A Love Letter to Lagos: Alton Mason’s “Rise In Light”
International supermodel Alton Mason’s debut short film, “Rise In Light,” explores evergreen themes of ancestry, generational trauma, and love. The visual is backed by Mason’s debut single, the Kevin-Dave produced “Gimme, Gimme.” The film was directed by Nigerian-American Amarasi Nwosu and Persian-Canadian soof Light.
The project, which has become part of a fundraising campaign to support the Lagos-based nonprofit, the Khan Foundation, was initially intended to act as a springboard for the multihyphenate’s budding music career. But amid the Covid-19 pandemic Mason and co-Director of the film Amarasi Nwosu saw an opportunity to use the film to provide relief to underserved Nigerian communities.
The film is a short 3 minutes and 33 seconds, shot on the streets and beaches of Lagos, Nigeria. It stars both Mason and a white lion cub named Kovu, who was featured on Mason's Instagram page in October of last year. It also contains a spoken word section from the 22-year-old model. Soft-spoken, he carefully expresses his relationship with Lagos and Africa, acknowledging the trauma of Black collective history but affirmatively deciding to tell stories of love and joy, choosing love over fear. The triumph of love over fear is illustrated by two of Mason’s own experiences, which function also as desires for Black people in the diaspora -- “to see a home in a foreign place” and “to leave, and to find our way back.”
If the latter phrase sounds familiar it is because it echoes the sentiment and title of the Beyoncé track “FIND YOUR WAY BACK” from The Lion King’s supplementary soundtrack album “The Lion King: The Gift.” Both explore the ancestral connections tying the Black diaspora to Africa and consciously choose to shine light on its beauty rather than pain, with Mason professing:
“I know the trauma of my history, but I want to explore the joy. The world isn’t perfect, but I still choose to pass down Joy and Freedom to a generation instead of the trauma of our past.”
This view parallels much of the current cultural narrative surrounding the Black diaspora’s relationship to Africa. In 2019, the same year Beyoncé released “The Gift,” Ghana hosted a “Year of Return” which drew over a million tourists to celebrate the richness of the African experience and spiritually connect with the land of their ancestors. The year before that, the Marvel movie, “Black Panther” contained similar motifs highlighting the link between Africa and the diaspora. Beyoncé’s upcoming film with Disney+ “Black Is King” and the Black Panther sequel are also expected to explore many of the same themes.