Young Star Rising: Toby Emmanuel
TELL us about yourself, growing up, family background, Education.
I am Toby Emmanuel, an artist from Lagos, Nigeria. I’m a final year Marketing student of Covenant University, Nigeria. I’m from a family of five.
I was born into art. My mom was a fashion designer and a producer of baby products, and I grew up seeing her make drawings of sexy ladies and patch them up with real fabric and all. I was always interested in this as she taught me to draw and it became a part of me. It’s funny how I became better than her at it though.
Then in junior school, I used to get prices for every creative class and competitions you know. I got popular for my creative little stories, drawings and of course I used to make little comic books of my favourite super heroes then (superman, batman, Spiderman etc.) it pretty much started like this, according to my mom, I started creating from the age of 2.
Growing up, I sometimes spent time with my grandma and friends as my parents went on their daily businesses. Cartoons, movies, music and my sketchbooks were my companions. I have a world of my own in my head where everything is just perfect, no violence, no rules, no sadness, you know, total freedom. It’s the one place I go where I am most creative and I am allowed to create with no limitation.
In school I got prices and all for creativity, I had friends which I did assignments and projects for; you know, I really do enjoy creating. As well, I write just for myself anyway, I don’t share them with just anyone, short stories, quotes, ideas in my head, just scribbling different things in my head and putting them in words.
What else do you do for a living?
As earlier said, I’m a final year student, but on the side I work on projects I can handle as I study. I’ve worked on a luxury fashion collection SANUSI LAGOS; also I have worked with two advertising firms in Lagos. I also do stuff for students in my school; you know to keep up with life.
Please fill us in on your rise to fame, and how did it all start?
Fame, for now I wouldn’t use that word like that, not that it’s bad but it’s just I’m barely where I want to be you know. I know I’m known, but I still have a lot coming ahead of me. I still want to reach out more you know. Do more interesting things and be recognised for it around the world.
Which of your many jobs excite you the most?
For now I would say the Luxury fashion joint, cause I always have had plans for clothing and all so I got the chance to experiment and explore that angle of my creativity you know. And yes it was fun, that’s how I got to meet with Nigeria’s top rapper Ice Prince.
What other areas of your career are you looking to explore?
Of all things on earth, I love kids; you can never get being 4 years or 6 years old again. Never. Time is the only Luxury. I want to create and impact the lives of millions of kids with my art and creations, talking of clothing, children furniture, children literature, art shows for kids, and lots of things. Then i also want to create products suitable for this part of the world most importantly and for the world.
What has been the high point of your art and design career?
Right now I’m still on the journey; I’d say start-off point. God has always been there for me you know. I’m heading for greatness.
What has been the lowest so far?
Lowest? Whatever, I don’t know what failure is. I just hate when people try to take advantage of creative young people in this part of the world you know.
What are the plans for the future, short-term goals, anything new?
Well I want to create products benefiting all, also make platforms for young artist trying to get to the top. We don’t really have platforms for young people to express themselves. The more time spent on creating and expressing self positively by a young person, the less time he or she has for violence and unsafe activities and situations.
What’s your take on art and design and the industry?
For now I’d say pretty impressive, but we all have a lot to learn and explore. I’m still looking forward to more innovative things in the industry, some of which I would pioneer.
Do you think art, design and digital art are underated?
Of course not, art, design and digital art is taking over. It’s just a matter of time you know. It’s a storm, and we the young creative, we would effect that.
What’s your day like in the art and design world?
I start my day with a prayer to God, then its music all through. I have papers, books and sketching materials around me always, I put ideas down immediately I get them. This helps me keep track of things in my head when I get in my creating zone.
Define your style?
My style is quite Afrocentric and contemporary, it’s really different from the regular. I like being different. In a sentence, my style is Dope.
Do you have icons you look up to?
Yes, of course, I look up to lots of people, people I want to surpass. Some are dead, some are still here. I would just mention a few. Kanye West, Jean M. Basquiat, Frida K. Marina Abrahmovich, D Heist, H&M (Inspiration Brand), Bishop David Oyedepo, Niyi Okeowo and so on.
Are you a trend buff or does anything go for you?
Nah, trends are temporary, they don’t last long. I just go with what I like and what I want. It’s much better that way, that way I don’t get to be a mental slave to public perception.
Have you ever suffered an art or design faux pas?, if yes tell us about it.
No I have not.
What inspires your works?
I get inspired by people, books, cartoons, life, inanimate objects, kids, flowers, and music; I love music with my soul. Nigerian musician Omawunmi – Stay Alive (song) keeps me going daily, God bless her soul.
If you had an opportunity of swapping your talent with anybody, who would that be?
Wow, I don’t want to give it up but if I have to, I’d say Maggie. She is the best at what she does and beautiful as well. Yes, Maggie.
What difference would you love to create with your talent?
Education. Our education system is kind of floored you know. We still hope for the best, yea I am looking at affecting change in education, most especially for kids, because that’s where it all begins. From the youths.
What are the challenges you face as a young and talented creative and dealing with your dreams?
First off, school, I would have loved to study what is in line with my talent, I still will you know, for further studies. I think parents should pay more attention to what their children love best and what they aspire to be and guide them through it. This will help them choose what school is best for their children, avoiding having to be with the right talent or aspiration and studying what is totally different from what they have passion for you know.
Also there is also the challenge of resources. Could be frustrating at times, it could be quite difficult to get things around here sometimes.
Also, the challenge of lack of platforms, most young people really looking for how and where to create more, but there are not enough platforms you see. It’s all good though, we are getting there.
Are you interested in helping young people in your shoes that might be facing the same challenges as you are, and a word of advice for them?
Yea sure, that’s what I live for. I’m looking at creating platforms where young minds can come together and create and benefit from their creation as well.
My advice to the young people is never to give up, never allow people talk you down. Great people all around the world have been talked down and laughed at you know, but look what it made them. They shine now.
No matter where you are and where you from, you have a place at the top. It’s up to you to choose either to be down or at the top. “We Are Ugly, But We Are Here” – no matter what, we are all here for a reason.