Multidisciplinary artists Aiza Ntibarikure and Kamana Ntibarikure didn’t expect their Instagram live chat show, originating in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, to transform into a doc-talk series on CBC Gem. Real Blackity Talk, created, written and hosted by the Burundian-Canadian sisters, shines a spotlight on the experiences and perspectives of Black women and non-binary Black people in Canada. 

Accompanied by their correspondents, a.k.a. their “Blaxperts,” Kamana and Aiza guide us through each episode as they unpack a different aspect of the modern human experience. The Blaxperts offer invaluable insight, juicy banter and diverse viewpoints. In addition to sharing their individual stories, our dynamic duo is always ready to perform a skit or song to drive a point home.

I had the privilege of chatting with Aiza and Kamana about what inspired them to create Real Blackity Talk, what viewers can expect going in, the importance of elevating Black and non-binary Black voices and what’s on the horizon for their production company Balling Y’all Productions. 

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This interview is condensed for clarity and length.

Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. What’s Real Blackity Talk‘s origin story?

Aiza Ntibarikure: Kamana and I are multidisciplinary artists based in Canada. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, we were living together. We made the big jump from our hometown of Montreal to Toronto, and lockdown happened. Suddenly, we were at home wondering what the heck was going on like the rest of the world.

We decided to go live on Instagram twice a week to stay sane, to connect with people. We explored a different topic during each episode. It turned out to be such a fruitful, juicy, life-giving experience. Two weeks later, The CBC released their Creative Relief Fund for original Canadian content.

We pitched a concept of our talk show to them. They loved it. Out of 9,000 applicants across the country for the Creative Relief Fund, 10 projects were selected in our category, and we happened to be one of them. It all happened fast. 

We got a development deal that turned into a production deal, and that’s where we fleshed out the concept. Then, we dove into writing the series, and it snowballed from there. Real Blackity Talk dropped on Friday, March 18.

MM: Describe the show using three words.

AN: Bold, fun…

Kamana Ntibarikure: Real.

MM: Love it! If you could have a major celebrity on Real Blackity Talk, who would you choose?

AN: Our focus is obviously on the Black Canadian experience because it’s not showcased enough, especially in the Canadian media landscape. But if we were to bring in the American fam, we’d want Issa Rae.

MM: Yes!

KN: You have to.

AN: She’s so inspiring. Our story’s similar to hers because it started as a DIY project. Issa posted online, and then it blew up from there. That’s what happens when you start creating work. Not all the time, but if you’re at the right place at the right time… 

Kamana Ntibarikure and Aiza Ntibarikure of Real Blackity Talk

Pictured: Kamana and Aiza Ntibarikure of REAL BLACKITY TALK

MM: What can viewers expect from this series?

KN: They can expect to see wholesomeness. The show talks about difficult things in a lighthearted, uplifting, empowering way. It’s about having a good time, hearing truths and being inspired.

AN: The show hasn’t been out for a long time, but already the reception has been interesting. I’ve had the opportunity to sit in rooms with people as they watch it for the first time. It’s a conversation starter. The format is short, but we made a point to dive into many different facets of the topics we’re exploring in each episode.

Our goal was always to inspire people to watch the show and have them tell their stories because all of our stories matter. Let’s say they’ve watched the “Self-Love is LIT!” episode — we have a segment where we talk about dropping your toxic friends. Then, people start saying, “Wow, this was my experience with that. This is what I’ve learned from it.” It becomes this juicy buildup of the human experience and shared lessons.

MM: What has the creative process behind this show been like for you?

KN: It’s a learning curve because this is the first time we’ve written, produced and hosted. We’ve worn all the hats to create this show.

AN: It’s a hat shop!

KN: It’s been uplifting. We come from the entertainment world; yes, things lined up, but we have been in this industry for a minute. You name it; we’ve done it. We haven’t done it in this format. It was a crash course. We poured ourselves into this show, and it’s been gratifying and challenging.

AN: We have our Blaxperts — our guests on the show. They’ve been carefully selected. Some of them we knew we wanted on the show if we were greenlit. One of them is Dr. Jill Andrew, who’s a politician. She’s the founder of Body Confidence Canada. She also founded Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Jill does a lot of work with the community. We wanted to surround ourselves with inspiring people of different ages. 

The process was interesting because there was the side where we were writing the series together. There’s something different about writing in your voice. On Instagram, we were riffing and speaking our minds in the moment.

In this case, it was like, “Yes, we’re in the unscripted category, but it’s still scripted. How do we write our thoughts down in a way that feels true?” I learned to write in my voice, which you’d think it’s easy, but it took a few tries before we found the magical spot.

There were the interviews we did with the Blaxperts, and that process was gnarly because Kamana was still in BC. I was in Toronto. We’d have Kamana join us from Zoom as I’m directing the interview. Thank God for technology. We were able to, throughout this process, be linked and constantly in communication to make sure the vision remained how we wanted. And so, technology was a big part of making this whole thing happen.

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MM: What do you hope audiences glean from Real Blackity Talk?

KN: That their stories matter. Often, primarily through social media, you only see the endpoint. You only see the win. We talk about the wins in the show, but we also talk about the low points. We talk about real life. It’s about remembering that it’s a package deal — it’s a journey. We’re all going through it together.

AN: I would say that growing up in Montreal, I didn’t see myself represented in the media. As a young girl, I often turn to America to see myself. I would love for a young Black kid watching the show to realize they can do anything and don’t have to be in the US for it to happen.

There are dope Black folk in Canada doing amazing stuff, and they should be proud of that. Yes, tell their stories, but show up every day with pride for who they are and not water it down to make people comfortable but own it.

Kamana Ntibarikure and Aiza Ntibarikure of Real Blackity Talk

Pictured: Kamana and Aiza Ntibarikure of REAL BLACKITY TALK

MM: How has Real Blackity Talk added fuel to your fires? Does this experience inspire you to create more space for Black and non-binary Black voices?

KN: As we were writing the show, we were like, “Yo, this is important.” We had our premiere. We got to have feedback in real-time, and it reaffirms what we already knew: you got to create work. You have to create if you want your voice to be out there. I resisted that for a while because I was like, “Ah, it’s crazy. It’s hard.” But it comes to a point as a creative where you need that. Then you realize the world needs that, that it’s not just for you.

MM: Do you have plans for a Season 2?

KN: All the plans are out there. As we said, this is our first series, and we are achievers. So, is it a Season 2? Is it an EP of the music from the show? Is it a live show? We’re open to it, and we’re connected to what the next part of the journey is. But for now, I’m going to rest.

AN: Yes, and bask in the pride of the achievement. We put so much love into this project. Allow this space to receive it back and see what kind of ripples it sends out into the world. While we were doing it, there were so many firsts for us. We were stretched beyond our comfort zone. 

I’m so happy because we’re at a point where we’re on the other side, and I’m like, “Wow, we did that.” To think we can do more of that with experience and clarity, I’m excited to see what inspired ideas come in the next while.

We will run with that because the show started with us following our excitement and going live on Instagram. You would not think that that would lead us to our first series with the biggest network in Canada. We flowed with the excitement of the moment. That’s what we’re going to keep doing because it works. 

MM: Do you have advice for aspiring creatives looking to break into the industry?

AN: Take your time. This is not a race. If you’re an actor, at first, it can feel like you owe your agent something. Everybody has to work through that kink and realize that you have to do it if you book the job, so you might as well be selective.

KN: Enjoy it.

AN: This is part of doing it and learning to honor yourself before anybody else, from the work you do to the people you associate with. As a creative, I would say, “Know who you’re talking to.” If you’re writing a story or a show, pick the person you’re talking to, and it will make a world of difference.

KN: Be true to yourself. It sounds corny, but it’s the truth. How you see the world is unique and universal. If you are true to yourself, the mistakes you’re going to make will teach you. The wins you’re going to have are yours. We need your story. 

AN: That takes time.

KN: We have been in this industry for 15 years.

AN: It’s not an overnight-success-type thing.

KN: You got to build up to it. You build up the skills, desire and opportunities to do your thing. I wasn’t ready to do that two years ago.

AN: There were so many things we weren’t ready for. We followed the flow. We’re like, “Yo, let’s apply for this thing.” They’re like, “You got selected.” We’re like, “Holy moly, now we have a development deal. We’ve never developed a concept like that. Let’s figure it out.” There were many moments where we thought, “Are we ready for this? What’s going on?” But life will show you. 

It’s happening, so you’re ready. That’s what I learned.

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MM: What’s on the horizon for Balling Y’all Productions?

AN: That’s a beautiful question.

KN: The adventure of Real Blackity Talk, for me, showed me I’m real. I’m interested in the nonfiction — people’s actual stories. I know this is an avenue I want to take the production into. But our values are to empower, entertain and educate. We will keep following those values wherever they lead us.

MM: Thank you so much for chatting with me, Aiza and Kamana! Congratulations on Real Blackity Talk!

AN and KN: Thank you, Melody!

You can follow Real Blackity Talk on Instagram (@realblackity) and Twitter (@realblackity). Be sure to stream episodes of the series on CBC Gem.

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