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Original submitted photo and resulting painting.

'Welcome All Souls' - 2014 Brandy Saturley

Onami answers some questions:


1. Where do you live in Canada?

We live in BC, I live in Richmond and Keiko lives in Nelson.


2. Where are you from originally?

We were born and raised in Trinidad, in the West Indies. We're of English and Chinese descent.


3. When did you immigrate to Canada and why?

We immigrated to Canada in 1995, when I was 17 and Keiko was 16. My parents were incredibly brave....they left behind the country they'd known for most of their lives, the relative stability of good jobs, a house, two cars, all our family, and in their 40's at that we could all have access to the better opportunities available in Canada. Also, the violent crime and lawlessness was starting to really get hairy in Trinidad, and with two teenage girls, they thought it best to make the move.


4. What was your first impression of Canada?

My first impression was when we landed in Canada and were getting ready to disembark---I thought someone had turned on the air conditioning on the plane. Ummm, no, they'd just opened the plane door. I was blown away by how clean Richmond was, how beautiful all the flowers were along the medians, how wide the roads were, and how huge the crows were!


5. When did you become a citizen?

We became citizens in 2001. It's funny, by that time, I was already taking our being Canadian for granted. I remember it being brought home to me what an honour it was that we were becoming citizens when we went to the Citizenship Ceremony. There were hundreds of other people of all ethnicities also getting sworn in that day. What really struck me was that many of them were crying happy tears, and that they had lots of very proud friends and family there to witness the occasion, to cheer them on, to celebrate with them with balloons and banners and flowers. That really touched me, and reminded me how blessed we all were to now call ourselves Canadian.


6. Since becoming a Canadian, what is your impression of Canada?

Well, I guess as a Canadian I feel proud to belong to a country that is very diverse: culturally, historically, geographically, a country that is generally viewed by the rest of the world as progressive while honouring tradition, and one with a long history of peacekeeping. Though I do fear the recent changes that are developing: a lot of people are feeling that their voices and concerns are not being heard around such vital topics as environmental protection and public education. I'm hoping that the pendulum will swing back to a place of putting the planet and the children first.


7. What is your favorite food?

Bake and Buljol (fried bread eaten with saltfish which has been mixed with chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, hot pepper, olive oil). Saltfish (saltcod) was originally brought from Nova Scotia to Trinidad to feed the slaves on the sugar plantations.

Arepas (fried cornmeal cakes, eaten with beans, cheese, scrambled eggs and cooked tomato salsa)

Macaroni Pie (a savory macaroni, cheese and egg custard) with my Dad's stewed chicken and stir-fried broccoli....a good Trini mix-up!


8. What is your favourite CDN place?

Right now it's the Terra Nova Rural Park, about a 5 minute bike ride from our townhouse.


9. What is your favorite pastime?

My favourite pastime is thrift shopping. I have found such wonderful treasures on my hunts, things that make me feel good every time I look at them. I also love to create things: my pottery and paintings, my paper mache sculpture, my photographs, my garden, my cozy decorated space, my studio, my curated wardrobe!


10. Favorite Canadian music?

Hands down, Joni Mitchell. From Blue to Both Sides Now to Miles of Aisles to Dreamland to Hejira. I love them all. Deeply and passionately. And some Leonard Cohen.


11. What does being Canadian mean to you?

I have spent more than half my life here now. I don't really identify as English, or Chinese, or Trinidadian, or Canadian. I'm just me. I guess I'm a mix of who I've been, and who I am now, what I see around me every day and what I've experienced in the past. It's a country I can see myself growing old in, in a little cob-and-reclaimed-wood house that I'll build myself, furnished sweetly with road-side finds, surrounded by a beautiful wild garden full of flowers for me to make bouquets with, and my family and friends living happily nearby.


Welcome All Souls

36 x 36 x 1.5

Original acrylic on canvas


Brandy Saturley

The second painting in the People of Canada Portrait Project.


Thank you to Onami (left) and Keiko for letting me use their photo as reference in this painting, and for sharing their story.

Now I must go try some Bake and Buljol!

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