Olatunde Alara – Diaspora Person of the Month

My name is Olatunde Alara but most people refer to me as Tunde. I am an all-round creative who is into visual arts and writing, currently working with a musician friend as a personal assistant.


Q. Please give a walkthrough of your background and how you got to (the country you lived in before coming home).

A. I come from a working class background, and spent some parts of my childhood in a Badagry, on a farm with my family before finally moving with them (with the exception of my dad) to Lagos Island where we stayed with my grandma. During the late 90s we moved once again to Benin republic, before finally moving back in 2004.

Due to the harsh economic situation at the time and in search of greener pastures my grandma and I moved to England in 2005. England was like nothing I could have ever imagined coming from a place like Nigeria, like the infrastructures were better managed and more advanced, and the culture was just mind blowing. Like for example I never knew what homosexuality was till I got to England, I guess in my “one size fits all mentality” that living in Nigerian society had instilled in me, I never imagined that there were other ways of seeing life.

Q. So, the big question, why did you move Back to Nigeria?

A. I moved back to Nigeria ironically as a result of harsh economic realities in England which was the exact reason why I had left Nigeria in the first place. The recession didn’t help as well, as that decreased the chances of a younger generation who had just come out of higher education hoping to secure jobs. Homelessness at this point had also kicked in and I soon found myself wandering the cold streets of London, but was fortunate enough to have friends who readily put me up at various points for a year.

Q. Are there similarities between England and Nigeria?

A. In regards to similarities I would say that it depends on how you look at it. For example there are certain parts in London (parts of the South East like Peckham) that have a huge settlement of Nigerian and African migrants who have brought their strong culture with them, and so those areas tend to have a striking similarity to I guess the “African experience”, in regards to the food and just the communities, which can be an interesting sight. But apart from that I would say it’s quite different.

Q. What are the challenges you’ve faced so far since moving back?

A. In the six years that I had been abroad I did not visit Nigeria either for holidays or business. So the biggest challenge that I faced and still face to an extent is the culture shock. Nigeria is such a unique experience, most things here are very particular to the country, which can be quite frustrating at first in terms of coming to grips with the differences.

The different mannerisms of the people, how religion and politics play such a fundamental role in the society, and even something as basic as the weather can be quite a challenge!

Q. What were your expectations and fears?

A. It was really by default that I relocated back to Nigeria because I literally didn’t have a choice, so as you can imagine I was scared! I was back in a country that had once been home but that I had left during my formative years, so returning I had to deal with a society whose way of running things where in complete contrast to how I now saw and approached life, so that was difficult. I can’t say that I had any specific expectations because quite frankly I didn’t know what to expect, it was more or less a leap of faith.

But in regards to fears, I had many, for example I didn’t know how relations where going to be with my family who I had been in constant communication with but hadn’t seen in six years so that was terrifying. Also I didn’t know whether my returning back to Nigeria without a penny in my pocket but with dreams and aspirations of turning my life around was going to be a success or complete and utter failure, it’s still a journey that I am on.

Q. What have you been up to, did you continue in a certain line of work or have you changed course due to the big move?

A. I have been up to quite a lot since my return, I always had an interest in music so with the help of a family friend, I was able to secure a job as an intern at a studio. To be quite honest I did not have a clear description of what exactly I was going to be doing, but I was excited to be out of the house and on route to finding myself.

In the end it was a short lived career move, as I realized that even though I had passion for music it probably wasn’t the most suitable of career for me at the time. I was eventually asked to stop coming because apparently I spent more time smoking cigarettes, which in my defense was out of sheer frustration at how different I thought interning at a studio would be. I also interned at a gallery which was also a short lived place of employment, before going on to work for two fashion magazines which was probably the longest time I have spent at a place of work here in Nigeria.
Now I work with Diana Bada, a beautiful soul who I had met during my return to Nigeria, who makes amazing music, and I work as her Personal Assistant.

Q. Coming to Nigeria, did you ever feel like you needed to readjust to life back in the country?

A. Most definitely! Which I would say was very difficult because as I person I have very strong ideas of who I am and what I stand for, and I found that there wasn’t really a conducive space for sharing of ideas and getting to see things from different perspectives here in Nigeria. So I found that because of who I was I became and felt alienated, which as you can imagine can be quite difficult.

And of course as a human being you want to feel part of something so the next step in me trying to adjust lead to me conforming and trying to see life from society’s perspective, but as time went on I became more self-aware and more in tune with myself that I was able to mix both sides of the spectrum without compromising myself in the process (I hope!).

Q. How do you deal with issues such as traffic and the power situation?

A. I don’t! I just kind of go with the flow and try as best not to get overwhelmed with the basic inconveniences that most Nigerian’s face really.

>Finally, what advice would you give people moving back to Nigeria from abroad?

I would say “Don’t come back!” But on a serious note, I don’t have any advice really, I would imagine that the experience is unique for every returnee that no advice would really make sense. So I don’t know, I guess perhaps I would say just be open minded as much as you can and just take each day as it comes.

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