Invisible Love: Post-Memory

The idea behind this series was to curate stories and pieces that reclaim the love that isn’t always visible. The love that makes us question what defines heartbreak, what defines a connection, how we learn and unlearn, how we teach and feel love. These questions are brought to the surface through this collection of visual works, poetry and text created by women who’ve beautifully visualized all the love you can’t visibilize.

by Maya Bastian

Post‐memory is a term used to describe the inter-generational transmission of experience. Traumatic experiences are passed down to younger members of the family as one collective memory that is often recalled through imaginative investment, projection and creation.

My ancestors’ memories are saturated with the bloody civil war that ravaged my homeland for 30 years. As a first generation Canadian and a member of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, some of my first memories are of stories being told in hushed whispers, of people escaping terror and of those who could not get out. These stories have taken up residence in my psyche and create a visceral cognizance, a deeply empathic understanding of what my closest family members have endured. As such, I feel as though I am living two parallel lives and that I have another history, an unspoken one that inflects every action and though that occurs.


Maya Bastian is a Tamil-Canadian writer, filmmaker and artist based in Toronto. Her work focuses upon justice and conflict within the context of community and culture.

As a filmmaker she has exhibited her award-winning short films internationally, which run the gamut from narrative to documentary, to experimental. In 2009, she spent several years traveling the world as an investigative video journalist, documenting areas of conflict and post-conflict. She is a recent recipient of Regent Park Film Festival’s Home Made Visible grant, received the 2017 Al Magee Screenwriting Fellowship and was selected for Reelworld Film Festival’s Emerging 20 program in 2017 to develop her thriller feature film ‘Red Tide’. She has received widespread press for her 2017 short narrative film ‘Air Show’ about the effect of the military air shows on newcomer refugees.  

Maya’s writing appears in online journals such as The Huffington Post, Her Magazine and Commonwealth Writers. Her video installations and mixed-media artwork is showcased around the world, most recently at Edinburgh Fringe 2017.

Invisible Love: Capes

The idea behind this series was to curate stories and pieces that reclaim the love that isn’t always visible. The love that makes us question what defines heartbreak, what defines a connection, how we learn and unlearn, how we teach and feel love. These questions are brought to the surface through this collection of visual works, poetry and text created by women who’ve beautifully visualized all the love you can’t visibilize.

by Elizabeth Mudenyo

I was 12 and in love with the summer

In the evening

just laying out on the lawn

falling asleep

waking up to a world changed

It felt like five minutes before

the night fell to pitch black

I kept falling in love with everything

that was the problem

The grass sticking onto the back of my thighs

The sun’s red glow on the back of my eyes

Hugging my brother’s back,

falling into the cave of his spine

smothering my face

risking a little discomfort,

I was a constant lover.

Once I asked him if I could borrow his cape

his red plaid shirt

“Its too big”, he said

and I asked again

“its too big for you”, he promised.

And I thought I knew what he meant

about powers being a lot to carry

magic being difficult to have

so when finally

I borrowed his cape

he rolled up the sleeves

and on me it only worked when I ran

when the wind picked it up

and it went flying

I ran fast fast

and felt my heart racing

I knew it was the magic working

I waited for him to wake me up in the morning

to cook us meals

to speak first

to reply to my questions

I waited for him to say yes

to remind me that the fact that I was there was a good thing

a TV screen reflected in his eyes

so he couldn’t see mine

he said he couldn’t describe it

because he couldn’t see it

(it was inside of him)

and that he couldn’t feel it

because it was a lack of feeling

“I think my guts have spoiled

I think at my very core I’m rotting

that the stuff that made me is no good anymore”

he said ‘before,

it was a beast

a monster


howling with distress

deep inside his stomach

into a pit of emptiness’

that’s why

it came as no surprise

that with an aurora of magic around him

and empty insides

he disappeared into thin air

Still I recall

the cape in the wind

and how I loved him


Image by Purvis Kwagala

Elizabeth Mudenyo is a Toronto-based poet, screenwriter, and arts manager. Her work centers Blackness at the intersections of mental health, gender, and sexuality. Observing the magic in the every day, she aims to transform spaces and bring together communities through art. She was a fellow of the Poetry Foundation’s 2018 Poetry Incubator and is one of the writer featured in the recent Black Like We (2019) anthology. Elizabeth supports platforms for BIPOC voices through her all work and is always collecting her tools.

Invisible Love: burnt-butter skin

The idea behind this series was to curate stories and pieces that reclaim the love that isn’t always visible. The love that makes us question what defines heartbreak, what defines a connection, how we learn and unlearn, how we teach and feel love. These questions are brought to the surface through this collection of visual works, poetry and text created by women who’ve beautifully visualized all the love you can’t visibilize.

burnt-butter skin
by Sabrina Sukhdeo

we lie in a pool of daylight
dissolved in the emerald glaze of summer
the heat of our burnt-butter skin
sinking into the pause between our bodies

mouthless gods grip our tongues
us babies born away from war-cut coasts
as haloes of our holy histories
weld together metalled belongings & faiths

the gilded pulse then grows savage
the injustices we share gnaw at unripe want
but in its violence we forge refuge
from the oil-water love rotting our homes

now our wounds have drunk their fill
rousing a bright flush of prayer & pleasure
to lift the scars of tortured mothers
from our trembling hands softly clasped in silence


Visual by Ayse Koca

Sabrina Sukhdeo is a Toronto-based writer of Indo-Guyanese descent. Her poetry and personal essays intimately explore the concepts of longing, belonging, and rootlessness through her experiences as a third culture daughter. She has previously been published in Kajal Magazine. Sabrina is completing her undergraduate degree in political science and will soon be pursuing a law degree, with aspirations in women’s advocacy. Find her on Twitter @sabrinaids.

Young Migrants

By Aleia Robinson-Ada and Samah Ali

Over the next few months, we will be featuring the projects from our Behind the Dust Visual Series Mediamakers. Young Migrants by Aleia Robinson-Ada and Samah Ali is the third in the series.


In July 2017, an old friend, Samah Ali reached out to me about a creative idea she’d been playing around with, which she envisioned as a documentary photography project. Samah’s idea was to investigate the lives of diasporic people in Toronto who have established roots in Canada due to their family’s migration or they have their own arrival story to this country. All she needed from there was someone to help her execute the photography aspect of the project… and about 100 cups of chai later, our baby was born.

In early January, Samah and I sent out a call through our social media platforms asking for participants to volunteer and be a part of our journey in documenting and getting to know first- and second-generation immigrants in Toronto. The response was incredible. Emails flooded into our inboxes. So many people were interested and wanted to be a part of a project where they could share their stories of immigration with us!

Yara representing her Muslim upbringing in front of Allen Gardens.

The Young Migrants Project is a series of images that includes first- and second-generation people between the ages of 15 – 32 years old who live in the Greater Toronto Area. Our aim was to capture individuals of international migration and the stories of people affected by immigration. With each participant, we shot environmental portraits in a location that they felt describes a piece of their history or families’ history. This location would be of sentimental value or bring up a specific memory of their migration story. The places chosen ranged from a first apartment, a first job,to a local restaurant, to a city park where their family gathered and more. Along with the location, we shot each participant with a tangible item they own that symbolizes back home as well as the change and transition of migration. Our participants chose items that ranged from family photo albums, to a pair of shoes, to a briefcase, to a household item, or even a soup spoon made from a boat’s engine.

Jennifer C. in front of her old family home in Kensington Market representing her Vietnamese background and showcasing a handmade spoon of her mother’s making.

Beeta holding her family photo album in front of Scarborough General Hospital where she was born.

With each participant, we also conducted a short audio recorded interview. In their interviews, participants spoke  about their stories of migration and how they ended up in the city of Toronto and why they have ultimately stayed. The audio is meant to give the audience greater context surrounding the location and item each individual chose and its meaning to them. We noticed how the stories are strangely similar and relatable no matter where in the world each participant migrated from.

Behind the scenes of Jennifer and Samah preparing for first interview session.

This prompted us to ask: even though we all look different, are we?

Through this project, we had the opportunity to meet so many beautiful faces and get to know their intimate stories and family histories. We had the chance to capture the varying angles of the diaspora from countries like Vietnam, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ukraine, India, Nigeria, Lebanon, Kenya and many more! This is a testament to Toronto’s true diversity. It was an honour and we thank everyone who shared — for without them there would be no Young Migrants.


Sisterhood Media is a media production company and streaming platform made for and by people on the margins. Our platform aims to start discussions on identity, community, and self-actualization through audio and visual stories, whether made in-house or by incredible filmmakers working towards a shared vision. We’re going live this month, be the first to know.

Aleia Robinson Photography is led by Photographer, Visual Story Teller, Journalist, Media Maker and Soul Sister – Aleia Robinson-Ada. Aleia founded and created her company in the later half of her university career and has now stemmed into an artist traveling around the world inspired by people, their stories, and their spaces. Aleia has produced works of art such as Untitled: Portraits of Black Women, The Celebration Series and Micro/Macro Aggressions Against WOC, that document women of colour and create discourse within the community in their space and their words.

Conversations: How Migration Shaped a Generation

By Samah Ali and Aleia Robinson-Ada

Over the next few months, we will be featuring articles and conversations from our Behind the Dust Visual Series Mediamakers. This is the fourth in the series.

Sometimes, watching the people we love – our family – speak with rose-tinted glasses about the countries they once lived in ushers in a trickling feeling of diaspora and longing. Being raised in a different country, there is a distance from their perspective and experience. Our people travel far from their homelands in hopes of finding places they can call home. A place where they can root themselves and build new communities that connect them to  “back home” while creating new cultural traditions.

This uprooting, planting, and growing in a new country is a process that we, as young first-generation and second-generation people, are distanced from but also are so naturally embedded in. It is only when we inquire about this multirooted existence that we learn about ourselves, our people, and our parents. We know there is another place we call “home”. We grapple with who we are, our hyphenations, and realize that we are just the product of experiences that go well beyond our years and understandings.

With this in mind, we want to bring our study closer to home by interviewing our mothers — Valena and Shamis — about their experiences through Canadian immigration. Both first generation Canadians, one from the Caribbean diaspora and the other from the African. We ask questions about who they are outside of who we know them as and we learn about their dreams, their realities, and their hopes for us (and our generation).

Valena, 1980’s, hanging out with friends in Dominica.

Shamis poses in a restaurant at Sarit Centre in Nairobi — visiting where she once called home.

Aleia: Can you tell me your name and where you’re from?

Valena: My name is Valena Robinson. I’m from Dominica and I am first-generation Canadian.

Shamis: My name is Shamis Hargahfeh and I’m from Kenya.

Aleia: Why did you move to this country?

Valena: I moved here because my mother was here; I thought there would be better opportunities. I wanted to go to school, I wanted to do something different with my life, so I thought I would come to Canada because my mom was here and I had a lot of family here as well.

Shamis: I moved here in the late 80s. I just finished high school and […] my reason was to go to school. I wanted to pursue an education and get a university level education in Kenya. I want to add that, really, a reason to move was also for opportunity. Where I’m from, we were basically considered second-class citizens and not too many opportunities for people with our origins, so coming [to Canada] was first, getting an education, and the second thing was for opportunity.

A studious, school-aged, and youthful Shamis.

Aleia: Do you consider Canada home to you? If not, where is “home”?

Valena: That’s a funny question because when I’m in Canada I call it home but when I’m back home in Dominica, as per what just happened, I call it “home.” When I’m talking to people about “home,” I’m generally referring to Dominica, it just depends on what the situation is. For me, Canada is just a place where I live but Dominica is where I’m from. So that is “home”.

Shamis: Yes for sure! I’ve lived in Canada longer than anywhere else that I’ve lived in my life. Let’s look back: when I was in my hometown, I lived there until I was 16, then moved around a little bit to a few colleges and finally in Toronto, and I’ve lived here for 30 years. So yes this is home, and even when I travel and I go back home I look forward to coming back.

Home to me is really here in Canada — and yes we keep talking about going back home but when we’re there, we’re visiting. In my opinion, we’re visiting family or friends and maybe reconnecting with our old family members. But really, this is home for me.

Aleia: So Valena, do you kind of feel like a push and pull type of thing? Not like an identity crisis but more like you’re in between both. Or is it really a situational thing where you really just don’t want to explain yourself to people?

Valena: Uhm… There’s no push and pull because I’ve been in Canada for more than 30 years so it is home so there is no push and pull and it’s not really situational either… it’s just you’re born and bred in a place so you automatically think of that place as your home, anything else is just transitional. It’s natural to think of that place where you’re born and bred, where your family is and everything, as home.

Aleia: What were your hopes and dreams before coming to Canada and did they realize?

Shamis: I would say absolutely! And I think you’ll be getting very negative messages as to immigrants and stuff but I’ve had all positive experiences being here. I came and achieved my goals of going back to university and earned a degree, which earned me a job. I’ve been with an organization, which I’ve been in different sectors, that I’ve been working with for 25 years. So yes, my hopes and dreams have been overachieved. I don’t think I would be able to do this from back home as well as being in a role where I am recognized for my role for what I do and the contributions I make to the organization.

Valena: I wanted to go to school that was first and foremost for me. I remember when I was back home and I just finished high school and I met a woman who was 65 years old and I always tell this story. She worked with the government for many years and she decided when she retired she was going to go back to school and take courses and make herself better. I thought you know, “that is what I want to do, that is going to be me: I want to go to school, I want to realize all my dreams.” I thought if I came to Canada I would be sure to get all those dreams realized. Well, on arriving to Canada I must say it wasn’t what I expected and was very difficult. I went to school but I didn’t seem to be able to achieve the things I wanted to  because there was always some kind of obstacle, there was always some sort of bridge you had to cross, there was something you had to do to realize those dreams. It never seemed to happen for me. I can say that it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really been able to step up and do the things that I wanted to do and I’m slowly now in my later years beginning to see things come to pass. Canada is not an easy place to live. When I first arrived there was a lot of… you know, you get the sense that people don’t really accept you for who you are, you’re always trying to struggle and trying to make it. Every step you took forward you took two steps backwards. It was a long hard journey and there are still things that I want to do, that I need to do but this is Canada. That’s what it’s all about. Sometimes I think if I were back home I might be so much further.

Valena poses in her first apartment in downtown Toronto.

Aleia: What advice would you give to future generations moving countries?

Valena: People are always looking for something better. They say the grass is greener on the other side. But if you can make it in your own country, I mean, well, it’s good to travel it’s good to know other places but if I had to do it all over again I would not leave my country. I know that I would’ve been somebody if I stayed back home, I would’ve been able to go much, much further. Sometimes I wonder why people leave their country and come here. Canada makes it so hard for people these days; for immigrants these days. When you come, your education has to match that of candy, you have to go through so many hoops to become a citizen of the country. It takes an immigrant so many years to become a citizen. It’s only then that your benefits kick in. But even at that time, you’ve lived so long in the struggle that it only continues even after you’ve gained permanent residence or citizenship. I just think people need to think carefully before they make their decisions. I know there are so many reasons people come to Canada but I feel like if you have opportunities in your country where you can rise, you would be better off staying in your country. I can’t say what would have happened if I stayed back home but sometimes I wish I stayed home and made a life for myself there. Travelled, yes, but stayed home. I can’t really give someone advice because everyone’s experiences are their own, everyone’s path is different. It’s a double edged sword, it’s always a double edged sword. I just know if I had the choice again, I would have stayed. Canada for me, has not been the success story that I wanted.

Shamis: For me it was very different and this is something that [Samah] and I always talk about is keeping an open mind. If you keep an open mind and you focus on the important things — if it’s for a job you focus on your career and building your skill sets — you will be able to achieve your goals right here. As an immigrant, you get to come across cases where there may be racism or bias but let your merits speak for itself. Get educated, keep an open mind and let your credentials speak for you. That’s how I was able to achieve my goals in my organization and overall in life, in my personal life as well. Achieving my goals, not dwelling on the bias, racism and negative thoughts; just keeping a positive outlook. As you focus on the positive outlook your life becomes positive as well.

Aleia: What do you hope for your children (the next generation of people from your ethnic group)?

Shamis: I think the children born from migrants are different, and I see that from both of you. There’s no urgency to earn your degree and get a job and be independent. So what I would say is focus on completing your education. If you want to go into post-graduate programs I think my advice is get yourself a job, and while you’re at the job maybe pursue a master’s degree because most of the time I see people rushing into masters but really it does not suffice what they wanted to do. I suggest getting into the market, seeing what they want to do – maybe within two years – and see what interests them before they go do their graduate studies.

Pictured here is Shamis and her daughter Samah as a baby.

Most of the kids who were born here have their parents that help them out but at the same time have an urgency to be independent of your parents. From what I can tell, when we were here we were basically forced to grow up earlier because at 22, 23 we were in a new country, dependent on ourselves. We were coming up with our rent, coming up with our budget for food, so again, I don’t see that type of urgency for young children of migrants. So the focus is education, get a job, get a good merit, let your work speak for yourself and be independent.

Valena: I hope that they’ll be able to put aside the negative around West Indians, Black people, but mainly West Indians. Slowly, West Indians are rising above. West Indians are very ambitious because as children they’re told or it’s beaten into them that they have to make something of themselves. West Indians are very disciplined when it comes to education. They are like that because they know what they can achieve based on that education. And so, a lot of West Indians have come to Canada and travelled the world and succeeded in rising above and I hope that the generations coming up can want that for themselves. See themselves not just as West Indians, not just as Canadians, but successful people and strive to reach those goals.

content creator and producer, samah ali’s work specializes on topics of diaspora, culture, and identity conceptualization. she writes, speaks, and documents all while throwing witty remarks and curating an eclectic meme gallery . she is a film buff, music fanatic, and tea enthusiast.

Inspired by youth, beauty and rich cultures, Aleia Robinson-Ada is a photographer, artist and visual storyteller living in the city of Toronto.  Aleia values culture and history deeply, for her, photography has always been a way to tell intimate, adventurous, bold and historic stories. She believes photography has given her a platform to share and create work that speaks to the world around her. Aleia focuses her photographic skills on, but is not limited to, portrait, documentary, photojournalism and her personal favourite, travel photography. Aleia started her own company, Aleia Robinson Photography, in 2014 and continued with a strong momentum for the past three years.

Imagined Britain: Remembering our past to get to the present

By Sadia Ahmad

It’s been eleven months since the referendum for Britain to leave the EU took place. The one which left me waking morning after morning for weeks, numbed by shock, stomach knotted, wondering what on earth my country had done. We are never as explicitly aware of so-called ‘national’ identity than at voting time. But a nation is made whole only by its constituent parts — voting is merely individual people deciding in synchronicity. National decisions reflect our localised struggles, those of our cities, communities, families, and finally, ourselves. It’s in examining the micro, personal struggle we find the macro, national struggle. We recognize in both the destructive consequences of stubbornness, pride, blind spots, the pain wrought of turning away from ugly truths, and lack of willingness to embrace change. And like any personal narrative built on unstable foundations, the false narrative of ‘Great’ Britain is threatening to come undone.

As time has passed I’ve wondered, now more than ever, not of Britain’s uncertain future – bleak as it looks – but its past. The way we tell stories matters, and dictates our response. We see the heightened, panic-inducing coverage of London’s brutal attacks just this weekend, the ‘us vs them’ rhetoric, a PM declaring Muslim communities ‘too tolerant’ of extremism. All this overlooks a more complicated reality: of a government’s systematic, repeated cuts to police budgets, armed forces, emergency and border agency services. It speaks of arms sales to an ISIS-backing Saudi Arabia, and of a country limiting social mobility along lines of race and religion as well as class.

Post-Empire, post-war Britain has been characterised largely by stability, a certain pragmatism – governed with a stern, but earnest, temperament. Overwrought displays of drama, extremist ideological and fantastical thinking? No, no, not here, dear, we’re British. We are proud, sensibly middle of the road, we do what’s rational, what’s fair. No wonder the Tories are fighting this election with the empty slogan ‘strong and stable’ – it resonates in the national psyche. But this is to grossly misrepresent our history, of a brutal, prolonged colonial rule, underpinned by extremist beliefs of our own superiority. And post-referendum, our glaring blind spots are coming forcefully into view.

British-born Indian MP Shashi Tharoor recently spoke of Britain’s ‘historical amnesia’ — of a nation unable to come to terms with its colonial history (further explored in the acerbically titled, Inglorious Empire). Former British Museum director Neil MacGregor agreed:

In Britain, we use our history in order to comfort us to make us feel stronger, to remind ourselves that we were always, always deep down, good people…. Maybe we mention a little bit of slave trade, a few wars here and there, but the chapters we insist on are the sunny ones.

He contrasts this with Germany’s honest and painful reappraisal of its violent past, suggesting this honesty has played a role in rebuilding the country, now thriving, a leader within its continent. As anyone educated in the UK can tell you, the history curriculum is somewhat lacking in balance and objectivity. Rarely are British schoolchildren invited to think about why English is one of the most widely spoken languages, or why we’re the only country to have the word ‘Great’ in our official name. In eighteen years of British schooling, I learned nothing of the 300 years of British rule in India, land violently split into India and (my parents’ homeland) Pakistan, of various colonies around the world, and the pain wrought of wrenching themselves free of British rule. The appeal of Brexit lay in nostalgia for this former empire. A superiority internalised, deeply rooted, reinforced by our educational, cultural, and institutional structures. And so, 17 million voted for British exceptionalism, believing a small island of under 70 million could thrive outside the world’s largest trading bloc, because we, of course, are a great trading nation, aren’t we? What we misunderstand of ourselves stretches back to our earliest past.

I spend a good portion of my time volunteering with vulnerable, emotionally distressed adults. It has proved to be a healing act in a time I feel  the most anxious of division. Reaching out across social, economic and cultural divides – mental health issues disproportionately affect the socioeconomically disadvantaged, minorities, and other marginalised groups – is uncomfortable, and whatever your differences or similarities, sitting with another’s deepest hurts is painful. The grinding work of honest self-reflection can feel tedious and wincing. As anyone who has been in therapy, or rehabilitation, will attest, only through this can there be some healthy re-emergence. It’s also a meeting of worlds, of different trajectories. It forces you to confront your advantages, the turns your life took and didn’t, and the privilege you were afforded. It makes you think about things you are grateful for and relieved you never had to think about. Doing this in the name of human connection is restorative, for all involved. But what many who do such work would be perhaps reluctant to say, is the arising guilt, grateful distance, and relief, in this space where advantage meets disadvantage, where health meets illness, where comfort meets alienation. It’s deeply uncomfortable and deeply humbling. It requires a loss of ego, pride, and stretches your world until it takes on new and unfamiliar dimensions. And it’s in this work, I cannot help but draw parallels between the journey of a person, afflicted with depression, or addiction, or suicidal ideation, or shame, and a nation. The more we build our lives on untruths, the messier the fallout when these come up against reality.

This will be more apparent than ever in upcoming Brexit negotiations, with Brussels already being warned ‘Britain is no longer the rational, stable country that we are used to’, and is these days more prone to fantasy. We need to pay attention to our stories in order to heal (even Churchill said it – ‘the only way out is through’). Until we can do this as individuals, and facilitate it in others, we may well continue to fall short as a collective. Joan Didion said that ‘we tell ourselves stories in order to live’; just as a person comes to believe the story they’ve been told over and over about themselves, finding themselves in a kind of cognitive crisis, a nation comes to believe it’s own narrative, too. But our national story has lost resonance because it does not speak truthfully about our past or present. Coming to terms with Britain’s imperial history will be grimacing, entail a painful reconfiguration of the communal self, and it will take energy, as does any clearing of toxicity built up over time. But if we do not, much like the individual who cannot break free of false beliefs, the nation will continue to lose itself.

British-Pakistani actor and musician Riz Ahmed spoke of such issues in a recent address of Parliament, calling out the shared responsibility of actors and politicians to fairly represent society. He expressed the urgency with which our national story needs updating from the one we’ve been sold for too long: a story ‘so narrow, about who we are, and who we’ve been, and who we should be’. If we cannot reimagine the narrative, we risk rupturing our communities altogether. He notes in particular, that if young ethnic minorities are to find a healthy place in this society, they need to be seen, heard, and represented. The cost is losing them to another, more malignant narrative. Reckoning honestly with the part we’ve played in fostering the current climate makes a good starting point. The Guardian echoed these sentiments, declaring a need for the British to ‘drain our sense of nationhood – and our relationships with others – of the toxins passed down from the days of empire’.

We ignore histories – be they personal, communal, social, or political – at our own peril. Only with reflection and commitment to honesty can we move forward, and find out who we next become.