How lawyer turned artist Laolu thrives as a worldwide artistic in NYC


Residing a dream

Ecommerce has modified the sport for struggling artists around the globe, particularly for these working within the artistic (and cutthroat) capital of New York Metropolis.

Brooklyn-based artist Laolu NYC (born Laolu Senbanjo) has come a great distance since shifting right here from Nigeria in 2014. The previous human rights lawyer says the town was calling his identify.

“From the humanities, creativity, and tradition, I take into account New York Metropolis because the epicenter of the world,” he says. “When you’re right here, it’s straightforward to turn out to be engulfed within the metropolis’s power.”

Upon his arrival he discovered how aggressive the business might really be.

“Early on in my profession, a bunch of pals and I might get collectively, go all the way down to the Decrease East Aspect and discover locations to promote our art work on the road — typical New York Metropolis hustle.”

To his shock, this led to his first sale when a collector drove by and returned with $1,000.

For Laolu, this was simply the beginning of his rise within the New York Metropolis arts scene. From presenting a Ted Discuss gone viral, to working his on-line hub, Laolu.NYC, he knew tapping digital avenues and creating an internet presence could be instrumental to spreading his message on a worldwide scale.

Right this moment, he finds himself collaborating with manufacturers like Nike, Equinox and Starbucks, in addition to celebrities like Lupita Nyongo, Alicia Keys, and even Beyonce.

As he says in his Ted Discuss “Each artist has a reputation, and each artist has a narrative.”

Right here, Laolu shares his story, a story stuffed with inspiration for rising artists.

Q&A with artist Laolu

This interview has been gently edited for readability.

GoDaddy: What do you like most about being an artist in New York Metropolis?

Laolu: What impressed me to remain was realizing most individuals from New York aren’t really from right here, everybody has a backstory making the town some of the numerous locations you can ever be in. The hustle jogs my memory of Lagos — as long as you’re keen to supply a service, individuals will wish to do work with you.

For the primary time in my life, I felt like I may very well be myself.


Nobody second guessed me once I launched myself as an artist whereas in Nigeria, there was a necessity to clarify I used to be a lawyer so individuals wouldn’t decide me or suppose I used to be outright loopy. Right here, I might present up absolutely as myself. I might paint my face and function at my highest self and folks welcomed it.

I felt so in tune with my Ori that it gave me permission to simply be — New York made me really feel absolutely alive.

GoDaddy: Are you able to describe your mission and what motivates you?

Laolu: I’m motivated by the fixed need to indicate individuals the alternative ways to be human exterior the European gaze.

If you happen to come throughout my work with no prior data of Yoruba tradition, there’s no means you’ll be capable to depart the identical means. My aim is to indicate the significance of Yoruba historical past and tradition as a result of it encompasses individuals whose tales matter.

Similar to the Greeks, the Chinese language, and Europeans, Yoruba individuals had kingdoms, customs, kings and queens. Simply as Individuals have their superheroes within the likes of Superman and Batman, in Yoruba mythology, we now have our personal heroes which might be simply as mighty.

I would like individuals to see us and our tales as actual elements of historical past.


When somebody interacts with my work, I would like them to see Yoruba historical past and be taught from the knowledge, artwork, and customs of our ancestors. There’s way more historical past about Yoruba tradition that isn’t lined within the realms of academia that I would like individuals to find out about by my work.

GoDaddy: How has shifting to the US influenced your work?

Laolu: My expertise within the States has had a big impact on the mission behind my work.

Up till shifting to New York Metropolis, I used to be by no means recognized as a Black man. In Nigeria, nobody ever known as me Black — this was an enormous tradition shock for me. Studying learn how to be Black is one thing that I’ve needed to inculcate into my artwork observe. If a police officer stops me on the road, I’m simply one other darkish skinned [person] — not Nigerian or the rest. This influences my craft as a result of it pushes me to check a historical past that isn’t absolutely mine however, on account of the colour of my pores and skin, I’ve been adopted into.

africa is not a country print
Africa Is Not A Nation” by Laolu

I now draw inspiration from Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and others who appear like me and the methods our tales intertwine. I take all of this and translate it into a visible language I name Afromysterics by which something from sneakers, partitions, vehicles, turn out to be my canvas to share these tales.

GoDaddy: What was one of many hardest or most sudden obstacles you needed to overcome in getting off the bottom?

Laolu: The tradition shock. Having the world view me as a Black man was one thing that was very unfamiliar. My entire life, I’ve recognized as a Nigerian so it’s one thing I’m nonetheless adjusting to.

I’ve needed to be taught that being a Nigerian man who’s Black in America comes with its personal struggles and societal expectations.

I additionally struggled studying learn how to use the subway. I’d ask somebody for instructions and someway utterly do the alternative of what they’d simply informed me. So many occasions I might suppose I’m headed in the direction of Manhattan and discover myself again in Brooklyn or Queens.

At one level I spotted there was nothing I might do aside from get misplaced till this unfamiliar metropolis and I grew to become acquainted.

GoDaddy: What would you say to a struggling artist trying to make it in NYC?

Laolu: There actually is not any different means than to simply open your self up. Anticipate nothing and all the pieces all on the similar time. I might sum it up by saying be like New York, be like water.

GoDaddy: Why a .nyc area?

Laolu: Many individuals suppose my web site is merely due to my model identify. However quite the opposite, it’s a not so delicate reminder of my mission as an artist: to share Yoruba and Nigerian tradition with the world.

Seeing as my first cease out of Nigeria was New York, a spot I take into account to be a worldwide epicenter, “Laolu in NYC” translated to communicates my aim to share my work, tradition, and heritage with the world, beginning proper right here in New York Metropolis.

GoDaddy: What’s subsequent for you?

Laolu: I wish to give different artists the chance to faucet into my world by sharing the instruments and assets I’ve used alongside the way in which.

During the last seven years, New York Metropolis continues to present me the instruments that I have to share my tradition on a worldwide scale. I do know the sensation of determining how the business works or lastly figuring out what imprint you wish to depart on the world.

Whether or not or not it’s by educating different artists, giving perception into my course of, or sharing how I create the intricacy behind The Sacred Artwork of the Ori, I wish to pour into the following technology of artists in tangible methods.

As New York Metropolis continues to present me the prospect to reside out my desires, I wish to do the identical for different artists.


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