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TY Bello, Touching Lives with Photography

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Born on January 14, 1978, in Ogun State to Remi Sokefun, a famous TV producer, Toyin Sokefun-Bello had her Secondary School Education at St John’s College, Palm Groove in Lagos State, Nigeria. She later went on to the University of Lagos where she was initially admitted to study accounting but later switched to Economics.

Growing up, she was part of the music team of her childhood church, Revival Word Church where they compose songs for Sunday services. Perhaps, it was there that she started honing her writing and singing skills.

Having started out as a journalist, TY Bello first announced her presence in the entertainment industry by being a part of the largely popular but short-lived gospel band ‘Kush’. The group came into the spotlight with the single, ‘Let’s Live Together’ in the early 2000s. Other members of the defunct Kush band include Lara George, rapper Emem Ema and Dapo Torimiro.

After the group disbanded, TY Bello went on a hiatus, leaving fans thinking that a promising career would never bloom to the glittering proportions that it portended. However, hard work was being done in the background and the singer-songwriter did not only announce her re-entry with the release of her long-awaited solo album ‘Green Land’ to critical acclaim in 2007 but came back bearing a profession that appeared strange in that current landscape: photography. And the rest, as they say, was history.

Best known for her singles ‘Greenland’, ‘Ekundayo’, ‘This Man’, ‘Tunmise’ and ‘Freedom’, TY Bello became a member of the Nigerian photography collective, Depth of Field, blazing a trail for unsure up-and-comers who were interested in photography as a career path in an environment where such was uncommon. She is an internationally recognised photographer who was the official photographer for the former president of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan during the period of 2010-2015. She has also been a go-to photographer for former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.

Although juggling music and photography is not an easy task, TY Bello believes that both art forms are of the same source and should perform similar functions.

‘Art is about collecting experiences and expressing them. For me music and photography are similar art forms. I collect experiences, stir them in myself and express it in my own language. Just like my photography, music is my language’, she surmised.

A sought-after cover girl by the trendiest magazines, TY Bello’s music and photography scaffold humanitarian calls. She organises an annual photography exhibition to raise funds for orphans in Nigeria. She is also the director of Link-a-child, an NGO dedicated to seeking funds for and disseminating information about orphanages in Nigeria. Honoured by the Communication For Change in a five-part documentary film series titled RedHot in 2011, TY Bello was influential in the success of hairstylist and bread hawker, Olajumoke Orisaguna whom she discovered on the street of Lagos during a photo shoot session with Nigerian-born British rapper Tinie Tempah in 2016. After a contrived photo shoot to appear on the cover of This Day’s Style magazine, Olajumoke has gone on to become a model.

TY Bello’s foray into music and photography from philanthropic and humanitarian viewpoints is unassailable. No surprise that she is the NET Honours Class of 2022 ‘Most Popular Photographer’, pulling 28.3% of the votes to beat other nominees like Amazing Klef, Emmanuel Oyeleke, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Mofe Bamuyiwa and Henry OJI (bighstudios).

Her days of Kush may appear a distant past, but the words and the rhythms seam with the paint and the brush to create faces – contracting to stirring songs and capturing significant smiles.

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