“What truths would you utter from your mouth
If you could tell us your story“ — The Possible Lives of W.H., Sailor
In this powerful and deeply moving poetic narrative, author/artist Bushra Junaid gives presence to W.H., a mysterious nineteenth-century sailor whose remains were discovered in Labrador in the late 1980s. What little can be deduced about W.H. archaeologically is that he was of African heritage, and buried alone on the coast of a forbidding landscape. Junaid’s poem embraces the mystery of W.H., ponders his life—who he might have been, how he might have lived— and in so doing not only offers a daring look at the history of the African experience in North America, but claims as kin a man isolated, alone, and until now, forgotten.
The Possible Lives of W.H., Sailor was inspired by “What Carries Us: Newfoundland and Labrador in the Black Atlantic”, an exhibition that Junaid curated at The Rooms (St. John’s, NL) in 2020. The book includes a timeline about the Black experience in North America, as well as helpful material for further discussion.