Interview: I Will Marry A Woman Older Than Me - Tee Jay Dan.

Today is February 14, the birthday of Daniel John Tukura more known as Tee Jay Dan, the multi-talented artist and publisher of the Praxis Online magazine. Earlier in the morning he granted The Arts-Muse Fair Birthday Intercourse a riveting interview about his works and love. Here it is, fresh on his birthday.

TAMF: How does it feel today, your birthday?

Tee Jay Dan: I don't know man. I am always happy and jumping around. Today is no different. I am still waiting for that special feeling to creep in. I mean, today is the first birthday for which I have already received wonderful gifts from very wonderful people. So, there has to be a special feeling lurking somewhere na.

TAMF: So what has life taught you so far?

Tee Jay Dan: Life has taught me to believe and work smart - that everything is extremely possible and when I give love I receive back in hundred folds.

TAMF: Often, our attitude to life is shaped by our memories. What is that one childhood memory that has greatly impacted your adulthood?

Tee Jay Dan: As a child, I had the privilege of representing my church and the Boys Brigade in debates, quizzes and other similar competitions. I was very small then but I won all contests I participated in and that engineered me to be very confident. Growing up, at secondary school age, I participated in Olympiad and Cowbell Mathematics competitions - even the national democracy day essay writing competition. Contesting against people who were older than me and from better schools than mine, and winning most of them, planted the belief in me that everything is extremely possible once the human mind is set to it.

And of course I will never forget the first time I met Gen IBB. My father and I used to visit the house sometimes, but I never made it past a certain swimming pool area as my father disappeared. But one day, on my birthday, shortly before sitting for common entrance exams I think, my father took me to a room that looked like a library and there I met IBB. I had seen pictures of him on TELL Magazine and other newspapers in my father's study so I knew he was a powerful man. He carried me on his laps, wished me happy birthday and gave me a small box as gift.  I felt a certain way and from then I wanted to become powerful, like him. These two childhood memories influence me even today.

TAMF: Your creative endeavours span filmmaking, photography and writing. What does each of these mean to you?

 Tee Jay Dan: The three are all parts of the same Art. Film allows me to tell stories, to document histories and cultures, to propagate whatever I feel needs to be propagated. Photography on the other hand empowers me to freeze moments, create images and turn memories into tangible materials. Writing is mainly therapeutic. Like I said, they are all parts of the same.

TAMF: Tomorrow, your ANA documentary, Dancing Mask, will be screened in Abuja. Could you fill us in on what to expect to see in the documentary?

Tee Jay Dan: The Association of Nigerian Authors is over 35years old today. So I'd say you should expect to see and hear a lot. Although the association, like many other Nigerian organizations, had little archival materials in its depository, we made good use of what we could lay our hands on.

You will see and hear the story of how ANA was founded - instances when ANA intervened to safe certain prominent Nigerians and how the association has contributed to the social and intellectual development of Nigeria.

I travelled all over Nigeria and interviewed all living past Presidents of ANA and people like Mabel Segun and Prof. Kole Omotosho who were with Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka from the very beginning.

TAMF: Writers are often described as eccentric, even weird. With the benefit of your interaction with many of them during the documentary production, would you say if this stereotype is true of the Nigerian writer?

Tee Jay Dan: It is very true. I encountered adults who misbehaved because they expected some special treatment on account of their 'writerliness'. One man like that repeatedly told me that he is "author of many books" so I should show him respect  simply because I told him I was tired of trying to schedule an appointment with him and would tick him off the list of interviewees.

I think the word eccentric is used to beautify silliness. You are a writer, so what? To be an artist is no license to be silly. Like that one who went about sexually molesting girls only to later blame it on 'writers’ excesses’. I think there are many irresponsible people in Nigeria hiding under the mask of being writers. It is true.

TAMF: It is more than a year now since you started the Praxis Magazine Online. Is it really serving the needs for which you founded it?

Tee Jay Dan: Yes, it is serving. Although Praxis Magazine is not yet where it ought to be. We are still trying to carve out a niche for ourselves. We still have some work to do as a team, underground, and that is largely on me. But insha Allah we'd make significant improvement this year. Clearly, I am growing into a serial entrepreneur. I am only understanding this now and trying to learn how to manage all that. We already have a wonderful Poetry editor, Laura, and a forward thinking lead correspondent, Jennifer. We will get it all right, eventually.

I mean, look at the things we are doing. First, we did the On Publishing in Africa series and now we are doing the My Writing Day series. Look at the chapbooks we have published and the collaborations we have courted over the past one year. I think you will find a pattern. That is the path for Praxis!

TAMF: You seem to savour the company of much older people. Of course I think it's mutual also with your older friends. What particular wisdom do you constantly take away after each interaction with your older friends?

Tee Jay Dan: I learn patience from my interaction with my older friends. They are not as hasty as we the young tend to be. They approach issues differently and with such calm that only years of living can give. I learn love too. For instance one of my older friends, Fiona Lovatt, admonished me to continue giving what I love and that turned out to be one of the most useful advice ever given me. 

I learn courage too. Ahmed Maiwada for instance would tell you exactly what he thinks at any point in time, whether he is right or not is immaterial, you are never in doubt about his stand. Look at Denja. Look at Dzukogi. These are the ones you know. There are way more. All these qualities bring about good and happy living. In fact, I think I relate better with older people. I am now very certain I will marry a woman older than me. I have always said this, and soon it shall come to pass.