To colour is to accept that there are limits and bounds, that freedom is the deep end of a shallow pond and drowning is not a choice.

To colour is to create, to embellish the ordinary with radiance and inspire the guinea prude with the deeper hues of folk music. So, its use in the arts is to emphasize emotion or enunciate perspective, is a definitive presence that cures the indifference of the object and forces us to reconsider, from it, what is new and what is familiar.

To colour is to empathize: where in its patterns you find absolution for the pick pocket and the mob boss, harmonizing the parallels the duality of their indulgence evokes, the selfish, conceited, survivalist force on the one end bested by penitence on sale for anyone with a conscience on the other.

To colour is to imagine and explore new vices and sins till there is no room for the absurd. Incestuous gratification and gang rapes must have palettes of their own, otherwise we will not recognize them tomorrow when they come upon our terraced houses and friendly neighbourhood schools. History is the closest thing we have to a rainbow. 

In history, we are sure to find the black patter of proud empires stretching from Berber North Africa to the greying dunes of Mai Hume’s Kanem, from Sekou Ahmadu’s red rise to revolt to the orange poise of The Great Trek.

Photo by Yang Shuo on Unsplash

To colour is to accept that there are limits and bounds, that freedom is the deep end of a shallow pond and drowning is not a choice. That our liberties are normative and must issue from the collective fiat of convention, the healthy custom of the many against the wily tempest of the one. Liberty then is a prison of accepted conduct, a glazed casket waiting for us to die.

To colour is to exterminate, to accord the new American the rights of the native Injun and expropriate his heritage, miniaturizing centuries into costumes for a party and demonizing resistance through burlesque reconstructions in motion pictures and stills. 

To colour is to segregate, to cast shadows over the industry of a productive class, to strip bare with whips the humanity of a race and ridicule its history, a vile attempt at the corrective because blue eyes tint the truth in a sea filled with sunken slave ships and infant martyrs at a crossing of continental tales. 

To colour is to do all of this and more.


Luqman Hussain is a lawyer and poet. He is a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University and is currently a Partner at Hussaini Garba & Co. He performed at the inaugural session of the Kaduna Book & Arts Festival (KABAFEST) in 2017 and won the Abuja Literary Festival (ALitFest) Poetry Grand Slam in 2019. He lives in Minna.