People who meet artist Andrew J Fitt tend to remember him. Yes, there's the fact that his movements and speech are affected by cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that impacts muscle control. But mostly it's his personality they remember.The outspoken graphic designer and music lover can often be seen liming with friends or taking in a live band around Port-of-Spain. Now, he's singing his own song with the launch of his memoir, Aching to Be.
Fitt, in partnership with CultureGo Magazine, will debut his first literary work, his autobiography, on July 29, at Medulla Art Gallery, 37 Fitt Street, Woodbrook.The book tells the story of his life as a person living with a disability. It's told in his unique, irreverent style, describing the many ups and downs he's faced.
"Aching to Be is actually what I've been working towards from the first day I was born," says Fitt. The book is the expression of his ultimate wish: "To be treated as the man I want to be, without letting myself be beaten into submission by what society dictates I should be."It's also about what it took to become Andrew J Fitt."
Fitt was born in St Lucia in 1973. During birth he suffered brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy. After his family moved to T&T, he attended Fatima, graduating in 1993 and passing all his subjects. He then got accepted to the International Fine Art College (IFAC) in Florida in 1996, based on the art portfolio he had put together over the years. He had planned to study 3D animation while at IFAC. However, after graduating in 1998, he decided to do graphic art instead. He says, "It was what I was meant to do.
"You really have to want to be an animator; it's a really intense job, and very competitive. You have to be really good at it to make a living from it. I was nowhere near good, in my opinion.Fitt has been doing art professionally for over 20 years now, but he says he's always been interested in creative expression, in spite of, or perhaps because of his personal challenges.
"I'm an artist and a writer. I love creating things out of nothing but a thought that may just materialise on its own, or be triggered by outside influences. I am also a man with a disability that is trying not to have that disability define who I am and what I can or can't do."Because cerebral palsy affects fine motor skills, Fitt faced an extra challenge in terms of his creative process: "I only really pursued art when computer technology had developed to a point where I could be the type of artist I wanted to be."
Now, he uses the Internet as well: "I usually have an idea of what I want to produce, then I search the Internet for images that correspond with what I want. I use what I find as a guide, taking whatever I need from it, and then experimenting with different options over time."His often bold, colourful works play with form, pattern and movement, but he shies away from defining his style. "I tend not to attach labels to my work because it boxes in my art, which is restricting and should be avoided.
"I crave the freedom to create anything at will. That being said, I'm an audiophile, so music does factor into my art at times."
Music is one of Fitt's passions. He is an avid follower of bands on the local music scene and attends their shows with regularity. There, he's one of the gang. "When I lime with my friends in public places, my friends accept me as just another person. Yes, I need help doing stuff every so often, but they don't resent me for it. I'm just trying to live the best life I can."
When one of his friends started a publishing company, Fitt was offered the chance "to tell my story from my viewpoint, in my own words".He says: "After resisting for an hour, maybe less, I agreed to do it. I've always wanted to write for a long time, but only when I felt I had lived enough and could really express myself adequately. I'm nearly 42, so I think the time is right."
Aching to Be is no sob story. Rather, Fitt feels he has been lucky: "I've been washed in life."I really want people to look at me as a person who wants to live life as best as I possibly I can. I have a handicap but it's not me. I am a man, an artist, a writer, a son, a brother, a friend, a human being, and many other things on a very long list. The last thing on the list is disabled man."
Aching to be will be launched at 7 pm on Wednesday at Medulla Art Gallery, with a short reading from the book at 8 pm, followed by a brief Q&A session and meet-and-greet with the author. The event is free and all are invited.Aching To Be, Fitt's story of growing up with cerebral palsy in St Lucia and Trinidad, is published by P+H Books.