Nigerian Native and University of Minnesota student, Taoheed Bayo designs for NIKE.

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Nigerian Native and University of Minnesota student, Taoheed Bayo won a design challenge and set out a design a pair of sneakers that connected to his Nigerian heritage.

Shortly after Nike had put the word out, it was seeking designers to produce a unique pair of sneakers, Taoheed ,21, was amongst three dozen individuals chosen for the NIKE BY YOU Cultivator contest,

In just two weeks. the contestants were tasked to create a unique design with a compelling back story that would resonate and appeal to its target market after which they had to market their custom sneakers.

“The most integral part I think was having a story that resonates with a lot of people and making sure that it’s authentic as possible. But, you’re also trying to design a shoe that you want everybody to buy, not just something you like.”

Bayo, reached back to his Nigerian roots and youth for inspiration, creating a shoe grounded in his heritage. The result: the Afro-Yute Air Max 1. The Afro-Yute’s been selling, but it’s also delivered something else Bayo had wanted — it’s teaching others about Africa.

Bayo decided on green for the shoe base, representative of Earth and Africa, also like the Nigerian flag, he chose white as a compliment to the earthy color, he wanted a classic gold gum on the bottom of his Afro-Yutes, an elemental flair and a homage to the history of gold in Africa, he chose suede leather, a material he felt represented the tenacity of Afro-descendants.

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


Bayo thought about how an “alien system” of slavery, colonialism and foreign influence has made it challenging for African countries to develop as quickly as the rest of the world. In that, he found a solid story for his sneakers

“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,” said Bayo. “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.”
the project helped him push back on popular misconceptions of Africa and build connections among Afro-descendants.

To promote the message and sales of the Afo-Yute, Bayo built a diverse team of creatives of photographers, videographers, models and poets, the effort was successful and produced a documentary and numerous social media posts that engaged with hundreds of African youths.

Check out his Instagram page


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