My name is Yagazie Emezi and I am currently based in Lagos, Nigeria. I was born and raised in Aba, a clustered and crazy town in Nigeria, but left when I was 16 to live in the States. My first travel experience took place when I was 4 years old to Malaysia (my mother is Malaysian). I don’t remember most of the journey itself, but my earliest child-hood memories are formed around being in Malaysia.
What interests you most about traveling? How does photography influence your travel experiences?
My parents traveled quite a bit in their youth so a lot of the stories they told my siblings and I surrounded around their trips and the experiences gained from them. My travel interests have always been with wanting to experience more from other places and people. I do believe that the one way to truly live life to the fullest is to see how others around the world are doing so. Regarding photography, it’s the other way around for me; my travel experiences influence my photography because I consider the photographs I take while traveling souvenirs (I travel on a budget!). It’s all about trying to have something to remember my travels by.
You were born and raised in Aba, Nigeria before moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico for college. How would you describe that transition?
I actually moved from Nigeria to finish high school. At first, I was excited to be away from Nigeria. I was more than happy to be around constant electricity, washing machines, and all the sweet food I could eat! But I was away from the friends and family I had known literally all of my life. Having been exposed to different cultures at a young age, there was no culture shock, though I was obviously still out of my element. I had no friends and was painfully shy. I got a job in less than two months of moving and my life got filled with work, school and being at home with my mother. I only really settled down once I got to college and found that freedom that young adulthood brings.
After living in The States for several years, you decided to move back home to Nigeria. What sparked this decision? How long did the process of moving back take?
Moving back to Nigeria was an action I had always known would take place because my personal plan had been to finish school and then go home. It was a simple knowledge of “I’m going home.” I was tired of working in an office and predicting my days. I had so much creative work I wanted to do in Nigeria. And more importantly, I finally had the money for a plane ticket. So what was my excuse? I had none, so I just left. In December of 2013, I looked up plane tickets with my sister and bought one for April 2014. The day arrived and I packed the clothes I was sure I’d wear the most and simply went back home.
How did you prepare for your move back to Nigeria?
The foolish thing was that I didn’t plan. I worried that the longer I planned, the more I would delay the move. So I just picked up and moved. I was naturally worried about the logistics of my move, how I would earn money, find a job, or even a place to live. But I didn’t want to stall any longer.
Knowing what you know now and having experienced living in Lagos for a year now, would you have done anything differently to prepare for your move?
With what I now know, I would still stick with the advice I've been giving everyone: secure a place to live and a job first. In my situation, I thought I had secured a place, but it just didn't work out for me! I do know that all the planning would have delayed my moving process, but looking back now, not having to deal with all the stress that came from not securing things concretely would have been great!
What are some cultural challenges you’ve experienced since moving back? How have you overcome them?
Lagos is a very different culture from Aba! Lagos is massive and it is impossible for me at this time of my life to explore all of it and all its culture. But it’s still home. It’s still a Nigeria that I grew up with and I’m familiar with. I am yet to encounter any cultural challenges with my environment
What have been some of your favorite experiences being back in Nigeria?
I can't really single out my favorite experience to one scenario, but my best memories always come from being around the most sincere of people. Could have been the time I spent all night until dawn on Elegushi Beach, or a simple meal with friends or sitting by the dock; they were with the right people which is crucial to any memorable experience.
How has your move impacted your life and career? What has surprised you the most?
Being back in Nigeria has expanded the humble plans I had for myself upon arrival and the move has actually GIVEN me a career. The most surprising part for me was the willingness of other people to help. I’ve met so many kind people who genuinely want to help; and they do so honestly. They’ll let you know how long they will help you for and to what capacity. I was expecting a dog eat dog world which it jolly well can be, but I’ve just been lucky with meeting the right people.
Where do you spend most of your time? What local recommendations can you share for future travelers interested in experiencing Nigeria from your perspective?
It’s very easy to visit Lagos and find yourself stuck in a certain niche. My advice to future travelers is to stay out of your comfort zone, or at least try not to always be in it. Go to Shrine and Elegushi beach on Sunday nights to experience everything local from the food to the music to the people. There’s also Afropolitan Vibes at the end of every month that brings together a unique crowd of folks for music. For a laid-back night, go to Bogobiri for open-mic Thursdays. There’s plenty of local and international food to be found all around, so go exploring!
What do you love most about being back in your home country? What do you miss most about living in The States?
I love being constantly surrounded by a sea of black people. I miss my mother and friends a bit, but just a bit. I’m a lot happier here.
What are three things you know now you wish you knew before moving?
I wish I knew how business works here. I’m still figuring that out. I wish I knew how to apartment hunt here! I wish I knew when to say NO. But all those have little to do with moving to Lagos but with personal growth. My advice to others from the Diaspora considering a move back to Nigeria would be to just be smart. Some will have it easy and will have little to worry about. They’ll already have a home to get settled in which takes care of half of the issues. But some won’t. And for those who don’t, find it before you come back.
What’s next for you? Do you have any final words of advice?
I’m working on a lot. My first gallery exhibition, a book and a television show. They take up plenty of my time. My advice: don’t stop. Just don’t stop.
Images Courtesy of Yagazie Emezi
Did this story help you?
If you enjoyed this piece and would like more content like this, please consider a donation to Spirited Pursuit - we'd be so grateful!