I left Nigeria as a teenager. Toronto was the perfect place to launch my graphic design career.

“The people here are open-minded. I’m always going to art and fashion shows and concerts.”

“The Eaton Centre was the first place I visited in Toronto” (illustration by Victor Kerlow)

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My dad operates a shipping company in Nigeria, and my mother has worked as a baker and a retail store owner. I was always a creative kid. My brothers and I used to make sculptures out of gum; we called them chewing gum men. As a teen, I got into music and fashion and used Photoshop to design cover art for friends’ albums.

I was 14 when I first considered moving to Canada. I had just entered a private British high school in Lagos. Most of the students go to the U.K. for their A-levels, which are equivalent to the last two years of high school. But I wanted to try something new. I knew Canada’s arts scene wasn’t as developed as those in the U.S. or Europe, so I thought it would be a good place to introduce new ideas.

As luck would have it, Trinity College School was recruiting at my Lagos high school. Trinity is a private boarding school in Port Hope, about 100 kilometres east of Toronto. I was excited by the possibility of adventure. Canada is 10,000 kilometres from Nigeria. I thought, What could be waiting for me on the other side of the world?

It was September of 2017 when I arrived in Canada. I was 16 years old. The Trinity campus was massive, with lots of beautiful historic buildings. The school was filled with international students from places like the Caribbean, France, India and Japan. That was exciting.

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I moved into the dorms, where my roommate was a student from China named Stephen. We used to talk in our dorm room late at night, sharing stories about our lives back home. There weren’t many Black students, but I befriended a few guys from Nigeria and Kenya. My closest friend, a Russian student named Amir, lived across the hall from me. We connected over our love of music, sneakers and streetwear.

I loved going to Toronto on weekends and holidays. The Eaton Centre was the first place I visited. It seemed like the businesses and products in Canada were more experimental than the ones in Nigeria, and I loved the street art and skateboarding subcultures.

I got pretty homesick when winter came. I missed the sun. I missed Saturdays with my family. We’d always wake up and clean the house together. We’d have a meal—usually white rice and chicken stew or egusi soup, made of pumpkin seeds and meat—then go play soccer in the park. We have a WhatsApp group chat, so I could message my family whenever I missed them. I sent them pictures of my school activities or the first time it snowed. And every weekend, we’d talk on the phone for hours.

After Trinity, I enrolled in economics at Ryerson, now Toronto Metropolitan University. I moved to Toronto in September of 2019 and lived in a dorm near campus. After a year, I switched to OCAD University’s digital futures program, which is a mix of arts, design and technology. It was better suited to my creative interests.

I loved exploring new places in Toronto. I remember the first time I went ice skating at Nathan Phillips Square at Christmastime. The Toronto sign was lit up and it was snowing. It was freezing, but my friends and I took videos and had fun. I also loved my first time at Nuit Blanche, which is a free outdoor nighttime art festival in Toronto. It was like fantasyland. Every corner of the city had art. I felt like a kid, revelling in all the lights and installations.

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For my graduate project, I designed a video game called Black Future, set in futuristic Egypt. To develop the game, I interviewed people from the Black community in Toronto to learn about their experiences. Growing up in Africa, I wasn’t aware of race, because everyone looked like me. In Toronto, I met Black Canadians who told me how they were treated differently, like being followed in stores. These conversations helped me realize that in Canada, I could also be treated differently for being Black.

I now live in Chinatown in a shared apartment with some friends from OCAD U. I like going to the gaming arcades in the neighbourhood, and there are lots of places to buy tech gadgets. And it’s close to Kensington Market. I love the bohemian lifestyle there. Everyone is carefree. I go shopping there from time to time. I like picking up items from the vintage stores.

The people here are open-minded. I’m always going to cultural events, like art and fashion shows and concerts. There’s always something fun happening in the city. I love immersing myself in different cultures and learning from them.

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