learning to unlearn, in order to learn

In this time and age, knowledge is abundantly available and accessible with the touch of an enter key or the swipe of a library card. This being said, I feel like many feel that they know what they know and that, that…is that. I don’t necessarily think this is the case and in all honesty, I think that this is, for a lack of better words, a very stupid way to live. It’s important to be actively involved in remaining in a constant state of learning.

This is where the concept of unlearning comes in. Unlearning doesn’t mean forgetting everything you know, now and forever more. It simply means that you may have to empty your glass every so often so that you can be receptive to what you are allowing your glass to be filled with. That is, there will be moments where we must not allow our past experiences or what we know/think we know to influence what we can come to know. I know this may sound like it’s straight out of a 1000 level Philosophy course to some of you, but rest assured, I’ve put this to the test. The results: I learn more than I could have imagined I would, and often times, the things I learn are things I wouldn’t have anticipated I would learn about.

Having finished my degree recently (HYFR *dances aggressively with a super-sized mojito in hand*), I realized that the reason I enjoyed my last and most stressful year of my degree irrespective of it being crammed into one summer, was simply because of my approach. I arrived with my glass empty. I left that campus with a profound outlook on life and education itself. This is what schooling should be like – we should be earnest to fill our cups and be astounded at our discoveries and, well, ourselves.

This was the inspiration for this paired painting – “Learning to Unlearn”.


The base of this work comprises of my favourite readings from my fourth and final year at school this summer – from Kierkegaard & Gayatri Spivak, to conceptual pieces on Basquiat’s work, to a discussion of remix culture focusing on Kanye West…it’s all there.

I went over these beautiful works of literature, philosophy and critique with colours that when separated signify passion, lushness and growth, but when blended together signify a dark abyss. My mental & physical health took various loops throughout my education and there were moments that were darker than night. This being said, there were also moments of profound joy and wellness due to how eager I was to learn and flourish.


I can only speak on my post-secondary experience. It was difficult, more difficult than I could have ever imagined and not because of the schooling itself, rather, I was growing in a space too small for me. How uncomfortable. Through all this, I was able to rise and gently remind myself to not pour my ocean into a teacup. That is where I would shine like gold. And so, the gold leaf and spray paint appear over this work – an ode to what would be ‘expensive taste’ with the gold leaf and ‘street art’ with the spray paint.

I don’t intend to alter your reception and perception of my work. Rather, I would like to share with you what moved me to create this work. A quaint reminder that a glass full has no room in the classroom of life. Humility. We must learn, to unlearn, in order to learn, in order to be perspicacious.

Be well.



Janu is an insouciant writer, an avid reader, a self-proclaimed and highly pretentious food connoisseur, a beauty and skin care zealot, and an all around creative being -flirtatiously dancing between the line separating a minimally aesthetic life and diving headfirst into a world of colour, whilst finessing every would-be run on sentence into a (somewhat) grammatically acceptable one. She uses her personal blog (www.aathma.ca) as a stomping ground to share her thoughts on lifestyle & culture, and #lotusxgang as a platform to create purpose driven art. When she is not creating, she is doing; she is either volunteering her time towards necessary causes (mostly focusing on empowering women) within the GTA, tinkering around with mixed media and various digital outlets to create art and produce content, or she is at home watching documentaries and/or children's animated films. What can we say? She’s a complex girl, living in a complex world.

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