Award-winning Nigerian-British actor Cynthia Erivo is producing and starring in a film based on the life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a 19th-century Yoruba princess orphaned and enslaved by a West African king.
Omoba Aina, the Egbado princess of the Yoruba land, was later gifted to Queen Victoria in 1850, taken to England and renamed Sarah Forbes Bonetta. The Queen’s patronship put Forbes Bonetta at the centre of the British aristocracy but did not shield her from public scrutiny and personal suffering.
The film is coproduced with Solome Williams, alongside Leah Clarke, Adam Ackland and Rienkje Attoh from So & So Productions, and executive produced by Hollywood star Benedict Cumberbatch. Development is being financed by BBC Film.
According to Erivo and the filmmakers, it is a celebration of Forbes Bonetta as a strategic, determined heroine who forged a path for herself that honoured both her heritage and her upbringing.
“I am excited to embark on this journey. It has taken a long time to get to a point where we can even begin to realise this dream,” said Erivo, winner of Emmy, Tony and Grammy awards as well as a double Oscar nominee.
“As a Nigerian-British woman, to get the opportunity to tell the story of another Nigerian-British woman who until now has been erased from the history books is an honour,” she added.
“Miss Sarah Forbes Bonetta, Omoba Aina, is truly a passion of mine and I’m so pleased to have been able to find partners in the incredible women Leah Clarke and Rienkje Attoh to tell the story and finally give her a voice. I cannot wait to dive into her story. She is indeed the forgotten princess, forgotten no more.”
Erivo currently stars in HBO series The Outsider and will play US singer Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s upcoming drama Genius: Aretha. She will also star in Universal’s musical movie Talent Show.