When Aremo Gemini stepped into the Nigerian literary space, everyone was mesmerized by his heavily-loaded crafts, wondering if he was the revelation they had been waiting for. His presence was largely iconic for the African poetry, culture, spoken word-- at the same time messianic for the language of his ancestors which was fast fading like smoke. Light of the sun spread across the firmament, he is truly a renaissance.
Born Yusuf Alabi Balogun in the Ijora ghettos of Lagos state over two decades ago, Aremo Gemini did not choose African poetry, culture and oral performance – they chose him! No wonder, he described himself as “god at work.”
He started writing short stories, playlets and poems even when he did not know what they really meant. And by the time he finished secondary school, he already had cupboards "stashed with hundreds of manuscripts."
2017 was a year of rebirth for a young man from the ghetto. Gemini had his first-ever stage performance, an experience he described as “shabby, jittery.” Since then it has been a smooth sail for the young genius in African writing and oral performance.
“The process has been tortuous yet impactful but it gets better... obviously. Gold constantly needs to pass through fire to remain lustrous,” Gemini told Legit.ng during a conversation.
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The dream and everything behind, beyond it
For Gemini, the dream is bigger than him as a person. From a spark of fire to an inferno, his art has gained overwhelming acceptance. The young man is a recipient of meritorious plaques from Horn of Afroclassical Poets, Yoruba Celeb Award, Writers' Hangout Initiative, Black Pride Magazine among others.
But the vision is endless, apparently beyond the River Nile. Curious, experimental and restless in his pursuit of greatness, Gemini said there are several goals pushing him forward.
The foremost dream, according to him is “to sell out OLIC 2 Arena, London for Yoruba arts and the need to put Yoruba arts in the global market, such that it is recognised and regarded as a prospect for even emerging acts.”
On his greatest achievement, he said:
“My greatest achievement though still remains being able to speak to people, those in the highs and lows, with my art even though in the obscure corner of my room. For me, that is the actual prize.”
On the choice of “Aremo Gemini” as stage name and “death of the author” in criticism of his work
When asked why he decided to choose his pseudonym “Aremo Gemini”, the decorated culture enthusiast explained the philosophy behind the name and the influence he always wants it to create for him as the heir and voice of Africa.
In his words:
“Aremo Gemini has no doubt grown into a brand, one that will stand the test of times. Aremo in Yoruba can be translated as heir apparent, a crown prince meant to ascend the royal seat some days. Gemini is culled from my astrological map, as an individual. Gemini himself is the Aremo of modern Yoruba arts and this is a pointer to the fact that some days, sometimes, the crown will get to this end. Aremo is a work in progress, the heir still learning how to weave his ways through life, manage the crowd and ensure coordination in the palace et empire, when he eventually claims his rightful place.”
For a great performance artist, there should always be criticism. English essayist Roland Barthes explained in his essay “death of the author” that when an author releases his artwork, it does not belong to him anymore. Gemini said despite the acceptance of his work, he is still “a work in progress.”
He said he always appreciates constructive inputs and feedback from people because they emanate from a place of honesty and love. However, he has a way of recognizing the “critics” and the “embittered.”
“Any other condemnatory statements capable of murdering self-esteem or disrespecting my art are not considered worthy enough to be listened to. It is important to always separate the wheat from the chaff. Recognise the critics, recognise the embittered.
“If you are honest to yourself, no one can throw your art into the pit latrine. Accept the fact that no one ever gets to know all but accepting that does not make you less of an authority in your art, embrace growth but reject stark condemnation, outrightly.”
On his father’s influence and the similarity between them
Without any iota of doubt, Aremo Gemini’s father was/is a big influence in his art. A typical African man himself, a lion does not give birth to rodents. Ishola Balogun, Gemini’s father, was a man of culture. But in 2019, he gave up the ghost and joined his ancestors.
While this affected his son’s art, it did not end it. Gemini said he had to continue carrying the torch. The fruit does not fall far from the tree. Late Balogun watches in the sky as flowers of his son blossom.
“I am my father's dream, in flesh and blood. I have learnt a lot from him, during his lifetime. Now that he has transcended, I'm learning quite a lot and understanding why he took some decisions, while alive. For those who are familiar with my art, you can never find Gemini without his father.
“And even now that he has transcended, you still cannot find me without him being in accompaniment — those who know, know. The dead never truly dies and for my father particularly, it is safe to say the making of my art has an indelible part of him within,” he said.
Problems facing writers and creative artists in Nigeria
As a young man in the whirlpool of the Nigerian creative space's intrigues, Aremo Gemini has had his own share of the challenges facing young creative minds like him who have chosen to be the voice of their ancestors.
From the tough road of growth to the politics that kills genuine art, Gemini lamented that a “lot of creatives are getting scrapped off from the ladder, even before they begin climbing and the tiny resources available are not distributed evenly.”
He, however, advised young people like him to expand their networks because “talent is not enough” the drill of being a writer, performance and artist in a country of limited opportunities.
In his words:
“Scream your presence about till people get to know you are around, scream till your voice gets hoarse, scream even when your voice is hoarse, make noise, make meaningful noise. You are the alpha and omega of your art.”
Gemini hopes to put himself out "aggressively" this year. He said he will be putting out a number of Yoruba book publications and cement his space as a revelation and voice of renaissance.