Through self-choreographed Bata movement and Yoruba poetry, the locally made fashion model-turned-photoshoot movement coordinator-turned film director Taoheed Bayo is bringing his new short film, Aare, to the Twin Cities as an ode to his childhood and Nigerian culture.
Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Bayo’s childhood was adorned in the dance, movement, and sound that brings Yoruba culture to life. The Yoruba tribe is one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, spanning the lengths of Nigeria, Togo, and Benin in its oral and movement-focused traditions. In Aare, Bayo uses Yoruba Bata drums, his own contemporary take on traditional Bata dance choreography, and a poem written by Bayo’s close friend and Nigerian poet, Opeyemi Ademola, to bring his own “expansive man” to life. Translated directly as “loyalty” in English, Aare explores the role that Yoruba culture plays in defining the boundaries and mightiness of, what Bayo considers the theme of the film, being an expansive man.
March 17 marks the Twin Cities’ Aare screening and community talk at the Minneapolis event space, Public Functionary. The event offers a new, communal experience and intimate look into Bayo’s first directorial film debut in the city that shaped his artistic identity.
“Minneapolis is the genesis of my work, point blank,” he said, explaining why he decided to have the first official Aare screening and community event in the Twin Cities. “I wanted to repay the loyalty that the city has given me and the friendships that I’ve developed here with artists and non-artists, alike.”
Bayo’s Minnesotan roots stem from Saint Paul College and the University of Minnesota, where he studied mathematics from 2015 to 2020. What began as being scouted by a photographer on the UMN campus for an amateur modeling photoshoot grew into Bayo’s own artistic vision leading and creating projects around the Twin Cities, the place that he considers to be the birthplace of his artistic career. After wandering around Europe in 2021 as a nomadic model living out of his suitcase, Bayo digested the foods, places, and cultures of the world to bring his experiences back to Minnesota in 2022. The first time he had ever experienced being in front of a camera was here, and to Bayo, it’s only right to share his directorial film debut with the city that offered him his first artistic opportunities.
While hanging out with his friend, local Twin Cities photographer and co-director of Aare, Mark Khan, after returning to Minnesota last April, the idea for the project was born. The beaded headpiece that Bayo would eventually wear in the project glistened in the sunlight inside of Khan’s apartment. As Bayo tried it on for the first time, he couldn’t help but be reminded of Nigerian royalty; of the strength and nobility of his home country; of what makes the mighty. Within minutes, Bayo reached out to his friend and poet in Nigeria, Ademola, to create the poem that would become the path leading the film’s nameless character to the idea of mightiness throughout the film’s four-minute story. Aare represents Bayo’s life experience, from the film’s team being fully crafted of his local Twin Cities creative friends to having his own mom narrating the poem in the video.
Aare first premiered on Nowness in December, but hasn’t touched a movie screen or been shown to a live audience since its release. That is, until it hits its first in-person screening this Friday from 6 P.M. to 9 P.M. Bayo, Khan, and the film’s director of photography Justin Ofori-Atta, will be leading the discussion, with moderation from Yasmeenah Sideak-Jama, better known as the local DJ Yasmeenah. The event is free to the public, but requires advanced registration.