For our launch of our Women of Words creative section, Bristol Woman sits down with Shagufta Iqbal, editor of our new section and her sisters Shabana and Adibah to talk about feminism, creativity and sisterhood.
- Brief biog about yourself
Described as one of the most talked about performers in the region, Shagufta K is a powerful and brave voice. Her vivid thought provoking work beautifully transports audiences to a world where gender, race, and culture are examined through a fresh, passionate and exciting perspective.
Now back from maternity leave and having spent some wonderful, overwhelming and adventurous days with her two children, she is eager to re-establish herself as a writer and performer. She is currently working on her first solo show.
She has been performing and leading workshops for several years and has studied English Literature, Creative Studies and Gender Studies at Bath Spa University and Swansea University.
She is interested in bringing poetry to a wider audience, particularly through the use of spoken word, theatre and movement, and conveying what it means to be the embodiment of two diverse cultures. To be able to create an identity out of what are considered “conflicting” cultures. To provoke thought, and challenge the stereotypes that govern our media, and highlight how occupying a space between two spaces allow a unique insight and understanding of society.
2. When did you become a feminist and what made you a feminist?
I was 13. Being one of four sisters I was very aware of the difference between how men were treated and how women were treated at young age. Having so many sisters, I have realised over the years that there is no support system better than that offered by women, who have loved, encouraged and been there for me through my toughest times.
3. Tell us a little about what you are currently working on?
I have currently finished working with Director Elizabeth Mizon on a poetry film on the violating virginity “tests” experienced by South Asian women migrating to join spouses in the 70s and 80s.
I am also working on a solo show: In the ’70s and ’80s early Pakistani migrants to the UK would not send letters but cassette tapes back and forth between the two continents. This show focusses on these cassette tapes, that act as time capsules documenting stories of belonging, separation, longing, and making a new life in a new country.
4. Why do you think solidarity and sisterhood is so important?
Ummah is important in Islam, therefore sisterhood is as important to me as Ummah. I hate when women are set up against one another, I have witnessed this growing up between myself and my sisters, evil step mothers and sitters in fairy stories, on tabloid magazines: ‘who wore it better.’ We need the support and understanding of other women in our lives as role models and as mentors to succeed. And at the expense of sounding cheesy – for a better world.
5. What inspires you?
Poetry of course, writers, artists, activists, any one who praises there head above the parapet, who challenges oppressive narratives. And more specifically Arundhalti Roy, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Rani of Jhansi, Edward Said, The Last Poets, Amrita Pritam, Suheir Hammad, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, The Match Women, Mhairi Black, Lauryn Hill, to name a few of the many many people who have inspired, motivated and moved me.
6. What work are you most proud of and why?
Ooooooh, um, I guess my children. This is my opportunity to put into practice what I preach. I hope I can instill in them the hope and humanity that I address in my work. That I can learn from my own mistakes and ensure they are better people who will go on to make a better world.
7. If you could sit down with any inspirational woman and have a one to one over some drinks, who would that be?
Frida Kahlo, some good coffee, I would be set without a shadow of a doubt!
8. When can we see some of your work and where can we find out more about your work?
I have a website http://www.shaguftakiqbal.com for more information on my work and words, I also have links to twitter and facebook from there.
- Brief Bio about yourself
Shabana Kausar works for Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) on the PRIMH project, which is a national training, research and consultancy initiative that addresses the overlapping issues of domestic and sexual abuse, substance use and mental ill-health. She is a qualified trainer and an Associate Lecturer, specialising in addressing violence against women and girls. Shabana frequently speaks at and attends national and international events on gender based violence, sharing her passion for creating a joined up approach to supporting victims and survivors. She is the Director of The Sky Project, a charity tackling forced marriage and ‘honour’ based violence in the South West and is an advisory member of the Bristol Muslim Women’s Network.
2. When did you become a feminist and what made you a feminist?
I have long been passionate about women’s rights, but I think the point at which I became a feminist, was at the age of 8, when I went to visit my mum in hospital after she gave birth to her fourth daughter. I remember seeing her surrounded by various extended family members who were offering their commiserations and not congratulations, at the birth of yet another girl child. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this event very much shaped my passion to bring about gender equality.
3. Why do you think solidarity and sisterhood are so important?
Despite having achieved some great successes in gender equality, women are still very much considered second class citizens and we have a long way to go towards achieving equality with our male counterparts. One of the best ways to do this is to support one another to reach positions of leadership and help influence change for all women. But rather than focus on ways we can do this, I feel that society instead pits women against each other and encourages female rivalry – more often than not for male attention. Magazines have regular features on ‘who wore it better,’ older women are regularly replaced by ‘younger models’ in TV, and women are set against each other over a man, as we saw with the Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie story a few years back. This all contributes to a culture of suspicion between women, where we become fixated on the small details and don’t have the head space to think about bringing about any real change. Solidarity and sisterhood is vital as it can counteract the many negative ways women are encouraged to treat each other and it can strengthen our response to challenging patriarchy.
Adibah Iqbal is a young filmmaker, using media and the arts to highlight topical issues affecting her community. She has spent most of her educational life studying acting, directing and script writing. “I have gained a great insight in these fields and would love to pursue them further. Most of my experiences have been on stage, performing and directing pieces for The Brewery, Bristol Old Vic’s ferment festival, St George’s hall and other venues. However, I’m interesting in broadening my knowledge of the film industry and how it differs to stage.”
She is soon to start directing a film on feminism and young women. She is actively involved in the Bristol voluntary sector, working with Salaam Shalom Youth Council, Watershed and Icon Films. She believes that minority voices are not always represented fairly in mainstream media and that the best way to tackle this is to create your own media. She was part of the Creative Talent Lab in Bristol in February 2014 and a founding Young Journalist for Rife magazine.
Photography by the fabulous Nicci Peet