NEWCOMER EXPERIENCES OF LIFE IN VICTORIA
The CPN newsletter features stories about newcomers who come to call Greater Victoria home. In this segment, we ask a newcomer to share a bit about their personal lives, and the challenges and successes of coming to a new community.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Nigeria.
What brought to Canada? Why did you choose Victoria as the community to live?
I came to Canada to study at the University of Victoria. I am currently finishing my doctorate program in applied theatre at the University of Victoria. Coming to Canada, and specifically, Victoria, was a divine inspiration. I had earlier read a book on applied theatre that had been edited by Dr. Monica Prendergast and Professor Emeritus Juliana Saxton both from UVic. Dr. Warwick Dobson of UVic was subsequently open to supervising my work and that brought me to Victoria.
Share with us something about you and your family.
I am from a family of seven and we are spread across the globe including Nigeria, South Korea and the United States. I have my wife here with me and a 19-month old baby. My wife is an economist by training and she currently works with the BC government.
What do you wish people understood better about your cultural heritage?
I wish people did not refer to Africa as a country! I wish folks understood that not every Nigerian is corrupt. And I wish people understood that we value our elders. I wish people recognized that although we may be ‘people of colour’ on the outside, on the inside, like everyone else on planet earth, that same colour of blood flows in our veins!
What is your current profession? Why did you chose that as a career?
I currently work at the Belfry Theatre as the Artistic and Community Liaison. The Belfry Theatre is led by Michael Shamata (Artistic Director) and Ivan HabeI (Executive Director) who have been doing a great job of presenting contemporary Canadian works. I am interested in promoting the Belfry’s genuine mission to become involved with many vital issues that are important to our city right now. So through my role and position, the Belfry is engaging with communities, and fostering partnerships and collaborations that are crucial to the well-being of the ecosystem as a city. We want to continue to participate in initiatives and events that move our city forward and add our voice to the ongoing conversation on the lower Island and beyond. I think this is amazing! And we are forward thinking and respectful doers in this regard.
What do you appreciate about living in Victoria?
First it is quiet, calm and the pressure you get in big cities is minimal here. Although people can be superficial, if we take time to “unpeel” that initial layer, people can be genuine and really caring – not in a “Canadian way”, but in a genuine way! And finally, even though things are expensive, the city is beautiful and warm compared to other parts of Canada.
What have been key challenges for you about living in Victoria?
For me, I think the first challenge is the burden of heritage and identity I carry. In a city where our understanding of true diversity is evolving, in a bid to appreciate any appearance of diversity, we can see, it can become tokenism and can be very challenging on the ‘diversified’ individuals. I think political correctness is beautiful, but many times it can shut down room for conversation because we do not want to offend others. As a community, we need more love and understanding to make use of opportunities to lift each other up.
What do you miss about living in Nigeria?
I miss my family, friends and other things.
What are three favorite things you and your family enjoy doing here in Victoria?
We have visited most of the castles! We enjoy the local library – we need to go there more! And we go to church – it is a lovely place to practice fellowship and connect with other believers.
What are three meaningful accomplishments you have experienced in your career?
My definition of success has evolved from what “I” have done, to what “we” have been able to accomplish as a collective community with what we have. From that standpoint, I am excited that I am grateful to join with other voices of scholars, artists, program developers, organizations and art administrators to create and amplify spaces and opportunities for the arts to thrive.
Do you think Victoria is a welcoming and inclusive community?
That is a loaded question! I think it is the about Oliver Twist syndrome of “wanting more.” I am of the opinion that Victoria is evolving. While some organizations and individuals are way ahead in achieving inclusiveness, some are still coming along… and I think that’s the beauty and essence of many of the conversations and initiatives in the city. Victoria needs to continue to have meaningful conversations – but don’t stop at the level of conversation. This is what I am interested in, the ‘And so what’s next’ question. How does the conversation move us forward – in decision making, hiring processes, policy, and others? I am hopeful that Victoria would be a place where everyone’s voice will count – where we “walk the talk” as we continue to “talk the talk”.