It was because I never tried it before.”
After learning how to draw, painting was the next craft to be drawn out from her sleeves. According to her, the inspiration to paint started when encountering picturesque landscapes of nature.
With such skills, she lamented that lack of an avenue to display her talent is hindering her works to be known but she is using her Instagram page, Gilmax gallery, to post some of them.
On the challenges she faced, she said, “My biggest challenge was getting the support of my parents because a lot of people have the notion that artists end up in the street, that is why my parents did not encourage me to draw at first but now that they have seen how the work is going and I can earn money from it, they are giving me the courage and financial support to do it.
“Other challenges faced are that artists like me lack an open market to connect with people that might be interested in what we do. For me, I don’t know where to go to show people the paintings I have done as I lack direct access to potential buyers. They too are unaware of my work since they don’t know me. A lack of materials is also a challenge because we have lots of ideas in our minds but a lack of materials is not making us bring them out. There are works on YouTube that I can do but the lack of materials to make them is stopping me from doing them. If we get materials and a conducive environment, we can do a great job. Lots of people give me pictures and ask me to do it without giving me a single penny.”
Similarly, drawing at home has its challenges as she is yet to have a befitting place to do her work with home chores competing with her time. She stated that it took her that day to draw her favourite piece, a face of a little child.
“The work is my favourite because it is the first hyper-realistic drawing I have done. It took me a day to complete it because as a girl, your attention will be needed in the kitchen and other places. I used graphite pencils, brushes, glossy paper, and a cleaner to draw it.
“For the painting, I spent 30 minutes but drawing takes much time. I enjoy drawing the most. I am yet to place a price tag on them but I do get orders from people to make paintings for them.”
She however urged the government to create art clubs that would provide room for artists to showcase their talents as well as have direct access to buyers or exhibitions that would take place annually or monthly.
Having finished her secondary education last year, Rabi’a is waiting for admission to study medicine with the hope of becoming a doctor. She said art would be a hobby and in five years’ time she might be opening her gallery, Gilma gallery, “where I can showcase my talent. I have to take it as a hobby because in our society, you can’t rely on artworks you produce as a mainstay but you need to have another job.”
On her advice to females, she said, “They should not be a limitation to what females do. We should try not to depend on others because there are lots of opportunities out there that can be a source of income to support our family.”
Her father, Halilu Tanko Gilma, expressed his delight that his daughter is multi-talented, stating that he supported her to focus on art due to the beautiful things she has created.
He added that children, especially in the North, with such talents do find it to thrive due to pressure from society and the stereotype attached to artistry.
“We will encourage her to teach her siblings and I am ready to do everything to help her. As a family, we all want her to succeed in it and they won’t allow me to discourage her from it.”