Festival to honour memory of musician, singer and theatre-maker Beldina Odenyo Onassis

A leading arts festival has revealed plans to honour the memory of an acclaimed Scottish-Kenyan musician, singer and theatre-maker who died suddenly last year.

Singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph and filmmakers Adura Onashile and Laura Cameron-Lewis have collaborated on a music and film tribute to the late Beldina Odenyo Onassis, who was also known as Heir of the Cursed.

A short film featuring a new version recorded by Joseph of Glasgow-based Beldina’s song “A Way From Rage” has been on the Isle of Lewis and will be premiered at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival in Glasgow next month.

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Beldina spent time there working on the theatre show Move, one of her last projects, which was staged at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Adura Onashile appears in the new film created in honour of Beldina Odenyo Onassis.

She had won huge acclaim for her work in Scottish music and theatre.

The 31-year-old made her last live appearance at the Scottish Album of the Year Awards in Edinburgh last autumn, and was due to stage a headline show at this year's Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.

She had also worked with the writer Hannah Lavery on her shows Lament for Sheku Bayoh, which was part of last year’s Edinburgh International Festival, and Blood Salt Spring.

Named one of Scotland’s 30 most inspiring women under 30 in 2017, Beldina was widely praised for her work exploring the African diaspora, her experiences of living in Scotland as a young black woman and mental health issues.

The late Beldina Odenyo Onassis, who was also known as Heir of the Cursed, passed away suddenly last year.

Joseph was invited by the festival to record a new version of A Way From Rage after Beldina performed one of her songs, The Bird, during her performance at the awards ceremony.

Onashile is appearing in this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, in the lead role in Medea.

Joseph said: “Beldina was one of the most beautiful and amazing humans I’ve ever known. Her songs are the most beauty of all and it’s a total privilege for me to get to sing one of them.

"The words she left us are important and I hope will help others. She was the kindest, most supporting, beautiful champion of others always and our hearts are broken that she is gone. She was our goddess. And always will be.”

Beldina Odenyo Onassis, who performed under the stage name Heir of the Cursed, made her last appearance at the Scottish Album of the Year Awards in Edinburgh. Picture: Euan Robertson

Onashile and Cameron-Lewis said: “We both knew Beldina and admired her and her work very deeply.

"We wanted to give her a film that we hoped she would have loved, something that focused on the elements of darkness and light in a landscape that she loved.

"We hope that this film, of the power of a woman facing and overcoming the grief she carries within her, is a small tribute to Beldina herself and her immense gift for evoking the depths and edges of the human experience.”

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, arts programme officer for the Mental Health Foundation, which leads the running of the festival, said: “Beldina was an extraordinary artist and human being.

Singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph. Picture: Laura Ward

"One of her great gifts was the ability to write songs of empathy and solace, songs with the power to help people through painful experiences, a gift you often find in people who have struggled with their own mental health.

“A Way From Rage continues to be a powerful expression of that. We hope people will find solace in what Kathryn, Adura and Laura have created.”

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