I continue to split my time between Canada and Italy. The intent, back in 2019, was to take a year off from life in Vancouver for a life in Florence—to be immersed in the culture of my origins. That was the plan. Then, COVID. And we know how that story goes.
Shuttling the 8,800 kilometres between the two cities, I have come to question where home is. Is it Vancouver? Or is it Italy? While Italy feels like home, some days I think I’m living someone else’s life.
Vancouver is where we have the family home (and when it comes to dollars and cents, Canada is where I pay my taxes). Even so, I have begun to feel foreign in my own country. “Where are you from?” I was asked on a few occasions when in the city this last time, and in Italy, I will always be la straniera, the foreigner. Subconsciously, I have even refrained from stating “home” when going between the two; I am heading to Vancouver when in Florence and vice versa when in the City of Glass.
Spending as much time as I do in Italy has made me an even prouder Canadian. Every person who discovers I am Canadian expresses awe (often followed by “Why would you come here?”). No matter the issues we have in the land of the maple leaf—and there are plenty—Canada represents “a dream one doesn’t want to wake up from” is how one barista at Caffè Giacosa put it to me. Yes, we are polite, discerning, multicultural, nature lovers, but we also make a pretty good brunch. At my local butcher, bakery, greengrocer, I am known as la Canadese. When I visit Simone, the fishmonger, he always hesitates to suggest the salmon, worried the selection won’t measure up to that of the Pacific Northwest.
In some ways, I feel like I am an ambassador for Canada (Hon. Elissa Golberg, no implications here), celebrating all that is Canadian in the land of the boot, and in the grander context of NUVO, celebrating the talent within our borders and beyond.
For this winter edition, Issue 99, TOBi is our cover story. If you have yet to hit play on one of his records, I guarantee you’ll be hooked—his latest album, Panic, has just been released. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Oluwatobi Ajibolade migrated to Canada as a child and embraced his one true love: music. Through this outlet, he’s able to unleash his thoughts and emotions, creating heartfelt records for all audiences. As he told writer Yasmine Shemesh, “Everybody goes through growing pains, and trying to understand adolescence and trying to understand being a teenager. And I think music just helped me to stay grounded and process my emotions. I think a lot of boys don’t get the space to cry, the space to lament, the space to even exude joy, because we’re told that we got to be stoic all the time. So music definitely helped me with the emotional processing of things.”
There’s plenty more Canadiana in this issue, but not solely—there are Italian people and places, too. Read on to discover and delight in the printed word.