In the 37 years she lived, she went through quite a lot: she was orphaned during an intertribal war, sold into slavery, and due to her remarkable intelligence, was later liberated from enslavement to be raised as a goddaughter to Queen Victoria.
Sara’s descendants are believed to now live in England and Siërra Leone; as well as Lagos, Nigeria as descendants of the Randle family. You can learn more about her story here.
A stunning photo series in her honour
Photographer and filmmaker Dagmar Van Weeghel, whose stunning work typically focuses on the struggles of Africans in the disapora (specifically African women), recently discovered the amazing, under-told story of Sara Forbes Bonetta.
This inspired her to create a stunning photo series that would pay homage to Sara’s life and share a part of history that a lot of people were – and still are – unaware of.
In the series, Keila Barbara portrays Sara. Dagmar says her story has many similarities to the real Sara: she became an orphan in Uganda at a young age and with very little support went on to become the 1st runner-up at the Miss Uganda pageant in 2011.
She later moved to Europe where she made a career for herself while also experiencing identity-related issues. According to Dagmar, “all came together in this homage to Sarah.”
Speaking with Konbini about what inspired her to start the series in the first place, Dagmar said:
“I accidentally found out about her in 2015 and I was so intrigued about what happened to her – how had she overcome that loss and trauma and made that transition, or experienced that displacement?
Her courage and this dual identity are what drew me to her story. This was influenced by my personal life too; my Zimbabwean husband experienced similar challenges when we settled in Europe.
He struggled with multiple identities, cultures, absence of family and traditions for quite some years. He experienced none of the traumas of Sarahs childhood. But even his transition was tough.”
About her overall aim for the series, Dagmar continued:
“I’m in the process of finding out about her descendants and her past. I’ve reached out to people, but not much more details so far. It will take a lot of time and patience but I’m determined to find her descendants and carry on her legacy
Her portraits will be on show during Lagos Photo Festival this year, I feel I’m also bringing her home like that. It’s where she lived and had two of her children.
I hope many visitors will learn about the remarkable history and person that she was. I’m hoping to continue the story and carry on her legacy.”
You can check out more on the series – and the rest of her work – on her Instagram page.
Dagmar Van Weeghel is currently exhibiting her stunning work at the Gallery of African Art as part of the show, Her Story: Sisterhood That Transcends. The exhibition started on September 22 and will end on October 21.