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Safia Elhillo.

American sports- and footwear company Under Armour is using a poem by Sudanese Safia Elhillo, titled “Kintsugi,” for its “Unlike Any” PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics campaign in South Korea. The campaign, “which celebrates female athletes who shatter expectations,” features a rousing 45-second video of American alpine skier Lindsey Vonn who missed the 2014 Olympics because of a serious knee injury and afterwards broke an arm last year in training. The film:

“looks at ways in which debilitating injuries and setbacks have served to motivate Vonn. Every time Lindsey Vonn reached her breaking point, she became unbreakable. Her comeback story is #UnlikeAny.”

Here is the report from Baltimore Sun:

The video is set to a poem by Safia Elhillo, author of last year’s The January Children, who wrote the piece specifically for Vonn. It’s called, “Kintsugi,” the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum.

“This is what I became each wound filled with sunlight to bond my old self to my new,” the poem goes, recited in its debut in the film by the poet.

Under Armour has been working with Elhillo over the past few months on the poem and film, which is a new, remix of Vonn’s original Unlike Any video released last fall.

Under Armour’s “Unlike Any” campaign features five films with “spoken word artists who created poems to fit stories of each of five athletes”: sprinter Natasha Hastings; Alison Desir, founder of Harlem Run Crew; Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theater principal ballerina; professional stuntwoman Jessie Graff; and Chinese taekwondo champion and actress Zoe Zhang.

Safia Elhillo—recipient of the 2015 Brunel Prize, the 2016 Sillerman Prize, and a nomination for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry—most recently signed up, alongside Gbenga Adesina, to guest-edit 20.35: An Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry. Congratulations to her.

Watch the video:

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017), for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. His conversations appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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