16 June 2018

Niger: Meet Pan-Africanist Nigerian Filmmaker, Photographer Taye Balogun

interview

Taye Balogun is a Nigerian-born filmmaker-cum-photographer, activist, pan-Africanist and social campaigner who has been in the film scene for over eight years.

He attended the University of Lagos where he studied chemistry and later went on to study film at the National Film Institute, Jos in Nigeria, majoring in cinematography and photography.

Now in his mid-30s, Balogun has directed several theatre productions and feature films, and created provocative images for photography exhibitions, one of the most notable being the Pan-African themed Why Africans are Not United. This exhibition was showcased in various cities in Africa including Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam.

In 2016, he created the documentary Music Is Our Weapon, based on the Kenyan band Sarabi.

He has been involved in social and youth development issues in Africa for over three years now and is currently the director of media and campaigns for African Artists Peace Initiative - using art as a medium of communication for peace building.

He also consults for different organisations on how to use art in pushing out messages on social justice messages. He has worked in programmes with Control Arms, Water Aid, Oxfam, Save The Children, African Union, Unesco, AYICC, AYP and Action 2015 Coalition, on issues ranging from water and sanitation to peace and security.

Balogun considers Africa his home, and currently resides in Kenya with his family. He is married to a Tanzanian and his son was born in Kenya. He considers himself an embodiment of the pan-Africanist vision.

His most recent project was as coordinator of a one-month Artivist in Residence programme for African artistes working in human rights, for the MS Training Centre for Development Co-operation, held in Arusha, Tanzania.

The residency ended early this month.

Teaching and learning from others. However, I love to visit any venues where they play good music. Music keeps me going.

What would you have been if you were not doing what you are today?

A footballer or a musician. These were my interests growing up and I still follow them religiously.

What signifies your personal style?

Simplicity. I admire simple things and I don't wear branded clothes.

How do you manage your wardrobe?

I pick, buy and manage everything I put on.

While in East Africa, where are you most likely to spend your Saturday afternoon?

I love nature parks. A quite place with very little or no human activity. I prefer to not be around people in my creative or spiritual moment(s). More specifically, in Nairobi, I like spending time at the Karura Forest.

Describe your best destination yet in East Africa?

Zanzibar hands down. The clear blue sea and the white sandy beaches keep pulling me back. It inspired me to start a tour festival there called Sail 'n Sound, that has been running for a few years now.

Do you have a must-visit list?

I really want to go to Japan to visit the monks who practice Sokushinbutsu, a type of Buddhism and spend some time with them. I am passionately looking forward to doing this. I intend to make the trip this year or next year.

What is East Africa's greatest strength?

Kenya. It is the hub for everything, from politics to development to corporate and media organisations. It's a direct link to everything else in the world. It's a quick place to flourish if you know what you are doing.

What is your best collection?

Films in DVD packs with behind-the-scenes feature.

What's the most thoughtful gift you have ever received?

I had been talking about how I wanted a certain shirt and my wife went out and got it for me. I had just been talking about it randomly, but the fact that she listened to this random wish and went out of her way to get it for me was really precious. Especially because of the timing. It was just within a short time of my talking about it.

What's the best gift you have ever given?

I bought a flight ticket for a couple to Zanzibar. It was a gift for their wedding.

What big book have you read recently?

The Shadow of the Sun, by Ryszard Kapuscinski.

Which film has impacted you the most?

That's a difficult question, but The Cinderella Man is a film that speaks to me very deeply in many ways. It's a powerful story of resilience and never giving up regardless of the situation. The acting, cinematic techniques and the depth of human connection in the storytelling are unforgettable.

How do you stay informed in this fast-paced tech lifestyle of today?

I watch foreign news a lot and get feeds of local news from social media.

What is a constant in your fridge?

Cake. All day every day.

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