Creativity as an Escape in a Pandemic By Samuel Awonuga

The shutting down of universities was one of the many worldwide closures that reinforced the apocalyptic feeling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since, the pace at which events unfolded sometimes seemed droll.

Many students understandably struggled with the new expectation to suddenly live in near isolation. The abrupt lifestyle changes left some struggling to adjust; a recent article from the Metro has highlighted that the swift change for some students led to adverse effects on mental health. Thus, these unprecedented times have reinforced the importance of the creative arts in their ability to articulate even the most complicated human experiences, and many students have turned to them during these times of uncertainty.

These unprecedented times have reinforced the importance of the creative arts in their ability to articulate even the most complicated human experiences

For several students the pandemic disrupted their structure, as some had to deal with the emotions of losing a loved one, others were facing financial constraints, and unfortunately, these experiences were not mutually exclusive. When dealing with highly stressful situations such as these, I would argue that it is important to firstly not neglect your emotions, although like many, I too am guilty of this. I also think it is important to find a means of expression, as previously mentioned - there are many unique forms that you can take; personally, I found myself drawing. Drawing has always been an interest of mine, however work and university shelved my commitment to it; reviving old interests made me appreciate how creative hobbies can be significant in expression.

Having discovered the power of creativity in expression, I began a campaign as part of my role in the Community Zone aiming to encourage students to submit poems and photographs documenting their experiences during the pandemic. The poems were then paired with photography that complimented the message or theme. Several of the photographs submitted naturally matched a poem, suggesting that many experiences and emotions were shared by amongst students. The campaign was also a way of tapping into the vast creative talents spread across our university. It did not encompass very single creative endeavour; however, its aim was to get students thinking creatively. The quality of submissions to the campaign showed that there are so many young creative minds across the university.

The themes in the poems varied significantly; some students expressed their grief of losing their loved ones, whilst others revealed how lockdown had rekindled their family relationships. Despite the variation in experiences, there was a near ubiquitous theme of surrealness and detachment in each student's submission, whether this was the surrealness of losing a loved one or the detachment from university life. The reoccurring themes across students' submissions highlighted the wider sentiment that students felt their voice had been drowned out from all the fast-paced news, and creativity was important to explore and connect to one's deeper feelings.

The anthology can be found here and on the Students' Union website.

Having discovered the power of creativity for myself, I would challenge you to find your own form of expression too.


Created with an image by Diego PH - "The focus"