A couple of weeks ago, I recounted that the study abroad programme (also, ERASMUS) is one of the best experiences that can happen in a students life, and I wasn’t kidding. Two years ago, while I was in Canada as an exchange student, I went for a trip to New York where I was introduced to Teejay Dili Osuhor by a mutual friend.
I had thought he was only an avid photographer, but clearly, I had been mistaken because his passion for his craft goes beyond his photography. The message it carries, together with the vision he has for his brand is truly inspirational and encouraging for fellow diasporic Africans all over the world.
When I sat down in conversation with Teejay while I was in Lagos last month, he had a lot to say about his new creative venture, the impact he aims to make on the world, and the things he’s had to overcome to get to where he is now.
He divulged that he had learned a lot, experienced a lot and is now able to face his dreams with full force and without fear.
His is a journey to learn from, and be inspired by. If this twenty something years young creative can do it, so can YOU!
S: Could you please tell us what you do?
T: I don’t really know how to define what I do because I do a lot of things.
S: So you’re dynamic?
T: Yeah, I depend on how dynamic I can be. If I was to summarise, I would say, I try to put different art forms together in one place. I see entertainment as a service being rendered, so I try to get the people who render these services to clients.
S: So like you’re outsourcing?
T: Well, not really outsourcing, but more like consultancy. And I should probably mention that it’s quite Afrocentric, whereby I’m trying to put different African art forms out there for the world to see. People keep saying Africa is changing, but we don’t actually know what’s happening. It’s like we can’t really see it happening, so I want to create a medium where people can see what’s happening and track the process of this expansion and growth.
S: What’s your company called?
T: It’s called Kriyetive. The name says it all. Anything you consider creative has a place in what I’m doing.
S: So when did you think of this idea? Have you always wanted to start your own creative venture?
T: Well, I’ve always wanted to own something, but I really didn’t know what per se. And I think that it’s because of the not knowing, that I depend on how dynamic I can be. So because I actually don’t know, I try to do as much as I can.
S: Would you say you still don’t know now?
T: Well, I think now I’ve found it. I think everything just kind of turned out to be an ingredient to the soup, if you get what I mean. Instead of the soup itself. For example, to me, photography, music or whatever it is, is not the actual thing, but it’s more about how you put these things together. So what I have “figured out” is how to put it together, because it’s not easy you when you try to mish mash all these things. It’s not easy to blend it, but the way I see these things is, if it’s art, it’s art.
S: I would like to know a bit about your background. Like what did you study?
T: I studied software engineering at University, and I know it really doesn’t have much to do with what I’m currently doing, but like I said, it’s all about creation, and when you look at creating, software engineering also has a place because software is about creating something. The fact that it’s not being artistic doesn’t mean something is not being created. I approach software engineering in a more design orientated way. And I believe there’s a little bit of art in it.
S: When did you realise that this is what you wanted to do?
T: Since the past year because that’s when I really started. Because before that, it was just an idea or a thought, but now, it’s reality. Also, I’ve learned a lot of things since I started and it has strengthened my belief in what I do, because now that I’ve experienced things, I can see a bunch of stuff clearly.
S: And would you say you want to do this for the rest of your life?
T: Well, yes.
S:How do you get your clients? Do you advertise or use word of mouth?
T: I’ll say word of mouth is really the driving force because if you work with someone and they like what you do, they’ll tell someone else and recommend you. I feel that’s the way I’ve started, but I’ll like to go into advertising sometime.
S: So when did you officially kick this off?
T: In April.
S: What has been the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are now?
T: I’ll have to say the most challenging thing I had to overcome was myself because a lot of things like the beliefs I had and my thought patterns changed. I had to deny and essentially starve myself off some things in order to get what I wanted.
S: What kind of things did you have to “starve” yourself of?
T: I’ll rather not say. But what I mean is that, sacrifices were made. And a lot of these sacrifices, you don’t see them coming and that’s what usually makes it a sacrifice. Like when you don’t know, you have to make a quicker decision.
So yeah, I had to overcome myself, and I don’t think anything else is harder than that because the one person that supports you, is you. So it’s weird when you stop supporting yourself.
S: What do you love about what you do?
T: I love everything, which is why I do it. It’s the one thing that I’m not afraid of. I feel free to do whatever I want; there are no rules. I love the learning process, the carrying it out process, and delivering the final product process. lol. Everything about it!
S: Is this the only project you’re working on at the moment?
T: Yes, it’s the only one for now. There’s really no time to work on anything else to be honest because this is like the foundation and everything is really delicate. So I need to pay a lot of attention to it.
S:What does art mean to you?
T: Art to me is like the representation of something real or something that the artist wants to represent based on something that’s imaginary. So art is basically representations. Like how to represent a thought, a feeling, an emotion. It could be music, dance, whatever.There are so many art forms, but it’s all about representation and presentation. Not even necessarily acceptance. People don’t need to accept it for it to be art. So, to me, art is the other side. There is reality, which happens regardless of what the artist wants to represent, and there’s the side that is represented by artists which is more feeling based, and more emotional. More based on passion, it’s intangible. Art is a representation of anything that can be represented.
S: The YAMI series is all about creativity, passion and positivity, so I would like to know what advice you’d give a young creative wanting to follow in your footsteps to get the ball rolling to becoming an entrepreneur?
T: I would say to anyone that has a dream, first of all, don’t be afraid.
S: What would you tell them to overcome that fear, because I think that’s one of the main things to overcome.
T: I think when it comes to fear, you have to realise that it’s all in your head. You’re afraid based on something you believe or don’t believe, so as long as you can change that mindset from that thing you’re afraid of, the fear just disappears. For instance the saying that goes like this- ‘The lion is there as long as you believe that the Lion is there’, but the second you face it, the Lion disappears. So that’s kind of how fear goes.
S: But there are some real fears like what if your business doesn’t take off, or how are you going to pay your bills..
T: Oh, that’s not a fear.
S: But if someone is scared that they wouldn’t succeed, then they think there’s no point in starting.
T: If it’s that kind of fear, then maybe you really don’t want to start. Because if you do want to start, you wouldn’t have that fear to begin with. That fear should act as fuel. Like, ‘oh my god, I don’t know what’s gonna happen if I don’t do this thing.’ Your fear should be opposite. Either way, you never know if you’re going to succeed, so it’s about taking risks. You just need to know that you have to take a risk to get anything. Especially if you want to be a young entrepreneur. There is no textbook pattern that you can follow, so you just have to overcome and go after it.
And I’ll advise any young person to just start and don’t be afraid. The hardest part is starting, because you’ll have all these ideas and voices in your head, and you just have to overcome and start making your mistakes. The earlier you start making mistakes, the better for you. That’s how I see it. It’s better than just keeping it in your head and trying to plan it out, because there’s no amount of planning that can save you from those risks.
There would be doubts, which were the kind of things I had to overcome, but you have to throw everything away and just focus on what you want. Just keep asking yourself everyday or every second- what do I need to do to get to this place that I want to get to or achieve this particular goal at this moment. You don’t even need to think about the next two or three hours, you don’t even need to think that far. You need to ask what you need to do at that moment to make progress to your goal. So your focus should be your drive. That’s my advice.
S: When you started, where your family supportive or did they want you to do something in the field you studied.
T: It’s a bit of both, but I’ll say I got total support. My family never denied me of my dreams, and I think that’s a very supportive thing because your family is your foundation. However, they also wanted me to get a job in my field because it’s “safer”, and you’re not taking that many risks. But I just kept on moving and at some point they realised that’s what I wanted to do, and told me to go for it.
S: Where would you like to see Kriyetive in the next 5 years?
T: I wish to assist and be beneficial to a lot of people. I personally feel like that’s the only way this can have a meaning.
S: Do you have a role model you look up to or people that have inspired you?
T: I’ll say any radical artist. When I see someone that is not afraid to go beyond the boundaries to represent art, like they make their life art and it’s not just about making art pieces, it’s almost impossible not to admire or be inspired by them. Artists like Fela, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley. People like them put it in your face to not be afraid and do what you want to do. And that’s what people appreciate, not just necessarily your artwork. Those can fade because these days, people follow trends and it’s hard to keep up with the trend. So it’s better to break away from it completely and create your own trend. So people shouldn’t be afraid to be the first to do something.
S: Would you like to expand outside of Nigeria?
T: Of course. Like I said, I want to be beneficial to a lot of people, and I don’t mean only in Nigeria. Nigeria just happens to be the place I grew up and where I’m starting. So, I mean the entire world. Creativity is all around us. People are even creative in the jungle! So, I believe expansion is inevitable; and I’m ready for that and actually want it. I want to reach as far as possible. If possible the whole world.
What an interesting read and take on life right? I believe Teejay’s words has left you thinking just as it’s had me.
Teejay Dili Osuhor embodies the whole spirit of YAMI and we wish him success in his future endeavours!
Contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org
Official Website- http://www.kriyetive.com/
Photography Website- http://www.teemages.com/
I’d love to leave you with this little wisdom from Karl Marx, the great Sociologist and Philosopher. He described four main ways in which man is alienated in the domain of work due to society’s structure. He enthused that man is alienated from the object he produces, from the process of production, from himself, and from the community of his fellows.
However, I believe that in this regard, the young creatives that are featured in the YAMI series, by steering their own directives in life and work, surpass this alienation of men.
Photo Credit: Teejay Dili Osuhor