Nigerian poet Titilope Sonuga and her family star in a short film celebrating Black Canadian communities. The film is a Black on the Prairies project and features Sonuga’s parents, her children, her husband, her sister and brother-in-law. In the film, Sonuga’s voice reading a poem can be heard over beautiful images of her family. They are all beautifully styled. Sonuga’s parents are regal in classic Yoruba pieces while Sonuga is radiant in ivory.
Black on the Prairies is a cultural project celebrating the lives of Black Canadians in the prairies, a region that comprises of communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It was founded by Canadian journalists Omayra Issa and Ify Chiwetelu in collaboration with the Canada Broadcasting Corporation. The project explores the history and present lives of Black people in Canada through their connections with indigenous history and their struggle to build life and communities within the past 200 years.
Sonuga shared her involvement with the project on Instagram. The title of the poem featured in the film is “Arrival.” While it celebrates Black life rooted in community, in struggle and triumphs of women, it exposed the history of violence and the colonial legacies that have shaped the experiences of Black and indigenous peoples. The film is moving and emotionally rich in the ways it celebrates family and histories they carry. The project is personal for Sonuga whose family first arrived in Canada from Nigeria over 23 years ago. Like the Black and indigenous ancestors who preceded her, Sonuga has made a life for her self in Edmonton, Albert where she currently serves as poet laureate.
Watch the film and read an excerpt of the poem “Arrival” below:
“Only the trees know
what wayward wind buoyed the first one thousand
through river, creek, and muskeg,
feet a calloused bark we peel until the fleshy center.
We count the rings to tell us:
how many lifetimes is the measure
between a stolen land and a stolen people?
What is lost eternally in the currency of the sale?
How many paces is each generation
between limber pine and baobab,
between prairie grass and cotton?
If we ask the sky
whose hands raised in prayer
carried their people across the bridge
from one dream differed into another,
who nursed the children
on the promise of home, a place
of rest and refuge,
it will answer:”