ONE OF MY KIND
ISSUE THREE : DRAWING
Editor Sofia Niazi Assistant Editor Heiba Lamara Designer Rose Nordin ISSUE THREE, Autumn 2014. Cover image by Sofia Niazi and Rose Nordin. If you wish to reproduce any content from OOMK Zine please contact the relevant artist/s listed. firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: OOMK Zine Twitter: @oomkzine www.oomk.net
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” — Arundhati Roy
Drawing + Zoe Taylor + Brianna McCarthy + Phoebe Boswell + Sofia Niazi + Molly Crabapple + Arub Saqib + Fatma Al-Remaihi + Foo Swee Chin
Words + Sumaya Kassim + Hannah Habibi Hopkin + Arwa Aburawa + Shaheen Kasmani + Hamiza Adenan + M Ly Eliot + Hadeel Eltayeb + Heiba Lamara
Illustration + Design + Divya Osbon + Sabba Khan + Nuha El Shareef + Saira Wasim + Sonia Yekinni + Reiko Chen + Jasmine Parker
Photography + Nasreen Raja + Sara Foryame + Nasreen Shaikh Jamal Al Lail + Sanaa Hamid
Conversation + Laal Boutique + Lonely Londoners + Media DIversified + Madras Cafe
Whether drawing to discover, record, instruct or just pass time, the process of drawing is one that most people are familiar with but few take seriously. In our third issue, we take a look at artists and individuals who have approached drawing with great curiosity, passion and commitment. Whether using their skills to weave intricate stories or raise awareness about important issues, these artist continue an ancient tradition of seeing the world around them and translating it in their own lines.
Interview Sofia Niazi
Zoe Taylor channels inky film-noir to create striking improvised illustrations of women possessing mysterious intent and purpose. She speaks about discovering drawing, harnessing drama and the possibilities of storytelling. + What is drawing? It’s not easy to define but for me it’s about making marks on a surface to visualize or suggest something. + You’ve been working as an illustrator for some time now. How did you get into it? I’ve always enjoyed drawing but I didn’t have any understanding about what illustration was or could be until I took a foundation course, which I enrolled on just for fun as a kind of gap year – I was all set to start a masters in Social Anthropology afterwards. But during that time I realized that all of my drawings were narrative based and it was great to discover that there was actually a discipline where you could explore that. So I went on to study illustration instead and eventually started getting some commissions. + Are stories and sequences something that you are naturally drawn to? I do really like drama and theatricality and stories that are ambiguous and open – ended. I don’t really know where it comes from as I’ve never been a big reader of fiction or comics. My mum teaches drama and used to bring me along to all of her classes when I was very young. We’d always have to improvise and make up stories as we acted them out, so maybe it started there. + Does text play any role in your process? Whenever I’ve tried putting text with my personal drawings, it always seems to detract from them and I end up scribbling it out. But I’ve shaped stories around phrases from song lyrics or bits of dialogue, and I tend to write out my stories before I draw them so writing is often a part of the process. When I’m working on commissions the drawings normally have to relate to a text.
+ When starting a new piece of work what sources do you draw influence from? I find music and film inspiring. I always want the drawing to suggest a particular atmosphere – that’s the main thing and then I gather loads of photographs. I often use film stills or photographs as a starting point. + I was surprised to learn that you did a lot of fashion illustration – was it a natural progression or something you have had to adapt to suit your way of working? It was really unexpected – I think all of the commissions I received after graduating were fashion related so it just happened (although I approached AnOther magazine myself, offering to do a kind of comic strip for their website). They asked me to do fashion illustrations instead but they wanted the drawings to suggest stories. Coming up with the ideas was easy but drawing them took ages; I re‑drew some of them so many times. When I make personal drawings I like to improvise and see what happens but I find it hard to approach commissions that way; I try to control everything. I’d do things a bit differently now but at the time I just saw it as a chance to explore some mini narratives I didn’t really think of it as fashion illustration. + Women feature quite heavily in your work. What sort of women and female narratives most interest you? Over the years, fairy-tale heroines, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and film noir women have been influences. Probably stories in which women experience some kind of tension or danger or extreme feeling interest me most. I like ‘woman in peril’ narratives. Directors like David Lynch and Rainer Werner Fassbinder have explored this theme in interesting ways but you also find it in horror films, melodramas and thrillers – I think most of my favourite films follow this kind of story. I also like the romantic narratives performed by groups like the Ronettes or the Shangri Las where all the feeling is so heightened.
+ Where is your favourite place to draw? Probably at my desk at home. I don’t go out sketching much. + You use pencil a lot in your illustrations; what quality attracts you to it? I like the directness and expressive qualities of pencil on paper and the texture it gives.
+++ It’s all about imagination; look at, read and watch as much as possible, old stuff and new. +++ + Are there any drawing materials that you experimented with that you hated working with? Generally I don’t like to draw on smooth, glossy white paper – although it’s fun to draw with pen on that... + What advice would you give someone wanting to become an illustrator? It’s all about imagination; look at, read and watch as much as possible, old stuff and new. Don’t worry about making your work fit with what’s already out there – focus on developing your own visual language and exploring ideas that excite you. Try and collaborate because working with other people gives you confidence and spurs you on.
Anima/animus series, Brianna McCarthy
Words Sumaya Kassim, Illustration Divya Osbon
Based on readings for her PhD research, Sumaya Kassim writes on recognising the legacy of Claudia Jones and debts owed to the radical, black political tradition.
Alice Walker, June Jordan and Audre Lorde, et al. saw their feminism as inextricably tied to anti-racism, anti-imperialism and Third World struggle. But what connects Claudia Jones to the tradition of these women? What spaces did she forge as a predecessor? What arenas of discussion did she open internationally? Claudia Jones is remembered as a “civil rights activist” or “the woman who set up Notting Hill Carnival” - labels that are more palatable than her dynamic engagement with Marxism and the Communist Party. If we remember her in this way, we erase what made her radical.
not only in the “Third World” but also for the poverty-stricken working class in “free” America. Her internationalist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist stance through the McCarthy era would lead to multiple incarcerations and her eventual exile. Claudia Jones was born in 1915 in Portof-Spain, Trinidad. In 1924, aged nine, she arrived on the SS Voltaire in New York City with her three sisters and aunt. In Harlem, Jones began to seriously consider the injustices of her reality, the racism, extreme financial inequality and violence of Jim Crow America. In a short autobiographical letter to a friend,
Claudia Jones wanted to change the world and she saw an engagement with Marxism as the logical method for doing so. She believed with complete conviction that Marxist-Leninism would bring about peace
she identifies several key events, locally and globally, as explicitly awakening her political conscious: her experience as a working class, black woman, and that of her mother who died at the age of thirty-seven as the result of the
dire work conditions she was forced to work under. Jones also mentions the Scottsboro Boys case, in which nine black men were found guilty by an all-white jury (after three separate trials) of raping two white women and
Shortly after, she suffered from heart failure and was hospitalized, diagnosed with cardiovascular disease exacerbated by her time in prison. The next year, she became editor of Negro Affairs Quarterly. Finally, in
variously sentenced to imprisonment or death - a false conviction. Jones joined the Communist Party in 1936, and threw herself into writing, organizing and campaigning for justice. She became Associate Editor of the Weekly Review, and the secretary of the Executive Committee of Young Communist League in Harlem - a year later she was the New York State Chair of the NCNYCL. In 1941 she became the Educational Director of the Young Communist League, organising and giving courses titled ‘Negro Women in Political Life’ alongside Lorraine Hansberry and Charlotte Bass. She then became Editorin-Chief of the Weekly Review and Spotlight. In 1947, she was elected Secretary of the Women’s Commission, Communist Party USA. All whilst under intense FBI surveillance. Over a period of four years, Jones was arrested and released three times. In 1948, she was arrested and imprisoned on Ellis Island: released on bail the next day, she was immediately assigned by the Party to tour 43 US states, reorganizing state-level women’s commissions, recruiting new members and organizing mass rallies. In 1950 she was, again, arrested and held on Ellis Island for four months. Again, released on bail, she continued to speak, write and organize, serving on the National Peace Commission at the end of the Korean War. At her trial on February 2nd, 1953, at the height of the McCarthy witch hunt, she stood before the courtroom and declared: ‘Your Honor, there are a few things I wish to say! ... I say these things not with any idea that what I say will influence your sentence of me. For even with all the power your Honor holds, how can you decide to mete out justice for the only act which I proudly plead, and one, moreover, which by your own rulings constitutes no crime - that of holding Communist ideas; of being a member and officer of the Communist Party of the United States?’
1955, she was imprisoned on Ellis Island and then deported to London on compassionate grounds. In deporting her, America attempted to forget her and until very recently it had nearly succeeded. Jones was little mentioned until the release of Carole Boyce-Davies’ groundbreaking book, Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (2008). Davies demonstrates brilliantly how Jones revised Marxism to accommodate the experience of the black, working class woman, who Jones recognised had the potential to be the vanguard of revolutionary action. This is explored in her famous 1949 tract, “End the Exploitation of the Negro Woman!”. She writes: ‘The Negro question in the United States is prior to, and not equal to, the woman question; that only to the extent that we fight all chauvinist expressions and actions as regards the Negro people and fight for the full equality of the Negro people, can women as a whole advance their struggle for equal rights. For the progressive women’s movement, the Negro woman, who combines in her status the worker, the Negro and the woman is the vital link to this heightened political consciousness. To the extent, further, that the cause of the Negro woman worker is promoted, she will be enabled to take her rightful place in the Negro proletarian leadership of the national liberation movement, and by her active participation contribute to the entire American working class, whose historic mission is the achievement of a Socialist America – the final and full guarantee of woman’s emancipation.’ It cannot be overstated what a remarkable individual Claudia Jones was, but it is important to recognise her predecessors, friends and collaborators who formed a wide network of fiercely anti-imperialist, anticapitalist, internationalist men and women across the Atlantic. Claudia Jones cannot be written about without mentioning her
works with the ‘Sojourners for Truth and Justice’, a short-lived radical black women’s organisation which campaigned against imperialism, racism and sexism. Named after the abolitionist intellectual Sojourner Truth,
instinctively knew what the Caribbean community in London needed. She worked tirelessly to inject not only a sense of political consciousness, but a taste of joy and comforts from of the homelife so many had left behind.
the fourteen black women (artists, writers and activists) who made up the group are perhaps best known for convening over 130 women from across America to Washington, to protest the US government’s attempt to imprison W. B. Du Bois. Claudia Jones was a member of the Sojourners, and publicized their work whilst she was editor of the Communist paper The Daily Worker. She wrote about the Sojourners’ Pentagon protests against the Korean war, and their demonstrations against apartheid at the South African consulate in Manhattan. In 1955, when Jones was imprisoned in the immigrant detention centre on Ellis Island, just off the coast by New York, the Sojourners were her primary supporters, speaking out against the McCarthy witchhunt. In America, Claudia was best known for organising housing for the poverty-stricken - a cause that she continued after her arrival in London, where Caribbean families and workers were often turned away from accommodation because of their race. In London, she cofounded the West Indian Workers and Student’s Association, as well as setting up the West Indian Gazette And Afro-Asian Caribbean News (1958-1964) - Marcus Garvey’s first wife, Amy Ashwood Garvey, was on the editorial board. Donald Hind, writer for the paper, emphasizes its political engagements: ‘It reported the Sharpeville Massacre and the Rivonia Trials. The names of Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Robert Sobukwe were known to WIG‘s readers – freedom fighters labelled by the British national broadsheets as troublemakers at best and terrorists by definition. There was no louder voice than WIG‘s on Commonwealth issues or on decolonisation.’ Entertainment was also high on the paper’s agenda: celebratory articles for Caribbean Beauty pageant winners, news articles on Caribbean writers and adverts on where to buy saltfish and rum. Jones
Jones also set up London’s first Carnival as a direct reaction to the Notting Hill Riots, and the violence and social discrimination of British racism. With London as her base, she visited the Soviet Union, China and Japan - tirelessly networking and writing to further her ideals. In 1964, she met Martin Luther King Jr. on his way to Oslo for his Nobel Peace Prize - her editorial feature of this meeting would be her last, and was published posthumously in WIG. It is still a time when men and women are accused and imprisoned, often without trial, for the colour of their skin, for the literature they have in their homes, and the personal convictions that they may or may not hold. In this sense, the many urgent questions and debates that were on-going in Cold War America and the world over remain: regardless of whether we align ourselves as Marxists or Communists, the spirit of anti-racism, anti-imperialism and internationalism that Jones espoused is something to be embraced, remembered and upheld. There is a direct debt to the radical, black political tradition - and to Claudia Jones for opening a space for creative expression, an arena for discussion and debate that returns to the question of the relationship between politics and art, and the embracing of a Third World solidarity and abandonment of national borders through our own “elsewhere” ties and beliefs.
Words Hannah Habibi Hopkin Two years ago something happened that turned my world upside down. It left me feeling like a ghost ship, wrecked and cast adrift. In that terrible moment of realisation that everything I had hoped for was lost to me forever, I did something strange, I reached for my phone and took a selfie. I don’t know what made me take that photograph of myself, as I was not in the habit of taking selfies but I took one. It was overexposed and unpleasant, and it was real.
Did I simply want a reminder of how bad I felt? Did I seek comfort and composure through this act of self-awareness? Or did I plan to channel my grief into my work, creating something new and hopeful from what felt like miserable failure? It was probably all of the above, and I know that I am not alone in taking a photo exactly like this. Selfies are so
to share this drawing with you, when I began questioning why I was so happy to publish this self‑portrait, whilst my selfie had languished in a forgotten phone, never uploaded, posted or ‘liked’. The Observer art critic Laura Cummings, another lover of self-portraiture, described how; “Self-portraits go further than portraits.
ubiquitous and easy to dismiss as narcissistic, amateur personal PR, but however averse to them I feel, there is definitely more to the selfie than that. Many friends have confided in me that they have also taken selfie style photographs in moments of sorrow, loss or despair but these are rarely shared, let alone touched up with Lo-Fi or Nashville. Once I had taken my own sad selfie, I didn’t actually look at the picture very often, and I didn’t do anything with it at all. Two years on, when I heard that the theme for this issue was drawing, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I found the photograph, held in the memory of my old mobile, and I sat down to draw it.
Whatever they show of the outer appearance — and they may be fanciful, flattering or downright inconsistent — they always offer a special class of inner truth, a pressure from within that determines what appears without, how an artist chooses to picture himself both in and as a work of art.” And I would argue that this can also be true of selfies. My selfie photo is no less meaningful, intriguing or considered than the drawing that came from it, so why not share it rather than the drawing? Why have I, and so many others, found the notion of selfies so particularly loathsome, whilst accepting more traditional forms of
My selfie became a pencil drawn selfportrait, and just like the original photo, it is not embellished and does not flatter. I have always been fascinated by self-portraits and the intimacy they permit. I was very content
self-portrait? One reason may be that the ability to constantly capture and publish one’s own image, only disconnecting for sleep, has led to an overload of indistinguishable and unremarkable headshots. In our world of
instant social interaction, where the superficial image is king, far too many selfies seem to have a reductive effect on the subject, simply to clamour #LOOKATME, #LOOKINGSEXY and little else. As a result of social networking it
unedited (our private face) or fraught with contradictions like a well-worn mask, trying to conceal a reality we dislike. When we take a selfie of this face perhaps we are looking for who or what we think we are; we are looking to
would appear that self-portrayal has become almost inseparable from the aim of selfpromotion, and more darkly, self-obsession. But must all selfie self-portrayal be consigned to the cesspit of duck faces, trout pouts and Blue Steel? Self-awareness and taking ownership of one’s own image is not always shameless narcissism; self‑portrayal has the ability to capture and convey an undiluted intensity of feeling and truth. Perhaps the act of turning my selfie into a drawn self-portrait stripped the image of the connotations that make selfies so reviled, and in my case made it more palatable for me to consider sharing. Recognising these connotations has led some critics to discuss the selfie in art terms- it has its own language, its own code that communicates something about the individual portrayed, more than just the visual image. The American art critic Jerry Saltz has gone so far as to describe selfies as a “new visual genre” in the world of art. Importantly, he also argues that ‘good’ selfies are more revealing than they are superficial, and that’s when they become “thrilling. And more like art”. “When it is not just PR” he suggests, “it is a powerful, instantaneous ironic interaction that has intensity, intimacy, and strangeness.” Whatever reservations I may have about sharing my own selfies, I really appreciate this argument. The most compelling selfies are certainly those that resonate with authenticity, and don’t seek validation. They may be conscious of your gaze, or even intended for it, but just as Laura Cummings described of self-portraits, in seeing these ‘authentic’ selfies there is “a frisson of recognition, something like chancing on one's own reflection[…]putting you in their position, seeing [the subject] as they saw - or wanted to see – themselves”. Almost everything we do is under the gaze of others. We all present our face to the world, whether it is genuine and
find something- whether appealing or offensive — in the face that stares back. Perhaps, and often on a subconscious level, that is why some people take so many- it is a search, or a coming to terms with our own identity. The rise and rise of the selfie may make many think of ours as a hyper narcissistic age, but art historians have also tarred traditional self-portraits with the same brush. And the perennial popularity of portraiture, and selfportraiture across centuries and continents, shows that our interest in our individuality and our desire to be portrayed is nothing new. Simply the selfie represents a key shift in self portrayal; our ability to be stylist, subject, photographer, post-production and promoter rolled into one. Selfies have extended to everyone (rather than just artists) the ability to record, perhaps indefinitely, who we are now, and allow, if not request, this record be read by others. Cummings eloquently described how “self-portraiture has its counterparts in soliloquy and monologue, as well as fiction and memoir.” It is a “love letter, mission statement, suicide note […] an obvious opportunity to put across one's side of the story.” The selfie shares this powerful potential. So I have decided to share with you that selfie I took when I felt like my world was caving in. This act of sharing is perhaps not as visceral as it could have been had I shared it that April morning, but ‘putting it out there’ for all to see is arguably the final stage in the creation of a true selfie. It may also be a kind of reconciliation for me: No longer concealing that sad face, supressing it, reducing it to gigabytes in a mobile memory card. ‘Selfie’ does not sound like such a dirty word, when you consider that it may be a very personal moment played out in a public sphere. In as much as a selfie may be affected, needy or self-important, it can also be courageous, unforgiving and honest. I might start taking more.
Warehouses, Sabba Khan
Words Tahira Jamil
Tahira’s mum often supported the family as a seamstress with dreams of one day being able to manage her own shop. At twenty years old, Tahira secured shop premises in South London for her and began managing a unique family-run Asian Bridal wear brand, Laal Boutique. “My mum spent her life bulk-stitching for English high-street designer brands to support us, while also building a local clientele. As a family I knew we had a pool of skills and expertise; all that was needed was the confidence to branch into being a proper business. The first retail shop we rented out was tiny, cramped and shared with a mini-cab service. Within six months though we expanded and acquired a lease for premises roughly ten times the size, just a few stores down the road. Our approach is innovative in that my mum and sister spent close to a year in Pakistan handpicking suppliers, fabrics, dyers, and workers with the cleanest handwork. When you visit the average South Asian clothing or high street shop you don’t usually meet anyone who knows how the outfits are produced or who produces them. We control the entire process in-house from design, samples, buying and dyeing fabric to creating the embroidery and stitching the cuts. The only aspect we don’t control is shipping, but I’m working on that too!
+++ Saving up enough to buy our own textiles factory in Pakistan to ensure not only quality control, but fair wages and accommodation for our employees was a real turning point. +++ Our relationship with our customers is fantastic. They spend hours with us for appointments, sample viewings, and fittings, designing their dream outfit from scratch. By the end of the process they leave as our friends, people we’ve invited around for dinner. The driving force was actualising my mum’s dream for her. She always worked so hard and I wanted to give a fraction of the same back. For the first two years we let the business grow organically through referrals while building up the collection. Growing a business can often sound so romanticised and idealised but the reality is tough. The best advice I can give anyone trying to succeed is patience. It can be long, ungrateful hours at the cost of a social life, but giving up halfway is a wasted opportunity. For me, commitment and perseverance, coupled with a trust in God and the support of my husband and family have helped me succeed so far.”
Photography Sara Foryame
Everything being built in Doha leads to 2022, when Qatar plays host to the World Cup. Sarah Forayme has begun the first stretch of an 8-year project to document the developed, undeveloped and the semi-developed in Doha until the World Cup takes place. Beginning with the communities of migrant labourers living downtown, to the visible changes to urban infrastructure, transportation and lifestyle, her work-in-progress bears witness to a city as it is revised and reshaped.
Interview Fatuma Khaireh, Photography Taylor Kay
Rianna, Pelin and Kareem are The Lonely Londoners, an art haus of self actualising artists of colour working as curators, creative directors, editors, micro-press and distro to capture the wave of potential this generation has to offer. OOMK caught up with them on their return from a 3-month residency in NY to talk about shaping a movement, shaking up the art game and taking ownership of Londonâ€™s diasporic streets.
+ Who are The Lonely Londoners? Kareem: We’re best friends from Jamaican and Turkish families who share research, influences, experiences and creative resources with each other. We each have interests in art
feel in 140 characters or less if we didn’t agree with them on Question Time that week. As much as we travel, we always come back. These grey skies, rainy days and stiff upper-lips are a part of the package. London is that cup of tea
direction, curating, the cultural DNA of fashion, visual art, film, DIY publishing and progressive literature. When creating dynamic, authentic spaces for our community and ourselves our approach is grassroots.
with a splash of milk, two sugars and brewed just long enough.
+ Why the name and how does it relate to the novel by Caribbean writer, Sam Selvon? Rianna: Selvon made it a priority to represent the underrepresented. He told the stories of working-class Caribbean immigrants and how they navigated through London streets when signs proclaimed ‘Keep The Water White’. We model ourselves upon this history. We resist and exist every day actively by claiming a city that belongs to us too. Kareem: His novel captures London as we know it; young London, immigrant London, racist London, hustling, dreaming London. It’s a great documentation of the early decades of a subculture that is still incredibly complex and something we are very much products of. Pelin: We all know the struggle our parents and we went through trying to assimilate in a new country without stripping away our own culture and identity. LL is about reclaiming spaces as our own, with no apologies, with no feeling that we owe anything to anyone. We have more to give than that which is given to us. + And what about London, how do you feel its influence? Pelin: From our logo to our aesthetic to the way we pick our gallery spaces - we are Londoners through and through. We love clean but gritty, honest but nuanced, saying something loud in a whisper. That’s the way London is as a city. You have to look carefully to catch something. That’s what we hope to reflect in our work no matter where we are. Rianna: London is the city where nobody will look each other in the eye on the tube but we have no issue telling an MP exactly how we
+ How do digital spaces inform your work? Pelin: Where would we be without digital spaces and the wide casting net that comes with it? We’ve made so many connections from a simple repost on Soundcloud, friend request on Facebook, a reblog on Tumblr and a retweet on Twitter. Rianna: We’ve made networks with people on almost every continent in the world (South America we’re coming for you!) all made possible by the digital. We’re the first generation to really grow up parallel to the world wide web and it would be odd for us not to utilise and command it the way we do. + What’s next? Rianna: We had an intense but fulfilling three months in NYC where we had our biggest and first international collaborative show, Queenies, Fades & Blunts, centered around the QPOC beauty space experience. We met the kind of artists that are hard to find; the ones who put their community first and that is the most cherished thing of all. And whilst in the States we co-produced a documentary with Javier Canaval-Saavedra that we can’t wait to share with you all. Personally and professionally the only way is up. We’re going to continue to expand the team and our particular practice of curating and creativity that demands inclusivity and innovation. Museum/gallery culture and what it means to exhibit art is something we’re looking forward to grappling with this forthcoming year. Basquiat said that he was “just tired of seeing white walls, with white people, with white wine” and so are we. Pelin: Just know that it’s no coincidence you can hear Clipse’s ‘Grindin’ playing softly in the distance.
Interview Aurella Yussuf One artist exploring the diversity of drawing is Phoebe Boswell. Her recent site-specific installation ‘The Matter of Memory’ at the Carroll/Fletcher (March-April) gallery was an immersive combination of large and small-scale drawings, animations, objects, audio and archival footage. Describing her artistic trajectory as an accumulation of tools necessary to communicate complicated narratives, Phoebe combines traditional draughtsmanship and digital technology to create charged drawings, animations, and installations that tell layered stories of ‘home’.
+ How did you transition into drawing and animation as your primary medium? I’ve always drawn. Even when I painted, I was just drawing with paint. It can be so immediate and instinctive but also incredibly labour-intensive, and I love getting lost in time and story when working on large drawings. There’s no better medium for telling stories, though I now use drawing in a variety of different ways. By the end of my undergrad at the Slade, I was making large-scale 2D installations, and carving shadow narratives into black adhesive vinyl on walls and floors. My work is concerned with the notion of ‘home’,
+ You inject a lot of dynamism into what can often be a static form. Can you say something about your creative process; how do you approach works of different scale? Do you decide at the start which parts to animate, or does that evolve as you work on a piece? Over time, I’ve pushed drawing in a number of different directions, so my visual language now consists of quite a diverse palette of ‘tools’, from hand-drawn animation, projection, detailed pencil drawings, to large scale charcoal murals. I feel it’s necessary to be able to say things in different ways because the stories I wish to tell are global, fragmented.
so working large-scale within architectural space enabled me to colonise it with my stories. What always seemed to be missing was ‘time’; I wanted to make the drawings move. So I learned, eventually, how to animate.
Most of my starting points emerge quite simply, through talking. My creative process begins with the root of an idea that I explore through gathering information. Based on real people, or communities, or customs, this might
mean conducting interviews, reading certain literatures, drawing portraits or immersing myself in situations. I play with all this new information in the studio, making things without perhaps
me now not to explore these issues as a way of perhaps defining my own position in the world.
knowing why at first. This can be disorientating and difficult, especially when you have to try to explain what you are doing to other people! But I’ve learnt that free-fall is vital, because further into the process, once the critical dialogue has caught up with the instinctual, it all starts to make some sort of sense and your work maintains that initial dynamism.
So many! I love the work of William Kentridge, Pippilotti Rist, Matt Collishaw; the audacity of the Chapman Brothers; the irreverence of David Shrigley; Zineb Sedira’s heart; Bouchra Khalili; John Akomfrah whom I was honoured to show with at Carroll/Fletcher; Barbara Walker’s draughtwomanship and soul; Kara Walker, Romuauld Hazoume, Taibamo and Paula Rego. And writers! Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Chimamanda Ngosi Adichie, Binyavanga Wainaina; pretty much anyone involved with the Caine Prize. I could continue for ages.
Once I’ve begun to navigate clearer routes through the work, I can become more defiant in exactly how and what I want to communicate with the audience. I begin to develop rough animations into more rounded, developed pieces, and make enlarged drawings of smaller working pieces. I start to play with projections, which I find such a magical thing. So much of my communication is informed by playing with projectors. I always try to keep the installation of all the various drawn elements loose until I’m in the exhibition space and can engage directly with the architecture. + Much of your work engages in various ways with complex histories, migration and identity. Do you feel a responsibility to address these kinds of issues in your work? I wouldn’t say I feel a responsibility to address these issues, except perhaps to myself. In the past, in fact, I tried to consciously steer clear of such issues in my work. I grew up as an expatriate in the Middle East and always felt myself a ‘person of the world’ and enjoyed the freedom of that. I didn’t want to be put in a box, labelled by race or nation state. Consequently, I didn’t really know what to make my work about. However, as I get older, I have begun to be more aware of my transient place in the world, and the consequent gaps in my identity, symptomatic of not really knowing what ‘home’ is. A tutor once told me that you make art to ‘fill a hole’, and it seems unnatural to
+ Are there any artists working today who you are inspired by?
+++ I’ve learnt that free-fall is vital, because further into the process, once the critical dialogue has caught up with the instinctual, it all starts to make some sort of sense. +++ + What are you working on at the moment, and where can we next see your work? I’m currently in Zanzibar gathering stories for a new body of work exploring belief systems, the spirit world, and how this can be exploited and manipulated. I will start a year’s residency at the Florence Trust in London in September and have an exciting collaboration developing in Nairobi too, which I can’t tell you about now, but is going to be hugely exciting. So watch this space!
A very short and personal history of colonialism and resistance
Words Arwa Aburawa
When I was around 8, my mother sat my brothers, sisters and I down, rolled open a map and said to us, “This is where you are from – Palestine.” She pointed to a village between Hebron and Beersheba. “That’s where your dad is from,” she explained, “Beit ‘Afa here in Gaza is where my family is from, and this is Jericho where I was born.” The map showed a long and thin stretch of land dotted with thousands of little villages, towns, family names and tribes. We looked at the flat, sepia-washed drawing and it suddenly opened up a door to an imagined
I was hooked. I spent hours poring over the world atlas at school but I couldn’t see the Palestine I saw in the map at home. My country was now split in two and there were just a few names Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Israel, West Bank. Where had my parent’s homes gone? Where were their villages? Why were their family names not on this map too? When we moved house, I carefully folded away the map of Palestine that had hung on our wall and I kept it safe, worried they may be in short supply. I stumbled onto maps again at
land where Arabs wore glorious robes and talked in classical Arabic, an ancient time of prophets wandering around Jerusalem, of war and conflict, refugees camps and our lost homelands of oranges and deserts.
university, but this time I studied how they were used to oppress, divide and control. The British colonised India by slowly mapping every inch of the country and using it to break up regions and alliances. They used the map to
say, ‘Look at us! Look how we cleverly mapped you. Surrender to our greatness’. The maps helped the British sidestep local figures and ensured everyone paid their taxes, a major bonus.
I was no longer seeing the world through the eyes of hundreds of years of colonial domination and to be honest, it looked strange. That was ‘power’ - the ability to deeply influence the way I saw myself, the entire
While I discovered the increasingly ugly side of maps, it was also the moment I came to know something else: that my map of Palestine was an act and an object of resistance, an attempt to remember what could be so easily lost- indeed what we had already lost. My map existed to refute all those maps that had so completely wiped my mother and father’s names and homes away. There are no good or bad maps, just necessary ones. Maps are an intimate and distinct product of the social and political structures that create them. One map that really brought that message home came tucked carefully into a copy of a New Internationalist magazine. I remember opening it up and just staring at it, trying to figure out exactly why it looked not quite right... Africa and South America were much too big and Europe was tiny - you could barely see the UK. I was seeing the world’s continents in correct proportion for the first time. Peters’ Projection World Map, drawn up by German historian Arno Peters, is not only more accurate, but offers a new world perspective. In a traditionally Eurocentric map, Europe, at 9.7 million sq km, appears to be bigger than South America, which at 17.8 million sq km is near twice the size. Africa is typically drawn as being smaller than North America despite being over 10 million sq km bigger. There was a time when maps looked very different. In the past, Arab cartographers drew maps with South facing upwards, like the Chinese, and Europeans once placed the East at the top and Jerusalem at the centre of the world. Others drew maps with no up or down, with the words facing inwards from the edges. The placement of South at the bottom of a map I discovered was a decision secured by Western cartographers’ obsession with Ptolemy, a Hellenic cartographer from Egypt, who had laid out the world with North at the top of the map in the second century A.D.
world. Often appearing as factual they are merely representions of the world, and in doing so the maps we make, the borders we draw and the names we take on are steeped in the power politics of our time. Maybe maps are more dangerous than they are worth. The dark and inevitable lines cutting through rivers, forests and desolate deserts that fracture our humanity into little pieces which we reserve only for those on our side of the border. Is it time to draw again and anew - or is it time to stop drawing all together? Maybe my fascination with maps is a product of my personal history as a Palestinian. I’ve often wondered if everyone has such intimate knowledge of their countries’ geography or if it’s only those of us who are exiled, those of us who worry that if we don’t remember the details, the name of roads and cities, then no one else will. There are those of us who are exiled and want to draw a path across oceans and land to see how we link together two sides of our identity. Despite all I know, I do feel maps can be beautiful. They show pathways, roads and rivers, towns and cities, and railway lines. Although I float somewhere above Europe, stranded between Britain and Palestine, I am mesmerised by the sheer beauty and information that they can carry. Maps of Buxton, Berlin and British-Mandate Palestine; maps where Arabia still exists and the USSR hasn’t crumbled along with the Berlin wall. I guess in the end that what I love about maps is their contradictions. They unite and divide. They reveal and inform but they also lie and conceal. They map permanent surfaces but are in constant flux, new countries are written in, old ones are taken out, continents grow and shrink and their centre shifts to reflect its audience. What is a map but an artefact of the broken and beautiful nature of humanity?
Rooftops, Nasreen Shaikh Jamal Al Lail 34
Nasreen Shaikh Jamal Al Lail explores the intimate connection between space and identity. The Rooftop series, taken in her family home in Makkah, explores girlhood and open spaces in the city.
Graphic designer Nuha Al Sharif has taken it upon herself to collate examples of the rich and vibrant textiles traditions of Saudi Arabia in her recent research project ‘Unveiled’. She used her research to generate contemporary patterns that are able to appeal to today’s aesthetic sensibility while providing a rich insight into Saudi Arabia’s cultural identity. “Despite its richness and vibrancy, the garment and textile traditions of Saudi women has attracted little academic interest from the West in the past century. While the concealment of much of women’s clothing under the black Abaya may account for an apparent absence of such a tradition, the prohibition of portraying the living figure has meant that few illustrated records of the types of clothes Saudi women used to wear are available. In more recent times, demand for traditional Saudi women’s textiles has seen a major decline, as globalisation and westernisation of fashion has ensued, clothing like blue jeans and T-shirts have replaced the ethnic classic.”
Diasporic Cyanotypes, Sanaa Hamid
Words and Images Sofia Niazi
Videos of WOT (War on Terror) is a web project that uses drawing as a tool to collate and organise pre-existing web content about the victims of the “war on terror.” Using drawings of selected stills from video clips of family members, victims or campaigners sharing their personal accounts about the effects of the “war on terror”, the website acts both as a springboard and an archive. The images are all reduced to line drawings, distinguishing them as a group separate from the millions of other videos available online. While all the drawings are hyperlinked to their original clips, the drawn snapshots with their accompanying times provided act as a possible prompt for generating a new collective narrative.
www.videosofwot.tumblr.com by Sofia Niazi
Images Molly Crabapple, Words Sofia Niazi
In an attempt to collate and organise personal accounts about the effects of theÂ â€™war on terrorâ€™, 100,000 Names was a memorial project spearheaded by US based Syria activist Amal Hanano to honour the memories of those killed in the ongoing conflict in Syria. On March 14, 2013, Hanano lead a powerful 72-hour-long recitation on the White House lawn of 100,000 names of those killed in Syria. To coincide, political illustrator and activist Molly Crabapple made a series of haunting portraits of some of those mentioned in the memorial. The portraits have been shared widely online on different platforms, confronting us with a glimpse of the real lives of the people behind the statistics; they act as a haunting reminder of the devastating loss of life in Syria.
Amina Othman, was a second year literature student at the University of Aleppo. She was displaced three times during the conflict. Amina was killed in Aleppo in 2013, when her uncle’s home was shelled while she was inside. Rua Ismael, was eleven when she reportedly died from a bombing in the town of Salamiyeh on Jan. 25, 2013. After her death, Rua was nicknamed “Syria’s Snow White” on Syrian social media.
Made in America, Saira Wasim 44
Review Heiba Lamara
Thousands risk their lives every year to cross the scorching heat of the desert between Mexico and the US. Men, women and children, pushed by ‘economic imperative, systematic violence and family ties’ walk for days and nights with limited resources to reach North America. Those who risk the crossing face abandonment by their guides, rape, exhaustion, starvation and death. As if the physical landscape on its own was not enough to contend with, US Border Patrol use helicopters, drones, all-terrain vehicles and dogs to hunt them down and scatter groups, significantly reducing the chances of survival and arrival. Agua Pura by Kathleen Itch, a paramedic from the North of England, is a stunning documentation of the month she spent camped in the desert 15 miles north of the border, providing emergency medical care and direct humanitarian aid to people crossing the borderlands. Part travel-diary, part- essay Agua Pura is a first-person account of what it is to intervene and provide care ‘illegally’ in a space ruled by inhumane immigration policy. Illustrations, comic strips and thoughtful hand-written text tell a journey from the airport to the desert and back that is at turns informative and careful, humorous and horrific.
Interview Fatema Zehra
Samantha is founder of Media Diversified, a publishing platform and forum tackling the scarcity of writers and journalists of colour in mainstream media. Having grown in popularity since its debut, Media Diversified will be launching a subject expert’s directory to increase the exposure of writers' profiles this year.
Building the directory was the next necessary step to move this forward by bringing together subject experts in all fields, and making them accessible to media outlets. +++ “Being able to tell people’s stories is inspiring. I come from a film-making background and whilst I love filming, my favourite part of the process is editing – that’s when the story becomes tangible; it comes alive. I founded Media Diversified and built the platform from sheer frustration at the lack of spaces where Women of Colour could speak for themselves on topics such as race, politics, religion, culture and inequality, in a world where so many were talking for us. We need equity for people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicbackgrounds in the media. Visibility and a vocal presence is one building block in breaking down sustained structural inequality throughout our institutions. These structures need to be held accountable and only if we’re both campaigning from outside and at the table, participating in the discourse, can we force that change. Initially one of the hardest things I faced launching this project was the crude racist abuse I got on Twitter and via email. I have a folder called ‘racist fools’ that makes for quite interesting reading. More so, one of the most difficult parts of the process has been sustaining the momentum, especially when the bank account feels a little worse for wear, but I believe in our goals and want to see a change in the UK media landscape. My top tip for anyone pursuing a project that they’re passionate about: find and work with people who believe in what you are doing, share similar goals and enthusiasm. You’ll be able to support each other, as it’s far from easy. I hope the future sees other people build on their dissatisfaction with the state of things at present and act to try and change them. Whether it works or not, bringing people together in a movement with similar goals is empowering.”
Words and Image Arub Saqib
“Drawing is a supernatural process; the artist, a supernatural being. Their gift is otherworldly, their talent seemingly unattainable.”
Or is it? An obsessive alchemist forensically deconstructs evidence she gathers of her own drawings. Obsessed with her own masterpieces, she is in wonder at how she produces them, frustrated that there is no formula that can be replicated. She looks for patterns, repetitions, rhythms, routine and order in the performance that can be standardized, formulated, relied upon. That can be built on, instrumentalised, reappropriated, reduced or refined. To this end she subjugates herself to a harrowing series of introspective investigations. The process becomes the piece of art. Of the same — if not more importance — than the masterpiece itself. For it demystifies. It is the code that gives a way into the practice of the artist. Prototype of a Drawing Machine was the alchemist’s calculated attempt to cast a restraint on her own gestures. To initiate her scheme, she needed a mechanism that she could manipulate to extract the blueprints of the drawings behind a drawing. Glancing over her workbench, her gaze cast over an abandoned typewriter. She flung herself at it. Pulling it towards her, she jammed at the keys. She beat at them repeatedly for hours, until she found consistency. She found order. She found discipline. There was reassurance in the repetitive ringing of the keys. There was rhythm in the resonating bell at the end of each sentence. She would use this prototype to encode layers into her own movements. Layers like sound, and the same repeated action. To attach a different perspective to her own movements, another layer of meaning. However arbitrary that meaning may be, for now.
Untitled Sketchbooks, Pascaline Knight
Untitled Sketchbooks, Fatma Al-Remaihi
Interview Rose Nordin
+ What does the process of drawing mean to you? For me the process of drawing is like leaving this world and entering into another world. It gives me hope. I have to do it or I can’t live. Everyone needs something to live for.
+ How would you describe the cultural attitude in Singapore toward drawing as a career? And what is the comic scene like in Singapore in comparison to Japan? The drawing culture here is healthy...
Without which life would be worse than death, or zombie-ish.
healthy and clean. It reflects the attitude and culture here. Culturally, it isn’t difficult here but one would be better off being a designer. Personally, yes, it has been difficult because my drawing style does not reflect what the current market and trend desire. I’m not knowledgeable about the local comic scene, but it seems like comics that reflect the locals’ sentiments are in demand and more accepted. Japanese and American comics are very popular here, especially Japanese comics. As for how is it different from Japan... it is a different galaxy, from a different universe.
+ You were trained in graphic designed but pursued a comic career obsessively. What is the difference in these processes and what seperates them? I haven’t been doing graphic design for a long time but I feel that it is about conveying a message or trying to explain something with an image or images, to capture a viewer’s attention within that split second. Comics are about telling a story, so it’s like making a movie on paper. Comics are about turning the pages and entering its world a more gradual process. + Is drawing a type of magic? It depends on the viewers. Magic is about creation. Drawing is also about creation. + Could you describe your process from concept to comic? Sometimes the characters come first, sometimes the story. Sometimes just a sentence, sometimes just an image or a tune. I guess it’s like a puzzle, finding the pieces and fitting them together. Sometimes I work together with the editors; sometimes I’m allowed to do anything I want. + You have a striking style which you described as ‘rojak’, due to you putting so much of yourself into you work. How does your work reflect who you are? Rojak is a Malay term, which means “mix”. I don’t know who or what I am, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t know if I exist or if I’m just imagining it. I’m either mentally unsound or an alien but don’t know it. Or it could be because I grew up in a multiracial environment. It could be because I strayed from the mainstream and never found my way back. I guess I’m as messed up as my style and drawings.
+ Are you affected as a woman in a male dominated comics industry? I never paid much attention to that... although I did get this question quite often in Japan. I guess since I’m not a proper or an ongoing serialized comic book artist, I don’t feel professional, and thus I don’t feel intimidated or pressurised by the male dominace. + Who are your female heroes? In art, or life or music... Writer Diana Wynne Jones! + What are you currently working on ? I’m working on various concepts and ideas, but mainly I’m just trying to put food on the table right now while trying to get my work out there. I hope to make more comics and drawings and doodles. I hope more people will see and like them but it is very difficult. + How would you describe your creative philosophy? Get possessed.
Interview Arwa Aburawa
From humble and politically radical beginnings in the 1980s, the WOMAD world music festival has flourished into one of the most exciting annual events in the UK. The 2014 line-up included Youssou N’Dour, Sinead O’Connor and a host of talented and much under-rated musicians from across the globe. The Madras Café, which campaigns for land rights and provides unrestricted funding for community projects in India, is just one enterprise that uses the festival as a venue for its work. Beginning life at the festival in 1992 as a small chai stall, the Madra Café is now a 22-year old festival institution with a full menu serving over 3,500 people each year. OOMK caught up with organiser Vibha Osbon on-site for a frank discussion about the importance of food, how the café has evolved, and the effects of capitalist development in India.
+ What is the Madras Cafe? The Madras café is the fundraising element of Action Village India, which raises unrestricted funds for marginalised communities in order for people to do the kinds things and take the kinds of actions that other
development work in India wanting to give something back when they came here [UK]. They are very committed to what they do and to the kind of development that is inclusive of the most marginalised people.
funders may not be prepared to support; it could be political action like supporting the land rights of tribal people or building girls’ schools. Action Village India came about as a result of people who had volunteered or done
+ How did Madras Cafe get started? The Madras Café started when we came to WOMAD and were doing a little solidarity stall selling postcards – Bryan [husband] decided we should sell chai and samosas
because people would come to drink the chai and eat samosas and whilst they were standing there they might get interested in what we were actually doing. It was a way to get people there but then it became very clear, quite
but there is a process of “development of under-development” which Samer Amin, an economist, wrote about many, many years ago. This notion is understanding that there will be a trickledown effect, but the trickledown
quickly, that we could do more and we needed to do more. Now, we are the only café at WOMAD that has space for people to sit down, to feed them, to care for them, so it’s actually a restaurant in that sense. It’s not a takeaway where you take your food and move on – we want people who come through the doors to understand what we are doing. The hope is that when they’re sitting, talking and looking around they might understand that there is more to the Madras Café than food.
effect of development will always reduce people who are marginalised to a position of dis-enfranchisement. And that’s what happens in India in relation to development and land rights. When developers including the forestry commissions and the government make policies on mining, as it’s good for India, people who don’t have land right titles (even though they’ve lived in the forest for centuries) are marginalised and pushed off the land. So yes, we do projects that are about bypassing that capitalist link and fast-forwarding through to the more green route of development.
+ And how many years ago was that? This is our twenty second year… I’ve kind of lost track of time! [laughs] + What is unrestricted funding and why do you think it’s important? Unrestricted funding is important to us because our ethos is to support the most marginalised individuals who cannot enter into the system very easily as they’re always excluded from political processes. We also understand that development has to be from the grassroots; the people who are organising need support – they don’t need us to tell them how to organise, they just need our support to enable them to organise themselves. And so what we do is help to raise funds and allow communities to do what they need with it and we value their decisions and also local expertise and knowledge. + You’ve mentioned that land rights are a big part of your work. Can you tell us a little about the land rights movement in India? Okay, this is to do with major development and capitalism, which has its own motor- it’s like a machine that’s geared up to produce, and when there is an overproduction it can’t stop because that is not its rationale. Its rationale is to continue to create profit and I don’t want to give you a lecture on capitalism
+ As the Madras Cafe has evolved alongside WOMAD, it would be interesting to hear how you and festival have grown and changed over the years? Well, firstly, I don’t represent all the voices of Madras Café, I represent someone who has been there and watched it grow organically and so my personal view is that anything that grows organically has to change organically. It comes to an optimum point, and then it has to change. I feel that it [the Madras Cafe] has gotten so big for me that I sometimes don’t know who everybody is. So that kind of intimate relation that we had in the past has become systematised. So we now have cook’s team, we have front of house, we have the crew which does the setting up... Regarding the demands of the festival, I think it’s commercialised a lot. The site at Reading used to have a big solidarity marque where there were many campaigns and solidarity groups that would have a space and there was always some political discussions going on. The artistic events that I saw when I first came are not here as much or in sight. You used to have many performers and people doing acrobatics and balloons in the air managed by a harness – there were some amazing artistic events that
took place... but I guess they are having the same issue that we are dealing with at Madras Café but in a bigger scale – they have to adapt to the system and grow too. + With that in mind, where do you imagine the Madras cafe in ten, twenty years? We will have a review in September where there’s evaluation of what we do. So the answer to that is that it depends on what people want. I’m personally hoping that the next generation will step up - they’re already stepping up, children who were here as babies have grown up with Madras Cafe and some of them have taken on key roles. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea because it’s a pretty intense experience, it’s emotionally and physically very demanding and some people just don’t like camping [laughs]. + What sustains you? What sustains us is that ethos – we feel passionately that it’s about making sure that development is not side-railed. It’s easy to get funding from people for the demands of the system – the funders take over the ethos. We want this to be about the demands of marginalised people. We might not exactly agree with some of the fundamental politics of it but what everybody agrees with is the need to support the most marginalised people.
“I think food is a leveller as it brings people together. So do a similar thing but do it with the view that you will make people buy the food and not give it away. And the reason is that the takers need to understand that giving can be done in a very dignified way because when we give to people in charity, I personally think, we rob them, we disempower them. But when I work in partnership, I’m empowering them with access to knowledge and information which I think is important.”
City One and City Two, Sonia Yekinni
In her recent project Fabulous Generation, Reiko Chen set out to show the creativity, style and vitality of an older generation through fashion. Confronting the age old problem of people wanting to look younger she created images encouraging senior people to be positive, to achieve their dreams and goals through their own lifestyle and also to encourage younger people.
Words Shaheen Kasmani ‘After four years of teaching in a north London secondary school, the job I loved was taking its toll and I was getting itchy feet’ Inspiration is a funny thing. Unquantifiable, it will come to you at the oddest of times, and sometimes in the most awkward of places. Sometimes it won’t come at all, and sometimes you just have to pick up your pen or pencil or paintbrush and start working anyway, hoping something will develop. My background is in languages, literature and teaching. I hadn’t studied art post A-Levels but after four years of teaching in a north London secondary school, the job I loved was taking its toll and I was getting itchy feet. I started a weekend class oraganised by ‘The Art of Islamic Pattern’ as I’d always had a yearning to know more about Islamic art. A couple of short courses and a year’s diploma later I was granted a scholarship to study an MA in Visual Islamic Traditional Art. Taking a career break is scary, but sitting in a room of accomplished artists, not knowing how to hold a squirrel hair brush as well as some basic painting techniques, is very daunting. Apart from my dissertation on British Islamic architecture, and a few proposals and artist statements, my MA at The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts was a predominantly practical journey through various traditional and sacred art forms. The first year consisted of a range of modules including Christian icon painting, ceramic tiles and plates, Indian and Persian painting, illumination and sacred geometry; a whole array of skills and techniques not taught anywhere else. The second year was a chance to explore a chosen theme and focus on our specialisms. My own was textiles, and my theme was the celebration of female scholarship and education.
It must have been the teacher in me. There were many things that helped me on my way. The tutors were experts in their field, and patient and willing to give me the time and attention I needed. The atmosphere ranged from collaborative to encouraging, differing somewhat from the competitive nature of other art schools. Nonetheless, there were things I learnt the hard way, and am probably better off for it; namely, if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and if you don’t try, you won’t know. Practice won’t necessarily make it perfect, but it will damn right get you closer to where you want to be. Something I hadn’t accounted for was the amount of decision making required during the creative process. Taking an idea to its execution can be an exciting exploration of your imagination and your boundaries and what you think you’re capable of, especially when trying to stay true to tradition and its principles. It can also be really emotional and stressful. Even though my project was based around traditional art, it still felt like I was putting a piece of myself out there. Self-confidence, as well as confidence in what you do and why you do it, plays an enormous part in the creative process. If your art, your writing, your music, has a meaning and a purpose, and is part of your purpose here on earth, then you have to believe that the outcome will be positive. When explaining your project to a panel of middle class white men, tackling what feels like orientalist views, or rightfully rebelling against advice that is more didactic than guidance, let the little brown girl inside you sing and dance and be free.
Words Hamizah Adenan
Hamizah is founder of Odd One Out, a new independent Malaysian magazine, focusing on the topic of ‘people’. The promotional issue was distributed for free earlier this year in conjunction with Desiderata magazine Vol.3, and will become Paperleaf’s third publication.
+++ At this point, giving up is no longer an option, so I have to continue to power through and get it done even if it takes me a hundred years to hold the magazine in my hands. +++ “I started Odd One Out because I wanted to create something to call my own, a combination of my passion for printed matter and wanting to prove to myself that I was able to take on a project of this scale. Odd One Out was about focusing on everyday individuals and allowing them to express themselves and share their ideas, ambitions, and experiences. Choosing to centre the magazine on the topic of people was an instantaneous decision. I wasn’t interested in covering people who were
reported in other more renowned publications already, but in those who weren’t given the opportunity to tell their stories as often as they’d like. So I started somewhere familiar, my home soil, Malaysia. One of the key things I wanted to get absolutely right was how the people we covered were portrayed in the magazine. It was important that the photography had a flyon-the-wall approach, a casual, candid feeling inviting the readers into their world rather than creating a barrier. We are currently in the last stages of compiling all the content for the first issue.Ensuring I stay true to my vision has made the journey particularly challenging. The fact that I can’t pay the writers and the photographers that I work with yet makes it that much harder. I constantly find myself treading a fine line between sticking to what I want and cutting corners to accommodate other people. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was a matter of choosing my battles wisely, deciding what was worth fighting for and what was easier to let go of. I don’t have half the experience that my publishing heroes have – and its still too early in the process to be handing out advice. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt during this premature stage of creating Odd One Out, is that you must have a strong vision of what you want to produce. It’s impossible to make every single person in the world like what you have created, so at the end of the day, it’s important that before everyone else, you are the one who is satisfied with what you’ve done.
Words M. LĂ˝ Eliot, Photography Luke Walker
When deciding to become a vegetarian, M.Lý Eliot did not predict the eight-year journey that would take her through Vietnam and her own family history in search of a vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine. Nước mắm is like liquid gold extracted from the sea. It is made on the coasts of Vietnam
and 70s, and the famine of 1944-5, the result of the disastrous mismanagement of the French
and numerous countries in South East Asia by mixing freshly caught fish with sea salt and water in wooden or earthenware barrels. The juices ferment with the brine and become a pungent, translucent, amber coloured, watery liquid. Aged fifteen, I remember timidly telling my mum that I had decided to become a vegetarian. She was not happy. Later, in a calmer but more mournful moment, she asked whether this meant I wouldn’t be able to eat her Vietnamese cooking anymore. She pointed out that as a proper vegetarian didn’t eat fish, I wouldn’t be able to eat anything that included nước mắm - the fish sauce key to Vietnamese cooking. Unwittingly and unwantedly she had set me a challenge that would result eight years later in securing funding for first time Asian cookery writersmy travel expenses would be covered to visit Vietnam, to research a book about vegetarian Vietnamese food. As a commodity, nước mắm’s preciousness is comparable to the way wine is viewed in Europe. Just as the quality of wine varies depending on its territory, the best fish sauce in the world is made on a tiny Vietnamese island called Phú Quốc just off the South Eastern coast, close to the Cambodian border. It is here in the Gulf of Thailand that the fishermen only bring in anchovies from their nets, which produce the strongest, purest nước mắm. It is a staple used in most Vietnamese savoury dishes and is present at every meal as nước chấm - its diluted, sweetened, garlic-infused form. And yet, nước mắm’s significance is far greater than wine, with best quality versions containing up to 40% protein, numerous B vitamins and minerals. As historian Mai Elliot documents, the Northern Vietnamese government’s ration of around ‘half a liter of fish sauce’ per person per month, saw the Vietnamese through the food shortages of the American war in the 60s
and Japanese occupation. Good nước mắm in tiny amounts gives a salty and deeply savoury flavour transforming even the simplest dish into something crave-worthy. Imagine the forfeiture of being vegetarian presented from a culinary point of view. Meat was no loss as Vietnamese cuisine relies far more on combinations of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit than Northern European cuisines and is quite easily replaced by tofu, eaten widely in Vietnam. But the uniquely savoury flavour of fish sauce is essential. It is a binding ingredient, very difficult to replace. Early vegetarian versions of family favorites such as ginger stir-fried chicken or pork stuffed spring rolls would just not taste the same, would not taste Vietnamese. As I attempted to adapt old family favourites to my newfound vegetarian palette I discovered a deeper interest in food and cooking. My mother’s parents and elder siblings - a mixed Vietnamese and French family - left Vietnam and resettled in Marseille soon after the French defeat of the Vietnamese at the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ in 1954. My mother never really learnt to speak Vietnamese and was educated entirely through the French Republican school system, unlike her elder siblings who were raised with a combination of Confucianism and Catholicism in Saigon. Like so many children with migrant voyagers for parents, the most tangible part of her East Asian heritage that she retained from her mother — who in turn never really learnt to speak French — was food. I began dreaming about travelling to Vietnam myself, and I was spurred on by postcolonial and feminist texts I’d encountered at university particularly the work of Vietnamese American filmmaker and academic, Trinh T Minh Ha, and by Richard Holmes’ Romantic (auto) biography, Footsteps. I began by visiting some of my aunts in Marseille and reading Vietnamese literature,
particularly the work of Hồ Xuân Hương, a great Vietnamese poet of the late eighteenth century. Hồ Xuân Hương is part of a long tradition of female poets who wrote about food and sex, often at the same time, which in turn
me that her name had been lengthened to contain a Buddhist epithet) demonstrated the arts of using nước tương, a savoury, pungent version of soy sauce to replace fish sauce. She also showed me how to re-create crispy
dates back to oral poetry invented by peasant women working in the fields together. In late 2012, with these poems in mind, I jumped at the chance to apply when Asia House advertised a travel bursary for first time cookery writers on Asian food. I won the funding, and in September 2013 set off to Vietnam for two months with Luke, my photographer partner, to research a book about my findings. In deciding to pursue vegetarian cuisine in Vietnam I had in fact committed myself to a study of Buddhism, a philosophy I knew little about. Veganism is widely practiced by Vietnamese for at least one day a month for religious reasons. It emerged that the people I met in Vietnam did not share my mother’s frustration at my vegetarianism. It was such a different experience to when Luke and I had travelled together in France, where our vegetarianism was met with shock, disdain, and mutterings of, ‘c’est pas naturel’ by family and strangers alike. I began to think that perhaps my mother’s irritation at my vegetarianism was nothing to do with her Vietnamese culinary heritage, and everything to do with her being French. Our dietary restrictions were generally treated with immense understanding and respect in Vietnam. As long as I said the vegan Buddhist words, ‘ăn chay’, meaning ‘eat vegetables’, I never feared fish sauce even from the humblest of street stalls, where the vendors would immediately provide me with spicy soy sauce instead, or simply smile and say ‘khong’ (no) if they had no purely veggie offerings. Many Vietnamese friends were kind enough to introduce me to the best Buddhist cooks out of their families and friends to assist me in my research, and the Vietnamese embassy in the UK even gave me the contact details for a specialist vegan chef in Huế, the ancient imperial capital and Buddhist heartland of the country. Ms. Công Huyền Tôn Nữ Diệu Minh (my translator, Mimi, informed
textures using mì căn (fried gluten), to layer herbs and vegetables together and how to perfect vegetarian seasoning. The five dishes she taught me on that day were some of the most delicious I had eaten in my life. I was not prepared for the Buddhist abstention from eating strong smelling herbs, such as garlic and onions, which allegedly make the eater smell of sex and can fan the flames of carnal desire. I consider eating something to be done for pleasure and is part of living well, and some of the more basic Buddhist fare we ate at temple restaurants, pagodas kitchens and from devout home cooks could sometimes be a little bland-there’s only so much deep fried tofu and plainly boiled vegetables you can eat. I began craving indulgence, and was sated somewhat when we encountered French fusion desserts, like lemongrass crème brûlée, mango chaussons and coconut crème caramels in Huế. I think there is a little bourgeois French man inside me that loves dairy fats, and these dishes combined the richness of patisserie with the sweetness of Vietnam’s indigenous fruits. In these hybridized French classics, I felt a kind of affinity, and I made it part of my project to continue to search them out for the rest of the two month trip. The food in my cookbook will reflect my journey of food discovery and the mixture of influences in heritage; the French influenced Vietnamese cooking of my family, Western Style vegetarianism, Buddhist vegan cuisine and newer Vietnamese fusion desserts. My benefactors have watched with bemused but kind acceptance as what I set out to write evolves from a traditional vegetarian cookbook into a slightly odd patchwork of travel and family memoir interspersed with recipes and anecdotes- since, ultimately, I find it difficult not to tell an anecdote. M.Lý Eliot’s travel diary through Vietnam and the preparations for her cookbook can be found online.
Words Hadeel Eltayeb
The iconic image of Umm Kulthum, El Sett, is nothing new to you. It is fixed to the serial soap opera that comes on the Arab satellite channels almost every Ramadan; that face, the icy cool expression, chic in black sunglasses; the affected headshake, the silk scarf she grasps while she sings. You recognise the cultural significance but you never quite get it. But hey, you love the high drama and that practically all her songs are sad ones. The lyrics come to you in crude translation- you don’t understand it properly, so it’s always beautiful. This is why you still listen to the soundtrack from Nadine Lebaki’s film Caramel nightly. Then, in June you are reading Ahdaf Souef’s In The Eye of The Sun, and in it you stumble on the first verse of “Al-Atlal” translated in English. You are struck. (You also think it’s pretty bossy that Umm Kulthum would be on stage for an hour performing one song.) You watch the performance on Youtube, and dad walks in on the first line jumping in with commentary. “Ah yes, this was written by Ibraham Nagi, brilliant man. See there is a doubling in that phrase ‘fa hawa’, that is the beauty of it - you need to improve your Arabic so you can appreciate this.”
She would be sat regally on stage, ignoring the audience while the band played, only to suddenly stand upright before she sangdelighting the cheering fans. You are shocked to discover he knows all the words, and to hear him sing along. Your dad is not the singing type. But his eyes get soft, “Wa’Allah, there will never be another one like her! May God rest her soul.” Mum looks up from her phone, furrowing a brow. He is still singing in the kitchen as he makes the teas, and mum walks over and pauses the video“There’s enough of that.” You have started to consider your parent’s tastes, their inner lives and how their upbringing made them the people they are today. You underline the fact that they only ever speak in Arabic as the reason you feel you don’t know them intimately like you wish you did. You can’t imagine the Cairo where they met at university, although they took you and your sister once, thirteen summers ago. There was lightness in your dad’s step as he took you all around the city and their old haunts, keeping you out from morning till after Isha. You were both ten and fourteen, but while
your feet would be heavy and you would be falling asleep on the Metro home, he didn’t seem tired at all. One day you discover that your dad remembers practically every fiction and poetry book he’d
your parent’s love for mangos. As a child, they and guavas were the only fruits you couldn’t stomach- you were offended by the long trek to the other side of town to buy the juices that the ‘normal’ shops didn’t stock, and that always kept
ever bought or checked out of a library until 1983, after which he ‘stopped having time to read’. But then again, those weren’t the kind of questions you thought to ask. You try and pay attention when your dad offers you these oral testimonies, and they unfold like film reels in your head- him and his friends watching The Godfather in the Blue Nile cinema in Khartoum, the book stall in Al Souk Al Sha’baya where books cost 5 piastres. You are aware none of these places exist now. He didn’t believe that you had read ‘Season of Migration to the North’, the same way he didn’t believe you read the Cairo trilogy- but you always sought out translations of his favourite books. “It can’t be the same in English”- you give him your Penguin copy to read on the plane home. You associate this kind of tainted nostalgia with their generation, and with the music fetes that feature frequently on Sudanese cable channels. You know well the misty-eyed look your aunt gets when they play aghany alhaqeeba, well-known songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s that were later recorded on vinyl in Sudan’s golden era of musical production. You feel you see these songs the most on TV whenever some new political ugliness comes to light, but you keep this to yourself. You haven’t lived with your parents since you were sixteen, so whenever you are together, it is summer somewhere. Whether it is London, Morocco, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia or Sudan, they take time to seek out and carry home local fruit by the bagful. It’s essential. They have spent twenty years building a home by the brick, paying the bills and sending money home. But whatever you have or haven’t had, there has always been an abundance of fruit. They fill spaces with bananas, cherries, oranges, melons, peaches, nectarines, and plums in the way that people do flowers. Dad knows shop talk for every type of fruit in Arabic; Abu Soura (navel oranges), Abu Samakka (mangos shaped like fish). This July, you finally develop
the bits in. In Ramadan there were drives from Preston to Manchester on any given weekend to buy these cheaply and in bulk. Now, you can eat three at once with just a knife, until the juice runs down your wrists. Your uncle brings three bags of Abu Samakka from Khartoum and you spend the month working through them. This change in heart is not lost on Mum- “See habiba, not everything we like is so bad.” It reminds you of being in Sudan in the evenings, whenever the power cuts and people are forced to stop, sit outside and cool down. Everything is dark, and the sounds of crickets, chatter and someone cursing their way to the generator are heard clearly. Now, you sit together inside a London terrace house and eat. For a moment, you imagine away your current life and sell off the western privileges, for a life where the family spend their evenings this way. Through some happy occurrence you finally have a record player now, and you add “Al-Atlal” to your list of holy-grail vinyls. Another morning, dad comes into your room bemused, hearing Billie Holliday crooning on “Don’t Explain”. The quality is low-fi and tinny, and Lady sounds as if she’s in the room with you- “But I don’t understand, you could listen to this all on Youtube or mp3? I haven’t seen a pickup since the ‘80s. What’s the point?” You think about getting the right meaning across in Arabic. This has become an early morning ceremony, necessary time alone to drink cup after cup of tea. “It’s about how it makes me feel.” He stands in the doorway chuckling. He mutters a word in English as he leaves, it was either ‘fool’ or ‘fraud’.  * Translates as ‘Suitcase songs’, referring to old record players that looked like suitcases. People use the phrase to play on the idea of trying to go back in time.
We’ve devised two simple experiments to get you thinking, seeing and drawing. You Will Need + Pencil + Notepad/sketchbook + Tracing paper (or baking paper) + Watch Experiment 1: Memory It’s incredibly hard to draw things accurately from memory, even if it’s something you’ve seen a million times. Whatever your drawing abilities are, this test will show you that a drawing you have made from memory will look very different to one you have drawn from observation. Step 1: Think of an animal Step 2: Open your sketchbook and draw the animal from memory (don’t be disheartened if it looks very weird.) Step 3: Get a piece of tracing paper and Google the animal you were thinking of. Step 4: Draw the animal again but using one of the Google image for reference. Step 5: Stick the tracing paper over your original drawing and just marvel at the difference. Experiment 2: Seeing Sometimes you may draw something that is directly in front of you, but it will still come out looking nothing like what it should. This test will show you that the accuracy of an observational drawing can depend on how much you look at it and the amount of time you spend. Step 1: Go out with a sketchbook and pencil. Step 2: After one minute of walking stop and choose an object you see close by. Step 3: Give your self 5 seconds to look at the object and then turn around and draw it in your sketchbook (no peeking). Step 4: Now turn to the object again, give your self as much time as you like and make sure you keep looking at the object while you are drawing. Amazing right? Send us your drawings to be featured in the next issue, email@example.com.
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