How lawyer turned artist Laolu thrives as a world inventive in NYC

Dwelling a dream

Ecommerce has modified the sport for struggling artists all over the world, particularly for these working within the inventive (and cutthroat) capital of New York Metropolis.

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

“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 simple to develop into engulfed within the metropolis’s power.”

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

“Early on in my profession, a gaggle 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 operating his on-line hub, Laolu.NYC, he knew tapping digital avenues and creating a web-based presence could be instrumental to spreading his message on a world scale.

At the 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 one of the crucial various locations you might ever be in. The hustle jogs my memory of Lagos — as long as you’re prepared to offer a service, individuals will wish to do work with you.

For the primary time in my life, I felt like I could possibly be myself.


Nobody second guessed me after 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 choose me or assume I used to be outright loopy. Right here, I may present up totally as myself. I may 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 only be — New York made me really feel totally alive.

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

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

When you come throughout my work with no prior information of Yoruba tradition, there’s no approach you’ll have the ability to depart the identical approach. My objective is to point out the significance of Yoruba historical past and tradition as a result of it encompasses individuals whose tales matter.

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

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


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

GoDaddy: How has transferring to america influenced your work?

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

Up till transferring to New York Metropolis, I used to be by no means recognized as a Black man. In Nigeria, nobody ever referred to as me Black — this was an enormous tradition shock for me. Studying the right way to be Black is one thing that I’ve needed to inculcate into my artwork apply. 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 review a historical past that isn’t totally mine however, on account of the colour of my pores and skin, I’ve been adopted into.

“Africa Is Not A Nation” by Laolu

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

GoDaddy: What was one of many hardest or most surprising 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 complete life, I’ve recognized as a Nigerian so it’s one thing I’m nonetheless adjusting to.

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

I additionally struggled studying the right way to use the subway. I’d ask somebody for instructions and one way or the other utterly do the alternative of what they’d simply instructed me. So many occasions I might assume 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 may do apart from get misplaced till this unfamiliar metropolis and I grew to become acquainted.

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

Laolu: There actually is not any different approach than to only open your self up. Count on nothing and all the things 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 assume my web site is merely due to my model title. 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 world epicenter, “Laolu in NYC” translated to communicates my objective 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 sources I’ve used alongside the best way.

Over the past seven years, New York Metropolis continues to provide me the instruments that I have to share my tradition on a world 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 it’s by way of 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 provide me the possibility to dwell out my goals, I wish to do the identical for different artists.

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