Stories, Sites, and Sounds: In Memory of Sarah Forbes Bonetta

Join members of the Chineke! Junior Orchestra in a musical exploration of the life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta. Keep going to watch their composition, filmed at Kenwood House.

The Creators of 'In Memory of Sarah Forbes Bonetta'English Heritage

Follow Charles, Mejedi, Nia-May, and Vanessa as they learn about the story of Sarah Forbes Bonettaand her life, from being held captive to becoming a royal protégée.

Sarah Forbes Bonetta PortraitEnglish Heritage

Sarah Forbes Bonetta (1843-1880)

Sarah was born in West Africa as Oboma Aina and is thought to have been a princess of the Egbado clan when she was captured by the leader of another African Kingdom and “gifted” to a British naval captain.

It was then that she was given a Christian name, Sarah. She was baptised and taken to England, to be sent to Queen Victoria.

Sarah became Queen Victoria’s protégée which ensured she received a good education and by adulthood had become the image of a Victorian socialite – causing a great public stir due to her African heritage and rare status as a young, Black woman in English society.

Caribbean MapEnglish Heritage

A particularly interesting story from Sarah Forbes Bonetta’s life was of her wedding to James Davies. This fusing of cultures – an African couple married with a British ROYAL celebration – was our inspiration, we wanted to see if we could fuse the two different styles of composition.

As well as a celebration, there was also sadness in this story: Sarah was reluctant to get married and she was only 19 years old when Queen Victoria encouraged her to accept James’ proposal. The unhappiness she may have felt at the idea of marriage is reflected in the tone of our final composition and the ending.

And finally, filmed at Kenwood House, residence of the Earls of Mansfield during Queen Victoria’s reign, here are Mejedi, Charles, Vanessa and Nia-May performing their composition, joined by Toril on drums.

Watch and learn more about our other ‘Stories, Sites, and Sounds’ compositions: 'Dido Belle - A Musical Voyage' and 'Life of the Munshi'. You can also see more about how these projects were created here.

Credits: Story

Head to the Shout Out Loud project page to find out more. Or if you want to know more about Kenwood House, including how to visit, all the information can be found here.
Learn more about the Chineke! Junior Orchestra by visiting their website, or by reading their story here on Google Arts and Culture.
The portrait of Sarah Forbes Bonetta featured in our cover image was created by  Hannah Uzor, and forms part of English Heritage's 'Painting Our Past' series.

Stories, Sites, and Sounds is part of Shout Out Loud, English Heritage’s national youth engagement programme. Shout Out Loud is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Kick the Dust programme. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps