Friday, January 22, 2010

Omotayo on Rebuilding What He Broke Down

"I was two or three when I came to D.C. from Nigeria. I remember going to elementary school in Southeast. It was a new experience. It was a rough experience. The neighborhoods were not the best, but I tried to keep myself right and do good in school. I didn't really travel much outside of my neighborhood, but I decided to go to Duke Ellington School of the Arts to get a different experience of this city. It was there where I got really serious about school. Now, I am in the National Honor Society and want to go to college in fine arts. D.C. kind of helped me with my artistic development because it is a small place and has a good reputation for art. A lot of my art is about my own story.

"In D.C, it was, like, kind of rough fitting in because everybody mispronounced my name. My name means child of joy. This was a hard environment for me. Usually, I would do what everybody else was doing. At the same time, I kept my Nigerian identity by going to the Nigerian churches here. My Mom spoke Yoruba, our language, a lot. At home, we would greet people traditionally. The funny thing about all of that is that I rejected those customs when I first moved here. These customs were what made me different. I didn't want to be seen as the African kid, I just wanted to be seen as another kid. I kind of regret doing that because I feel like I lost some things in that process. But now, I am trying to take all of that back in and rebuild what I broke down. My art represents a lot of that process. It's funny, after all of that time, I am now seen as an African-American kid because unless you know my name and story, you just assume that I am that, but I feel African. Interesting how age has helped me come back to who I am. Now, I feel African. Actually, I take that back, I am just an individual. I don't like being boxed into a category."

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