In Conversations: Onyeka Nwelue talks to Isi Akahome

I met Isi Akahome many years ago, like 8 years ago. I was still young, new to Lagos and looking for artistic minds to commune with. I found him. He had this impressionistic view of the world that I found really alluring. Then I realized his artistic mind was something that I doubted. I looked at his paintings and artworks, I doubted he painted them. In my mind. Gradually, I began to believe he did. Slowly, I realized he did.

All of a sudden, he vanished to the United States. I didn’t know, until one day he came online on Facebook and told me he had checked out. For once, I was not surprised. It was what he needed, because living in an environment that stifles creativity can get any creative person frustrated. I was glad he left.

And I’m very glad he is doing amazing things for himself. Let’s meet him.

I am very age conscious. How old are you?
I’m 22 years old.

What have you been doing with your life?
I’m getting my bachelors degree in Biology.

You moved to the US few years ago, but at the moment, you have established yourself as a very hardworking and out-of-the-box photographer. How did you get to where you are today? What is the voodoo?
I just try to be different and creative so I can stand out from the crowd.

Most of your photographs are taken at weddings. Why? Is this a conscious way of creating a style? Or just a way to appreciate what you like the most? What is it with you and weddings?
There’s nothing special about weddings. I get them as jobs, and I’m getting good at them. My real passion is working with models. 😉

Many young people in Nigeria know nothing about what they want in life. I mean, how do you think they can discover themselves?
Just find one thing you’re good at and try to be the best at that thing.

For some time now, I thought that university education elevates man to the highest order. I mean, I still find it appalling that many graduates haven’t even invented themselves and have nothing to do. What is your take on this?
Fingers are not equal. Everyone can’t have their act together. It might take some people more time to figure things out, and some might never invent themselves.

Are you an emotional person?
I would say that. Some movies have made my eyes misty.

Nigerian photographers are doing well for themselves now. Infact, they are getting the sort of recognition that they truly deserve. But, the market is getting saturated. How do you think one can make him himself totally unique and different?
I think the secret is to try not to be another Nigerian photographer. People don’t know I’m Nigerian till they meet me and hear me talk. My work doesn’t scream out “I’m a Nigerian, and that’s all I do”.

I may need to get personal with you. Are you in a relationship? If not, why? If yes, is it distracting?
I’ve been with my girlfriend for 2 years now. It can get stressful sometimes, especially because I get to work with the most beautiful women in Chicago.

I hate to ask people this, because it is very cliché. What advice do you have for young people who want to be like you?
Just try not to blend in, and always keep improving yourself.

What is your take on the political system of Nigeria?
I don’t care about politics. I just know all those guys are terrible, and they’re running the country underground.

Do you see yourself as a youth activist? Just like others?

No I don’t.

You’ve travelled to so many places and you’ve met different Nigerians. You’ve met quite interesting people. Do you agree that Nigerians should co-exist in one nation?
Yes. But we do for the most part. The one thing I don’t like is how we don’t always relate to each other as fellow Nigerians. We always want to speak to each other with our terrible fake foreign accents. It’s so irritating.

Who is your favorite Nigerian musician?
Flavor. He’s a genius. I love Asa too, but flavor can make me dance, so he narrowly wins for me.

How do you unwind?
I go cycling, or just sleep. I love unplanned naps. They just make me happy. I also like chilling with some of the models I work with. Who wouldn’t? (Laughs)


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