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  • Writer's pictureJamal Gerald

Being a Young Artist

I started performing at the age of 12 and I am now 24. I’m still technically a young artist and will continue to be emerging for some time. Just like my previous post ‘Shit White People Say and Do In The Arts’, I will like to share some more of my experiences. Even though I’ve been performing for some time, I have always felt that my opinions don’t get taken seriously. People will ask for my opinion, just so I can help them with a bit of research. But, I’m clearly only there to help make the occasion appear more diverse. I’m black, male, gay and young, therefore, I tick a lot of boxes. And it’s not like these people speak to me again once this occasion or research period is over. I feel like I have a lot to say, therefore I’m going to say it, yet why does it seem like no one is really listening to me? I feel like I have to keep repeating myself. I often feel a bit invisible, that sounds ridiculous, but I do. It almost seems as if my experience doesn’t count or it shouldn’t be considered. If I state an unpopular opinion, it’s because I’m young and misguided and not because I just have a mind of my own. I’ve also done more than artists who are older than myself, yet my thoughts are dismissed. I’m young so that means I don’t know anything. And there’s so many older artists that don’t know as much as I do, I guarantee it. This may seem a bit cray, but this shit is real.

A lot of this stems from old bitter artists, that may sound harsh, but it’s true. They exist. And no one has ever told me to look out for them. I might end up being one someday, who knows. There’s even times when older artists say that they’ll collaborate with me or help out with something, but they don’t. Mind you, there are some that have and I appreciate them. But, there’s been others who do a bit of a disappearing act. They tend to go on as if the ideas that we discussed never happened.

Throughout my time of being in the arts, I’ve usually been the youngest person or one of the youngest people within the space. So, I’ve engaged with a lot of artists that are older than me. I always look at the reaction I get when I tell someone about some exciting news. Older artists are usually always like “Oh, great.”  As if they’re thinking they’ve been doing this for so long, so how did he get this done in such a short space of time? I know there’s much more opportunities to apply for nowadays, but that doesn’t mean one has to be bitter. I have even heard some young artists like myself who’s artistic integrity is questioned, just because their young. “Is she really amazing?” has been asked about an artist that I love so much. I have to question why did that come straight to mind when this young artist was getting a lot of praise? What’s your beef? There’s a lot of jealousy and competitiveness. I don’t feel the need to be that way because I believe there’s enough room for all of us. I acknowledge that’s probably because I am still young. I do believe my time will soon come. Have I ever been bitter about someone getting something that I didn’t? Yeah, of course. But, as I’ve matured, I’ve realised you win some, you lose some. That’s just how it is. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like some older people have learnt that yet. No shade.

I have been patronised and even a little bit bullied by fellow artists and people who I used to admire. Been given advice when I never asked for it in the first place. I’ve been told that I should be more like so and so. What the fuck does that even mean? As if I shouldn’t go on my own journey and learn things for myself. It seems like some older artists don’t understand that I don’t want to follow in their footsteps because that’s not where I want to be. Why do I need to be more like a fellow artist in order to succeed? If I have an aspiration that a fellow artist had, they’ll say “If I couldn’t do it, what makes you think that you can?” Instead of discouraging me, why not help to support the aspiration? I have been told that I should know certain words and should read a dictionary. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t like to speak that much. Okay, I’m chatting shit because I do speak a lot. However, I feel that no one is truly listening to me even if they say that they are. I do always have a bit of reservations before speaking. I really hate the thought of speaking and no one truly listening to the shit I have to say. Who knows, maybe it’s just me and as always I’m only speaking for myself. Just felt the need to write and share some thoughts. I hope that when I become older, I listen to younger artists, I help to encourage their practice and I’ll be happy for them when they share some good news with me.

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