FIRST PERSON |: Life in Zimbabwe was a struggle. Moving to Nunavut gave me hope CBC News:

This first-person column was written by Francesca Mandea of ​​Iqualuite. Read more about: CBC North First Person columns here:

I never thought about settling in Nunavut, Zimbabwe և with my children. But that’s what I did eight years ago: I’m thankful for the life I found here.

I was a stubborn Zimbabwean, the daughter of the land, but I landed in frozen Iqaluit on December 24, 2014. I had nothing but two suitcases, my mbira. [an African folk instrument].

Nelson Mandela once said: “It is always impossible until it is done.”

The story of an African woman in the Canadian Arctic is a cocktail of political, social and economic circumstances that have led to serious mental health challenges.

Every day in Zimbabwe was a struggle for my family as a single mother. I was traumatized, always wondering when the CIA operator would attack, who chased me and threatened to “make me disappear.” The mental and emotional burden I was carrying plunged me into severe depression. To add insult to injury, a sudden breakup with a man I trusted increased my vulnerability.

My sisters, Tina John, were worried that I might commit suicide. I think they were right.

Tina moved to Canada 21 years ago and bought me a ticket to Nunavut, where she lived.

“That’s right, you’re coming,” Tina told me by phone from Ikaluit one day. “I finished listening to your stories, worried that I would lose you for one reason or another.”

My family has given me hope for a new life.

As a Catholic, I was encouraged to arrive in Ikaluit on time for Christmas Mass. On my way to church with my sister, I reached for the car door and in an instant found myself lying on an icy bed. That was my first fall. I learned that the beautiful suede shoes I wear do not hold tightly; when it comes to outdoor shoes, being safe is more important than looking good.

Francesca Mandea photographed in Iqaluit in 2016. The northern climate was restless at first, but he is used to it now. (Sima Sahar Zerehi / CBC)

The liturgy was beautiful. I was intrigued to hear my sister’s other monks sing the Lord’s Prayer at Inuktitut. Three months later I could sing too. Since then, I have composed the song Inuktitut և Shona, based on my own prayer, Our relationshipwhich I play with my mbira.

As an extrovert, I have reached out to participate in community activities, both voluntarily and for a fee. I remembered at home, my late mother was singing with us, “Shooil, shooil, wherever you are, shine.” I contacted them to find out where I could share my culture.

When I entered the local talent competition, I was afraid to perform on my own. I used to be on stage with my fearless children. But I remembered their words. “Mom, even when you make a mistake, the audience does not know what you are playing, so just keep going.”

It’s great to be a learning parent. I listened and gathered courage.

Mandea sings and plays her mbira in Iqaluit. (M. Pucci / CBC)

“I bring cultural diversity to Iqaluit,” I said as I sat on stage at the Alianait Arts Festival tent in front of Nakasuk School. The crowd applauded me, it felt good.

I won the second prize in the talent contest and got $ 600. Joshua Howley16-year-old Inuk won the first prize. As we shared our experiences, I learned that just as mbira was once considered an evil, banned by the colonizers, so was singing with the throat. It was reassuring to know that I was not alone in rebuilding my identity, using my culture to heal the wounds of generations to come.

Since moving to the Arctic, I’ve been on land, run a half marathon twice, gone skiing, fished for berries, and played with Inuksuk drum dancers. I walk everywhere now. I even walked in a blizzard. I am no longer afraid of the cold.

Mandea, from left, took part in the virtual Boston Marathon with his friends Caron Nyandoro և Sanelle Chaconza և and his sister Tina Mandea in Iqaluit. (Presented by Francisco Mandea)

Immigrating from Africa is not always easy. I have experienced both community and systemic racism in Iqaluit; I have come to realize that anti-African racism is a global phenomenon. But I am grateful that I was supported by many allies in Iqaluit who marched in solidarity with us. Black Lives Matter Protest 2020.

Focusing on gratitude helped me navigate life in Nunavut կյանքը Canada. Dealing with the challenges of life in a positive way is a practice I have mastered.

Today, I am an intellectual fitness trainer, trainer, author, and advocate for social justice. I founded Mothers United in Iqaluit, a social enterprise that brings mothers together to change the world. I have come a long way.

In my culture, when we say thank you, we say: cat faith in the heart – “Cat gratitude is in the heart.”


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For more stories on Canadian blackout experiences, from anti-skinny racism to black community success stories, see Being in BlackBerry Canada, a CBC project that Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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