The coolest Canadian in Bristol - Ajia Forster

The coolest Canadian in Bristol - NAFIIA's Ajia Forster was definitely amongst the most interesting Canadians we met this month.

We’re not sure whether it was her effortless Canadian warmth or her 10-inch long red deerskin earrings, but Victoria’s Ajia Forster was definitely amongst the most interesting Canadians we met this month. And Bristol, her adopted city in the UK, agrees. Earning a top spot in the Bristol Post’s  Bristol’s Coolest People list (October 2022), Ajia is a mother, an entrepreneur, a football wife, an Indigenous advocate, and a fitness instructor – and not necessarily in that order!

She first came to the UK four years ago to open the UK operations of a global fitness chain…and she now makes the UK her permanent home with footballer Chris Martin and their 7-month-old baby. We first noticed her when she modelled in Indigenous Fashion Week in Paris, part of the programming of Saskatchewan-based charity Indigenous Fashion Week,

Ajia's family comes from the Skwah First Nation of Chilliwack British Columbia, but, as she shared with us, she did not grow up with Indigenous traditional teachings.  Her mother, Victoria BC-based artist Sandra Froher, began the journey of healing intergenerational trauma, a journey on which Ajia has joined her.  She says, "I did not grow up knowing my traditional teachings or my family for many years. That was a part of our trauma and what was taken from us. For years, I've tried to figure out how someone like me, so far away from home can have an impact on cultural knowledge renewal and preservation, giving us a voice. So that's when I decided to pass the mic over and build Nafiia. I wanted to build a platform that really represented us, a space that was worthy of  us, our sacred art and the artists’ years of dedication to their craft." 

She told us that even the very word “Indigenous” doesn’t have a lot of concrete meaning for people she meets in Bristol.  “It’s a huge responsibility”, she said, “making sure I speak for myself and my truth and only talk about what I know, not trying to speak for an entire culture that I didn’t grow up with, on the one hand, but on the other, taking responsibility for creating some visibility for an important identity. I’m trying to explain to people what a Canadian Indigenous person is, and sometimes I’m not getting that glimmer of recognition until I get right down to very old terms that people know, like ‘cowboys and Indians’.  Lots of work to be done, and I hope that in some very very small way, Nafiia is my contribution to the larger conversation.”

NAFIIA is Ajia’s new venture, a digital marketplace promoting Indigenous creative work, including art and fashion and it will be launching in late February. Ajia is also working with Indigenous Fashion Week to take Canadian Indigenous designers to a broader audience.  Building on the momentum generated by Indigenous Fashion Weeks in Paris, Milan, and New York, ambitions are high for something to happen in London in 2024. Ajia Forster is definitely a Canadian to watch in 2024 in the UK!

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