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“Move, I Dare You” explores travel as Black liberation

Overhead view of Black hands paging through a white photo book on a white table.
A detail of Taoheed Bayo's book "Move, I Dare You."

Nigerian American artist Taoheed Bayo has just published “Move, I Dare You,” an art book that features images and reflective text capturing his experiences traveling across Europe, Asia, and North America.  26-year-old Bayo was born in Lagos before immigrating to the United States. He says he sees the book as a journalistic symbol of Black Boy Joy. 

“I think Black liberation, Black freedom, Black joy, has been intertwined with roads and travel; down from ancestors or even our parents. Our ancestors, when they were enslaved – when they traveled – was when freedom found them. When they ran was when freedom found them. Our parents, when they left from Nigeria, the pursuit of greener pastures was with flying, travel, road. So for me, I'm just continuing that legacy of attaching, intertwining my liberation – my freedom – with my travel. My ability to travel across places, see New Horizons, pursue newer things, newer pastures,” Bayo continues. “That was definitely a big core of the book; the blackness that is what I am. And that invitation to join my freedom. My ability to be in places when I want to be; which again, talks back to that luxury of what is for me,” Bayo concludes. “I think my parents and people before me, a lot of the movement might be considered involuntary – in that they were running from something – or running to find something. I think mine, in still running in pursuit to find something, is more voluntary, though.”

The book was published last month in London, where Bayo says he was first inspired to create it.

A young Black man with short cropped, dyed blond hair leans against a green wall, wearing a stylish outfit.
Taoheed Bayo

“I went to London in June of 2021. It was supposed to be a three-month trip, and it'd become like a year and a half – just like jumping around sleeping on people's couches, sleeping on the floor, sleeping in five-star hotels. Wherever the land took me, I went; or wherever I felt called to, I would go. So I spent two times in Paris, London, Amsterdam, the islands, wherever I felt called to. Or like, if something was happening – an exhibition, a party, a dinner – I would go and just experience life. I was working as a banker at the time, so I'd quit my job. I was like, ‘I'm unemployed. I'm in Europe, I might as well live it up,’” said Bayo. “But then I bought a camera to capture the vastness of the things that I was experiencing, people that I was meeting, in a place that I was seeing. And in doing so I had like, an album of photos, over 500 photos that I had not shared with the world.”

Bayo says it was during a night out dancing that he realized the idea for this book. He says a peer suggested to him the title ‘movement director,’ which became a guiding theme for his visual art.

“I think the photographs in a way are inks of my foot odes, my steppings, my conversations with people, and a way to extend my stream of consciousness beyond what I remember or what I think I saw…[that] is really how the book came about,” he said.

Bayo says he’s referring to movement not just in the physical sense, but also in terms of moving out of comfort. For example, Bayo, who graduated with a degree in mathematics, says the once studious and methodical person he was has transformed into an artist. He attributes that to his travels, which challenged his predetermined ideas and beliefs.

“I feel like I've inherited this responsibility to move and travel and see new places and reclaim [my culture] in a way. As I've traveled, I started to see traces of African, or like, 'Afro-ness' everywhere. In Portugal, I would hear them making some [music], and I'm like, ‘those drums are not yours, those drums are ours.’ So in traveling, it's almost become an act of reclaiming as well, and like showing up with this blackness, being so sure of what I am. Or being so proud of who I am, that it feels like an act of resistance in a way – me being able to show up in the spaces my family didn't even know existed, or when they showed up there in the past they were not even able to show up as themselves – they had to minimize who they are,” he said.

Bayo is hosting a book launch at the B Suite in Minneapolis on Friday, May 17. He says despite the book's roots beginning in Europe, Minneapolis is the city he calls home. The launch takes place from 5 PM - 9 PM and features a film screening of his prior work, as well as an artist talk. 

“[Move, I Dare You] it’s an invitation to transit to myself, to my friends, to my family, to my audience, to the world. But also, in traveling, I realized that in serving myself, I'm also serving the world in a way. And that I am amassing more knowledge. I am in exchange with people, with places, with more experiences, with these epiphanies of life. So the meaning ‘Move, I Dare You’ comes from that. And ‘move’, not just in traveling... In dancing. In leaving a job for another job. In leaving a horrible situation to a better situation – the betterment and pursuit of greener pastures – in that regard as well, in dancing and moving and like jolting the body. So it's layered in that manner. But it really is an invitation to transmit an invitation to conveyance and dance,” said Bayo. 

“Move, I Dare You” is available for purchase.  For more information, and to RSVP for the Minneapolis launch, visit Bayo’s website.

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