Olamina’s Rain

Recanting the experience of installing Olamina in Aitken Place Park on the Toronto Waterfront. Then celebrating her with a launch event the following day.

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On Saturday, August 7th, I made my way to BSAM Canada’s Olamina sculpture for the second time. It turned out I hadn’t romanticized her beauty upon our first meeting. She was as beautiful as the previous day. The sculpture is stunningly tall, vibrant, and powerful. I have always found it fascinating how quiet things can be so loud, and Olamina is not exempt from this. To sum her up quickly, she is inspired by Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series. Her name comes from the main character, Lauren Oya Olamina, and the folktales of the African water deity, Mami Wata. 

I visited Olamina that day to help showcase and reveal her online on IG live with BSAM Canada. The sky was heavy with full clouds, and there was a chance of rain. The irony doesn’t escape me. Here we were about to unveil a water deity, and the weather was calling for rain. Typically I do not enjoy being in the rain, so I was pretty worried that the rain would come. 

When the rain came, we went back and forth on what to do, cancel, relocate, or do part of it outside and part of it inside. Out of character for me, I asked if I could stay outside with Olamina, I can’t fully explain my desire to remain with her during that moment. Maybe it was my ancestors speaking or Olamina pulling me towards her. I badly wanted to be with her in the rain. I think if I had been alone, I would have danced until my feet gave out, and I would’ve laid down on the ground beside her, my heartbeat a loud drum slowly quieting as I would catch my breath. Inner child footloose freedom. What is it about water that makes us feel like children?

As we began the event, we assigned umbrella holders for those recording, performing, and presenting. The first performance was by Nenookaasi Ogichidaa, who drummed and sang. Their drum and voice were bouncing off the water and buildings, creating a beautiful echo. I was the next performer after Nenoo, and I decided to go without an umbrella and be one with the rain and the moment. I performed my poem, The Grey Jay’s Screaming Sestina. The poem speaks on our relationship with land and water in Canada, highlighting the urgency for Black and Indigenous voices in environmental spaces. The last performer was Levyi-Alexander Love. They sang an original song as they played their guitar, again delivering another beautiful moment and echos for us. 

As I was watching Levyi sing, this beautiful and unexpected thing happened. The rain cascaded down Olamina’s face and pooled, and then slid off her eye like a tear. I had to stop myself from screaming in awe not to interrupt Levyi or scare those watching the IG live. I like to think Olamina was crying tears of joy and was happy with what we had done with creating her, celebrating her, and positioning her right on the waterfront.

We also took some time to thank some fantastic youth who helped us with the installation, handing out certificates so they will always remember this project. Nico and Queen were terrific speakers and hosts.

We also took some time to thank some fantastic youth who helped us with the installation, handing out certificates so they will always remember this project. Nico and Queen were terrific speakers and hosts.

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Olamina’s Rain

Recanting the experience of installing Olamina in Aitken Place Park on the Toronto Waterfront. Then celebrating her with a launch event the following day.

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