Meet Taoheed Bayo, the 21-Year-Old Nigerian Designing Sneakers for Nike

University of Minnesota student Taoheed Bayo heard about Nike’s design challenge through a friend. The Nike BY You design challenge required designers to deliver their take on the company’s classic sneaker. Bayo decided to use the opportunity to fight the popular misconceptions about Nigeria and Africa by creating a sneaker called the Afro-Yute Air Max 1. His creation, the Afro-Yute Air Max 1, was selected as one of the winners of the Nike design challenge.

Explaining his reasons, Taoheed Bayo, who also goes by TBuzz, told Sahan Journal: “You know, ever since I was born, Africa has always referred to as a third world continent or a third world country or Nigeria has been referred to that. By the ‘yute is equipped,’ I’m not saying we have gone to go fight. I’m just saying we’re able to educate ourselves.”

Choosing his African heritage as the origin story for the design helped him pick the colours – green, white and gold. Bayo used green for the shoe base to represent the earth and Africa. He paid homage to the Nigerian flag by adding white to compliment the green. To add some flair and reflect Africa’s history, he used gold to the bottom of his Afro-Yutes.

Moving from the colours to materials, Bayo chose suede leather to represent the tenacity of Afro-descendants, foam, and rubber on the outsole to add both durability and traction.

“Leather lasts longer, and it’s metaphorical in the fact that we Africans can endure. We last long. It’s almost like we can withstand time. We can adapt and endure multiple and numerous situations,” he explained.

Winning the Nike challenge and sparking a revolution

Taoheed Bayo was eventually selected as one of the creators of the limited edition Nike sneakers. “Africa is the centre of the world, we are no third world – The yute are now equipped to fight the alien system that plagued our ancestors,” he boldly stated.

His Afro-Yute Air Max 1 is currently sold out on the Afro-Yute website. Despite the success of his design, Bayo is more concerned with young people learning about their history instead of just accepting whatever they are told.

In his words, “We live in a society where our stories are being told to us by fabricators – it is our time to seek our truth and heritage. We are ambassadors of our origins and people, so whether we like it or not, it is our inherent duty to change the narrative.”

Referring to Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the pioneer of Afrobeat, Bayo added, “No more suffering and smiling, and finger-pointing, if you feel bad about it, do something about it. I was born in Africa. I was born out of my roots. For all the people that were born in the United States, it’s your duty, whether you like it or not to seek your truth and, you know, find your heritage.”

Now that the Nike challenge is over, Bayo is back to focusing on pursuing a degree in actuarial science which combines math, statistics, and insurance.

READ MORE: 11-year-old Nigerian artist Kareem Waris wins an international Art Award

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