With literature being the theme this month, I hope each article will encourage you to discover your own literal expression. Exploring spoken word, theatre, classic literature and more, this is an invitation to step into imagined worlds, traverse politically charged ideas and create new ones. Writing can be used as a means of catharsis; a way to express ourselves and heal. And at the very least, literature has the ability to enrich our lives and offer us a greater sense of unity simply by sharing our stories.
In the Spotlight
“I just love words. As a child, I was an avid reader. I was quite lazy; I used to write stories in my head. So I’d hold the plot in my head and the following day I’d add to it and add to it, till I had books! My teachers were every encouraging they all said I had a gift for it and I just found it the easiest way to communicate.”
As a British playwright born in Somalia and of Yemeni heritage, Firdos Ali is, at the very least, interesting. As a child, Ali learnt English, Arabic and Urdu and French in an Indian school based in the Middle East affording her a rich cultural experience that makes a unique basis for her writing.
Ali writes plays that centre on the black, British Muslim experience and her first play ‘Struggle’ is in keeping with this, telling the story of a Somaliland woman campaigning against Muslim hate crime whilst being headhunted by MI5.
Her writing is raw, edgy and gritty in a way that reflects her unapologetic nature to tell it like it is. Ali’s youthfulness also brings a fresh and dynamic viewpoint to the table,offering us, as a viewer, a chance to step into the world we may otherwise never know. Ali says she was motivated to write plays that told the stories of the world which she inhabited, the world which was unrepresented in the mainstream and to all intents and purposes, invisible.
With plays under her belt, Ali has managed to change that reality and encouraged a more liberal perception of her narrative and others like it. Ali has made a name for herself in literary circles and created a space for greater dialogue between cultures on the world stage.
“I think being black British and Muslim, there was just so much bubbling inside me that I just felt I couldn’t go ranting and raving around socially, at work… the stage is the perfect place to make people laugh and feel uncomfortable and also it is a chance to shed some light on certain communities in Britain…”
Poetry Layla Rodrigues
It is not very often that I leave the art to speak for itself. But, there is an exception to every rule. Layla Rodrigues is a woman after my own heart. Her poetry resonates with me deeply and reminds me of the narratives woven through the experiences of my peers in bygone years. If I were to describe succinctly how her work moves me, it would be through the metaphor of a seed. It is laden with potential which only proves itself, with patience, over time.
because in the midst of this pain
there is a reason to live
and allow anxiety to leave your mind
because today is not the day the world ends…….
it’s time to find you
live for today
don’t grieve about the worries of tomorrow
Instead, lift your hands up
And scream Ya Allah hold me
for surely he will answer you
for surely he will provide for you, food, clothing and shelter
For He is Al Razzaq
He is the giver of gifts
The One who loves His creation
And is full of mercy
For He is Ar-Rahman
He will take away your sorrow
For He is Al-Jabbar
You come from a lineage of lionesses
dig deep and find the strength
that has been passed on through generations
Feel the pain
but don’t allow it to consume you
don’t allow it to destroy you
Turn to Al Malik
For He is in charge of everything
focus on the things that are amazing around you
breathe for your children
for they need you
because Al-Wadud stands with you
You see Al-Wakeel has never deserted you
Al-Muhsi is just testing you
so that Al-Hadi can bring about what is better for you
Allow Ar-Rashid’s plan to unfold
Just try to hold on
We have been told
that, As-Salam is with the sabiroon
So be patient and be resilient
For surely with hardship comes ease
Copyright- L.S. Rodrigues http://www.lsrodrigues.co.uk
Bunker Without Borders
Bunker Without Borders is a week-long festival of theatre that reflects the everyday world around us through art and performance.The venue for this avant-garde string of performances is the Bunker, a unique 110-seater studio theatre situated underground in London Bridge.
For this event, the Bunker is partnering with playwright Firdos Ali, and artists Mahad Ali and Rabiah Hussain.
Firdos Ali will be presenting two plays during this festival ‘The Wrong Way’ and ‘How I Feel’.
4 – 8 April
Bunker Theatre, 53a Southwark Street, SE1 1RU.
For more info visit bunkertheatre.com
My Favourite Things 150
My favourite piece of fictional writing is by the Senegalese writer Mariama Ba. ‘So Long a Letter’, written in 1979 was her first novel and takes the form of a long letter written by the protagonist, Ramatoulaye Fall, to her best friend Aissatou Ba.
The story, based around the death of Ramatoulaye’s husband, is a study of the lives of Muslim women in Senegal at the beginning of its independence from colonial rule. It is a study rich with cultural context, moral quandaries and errant life choices.
We start at the point where following her husband’s death, Ramatoulaye is observing her iddah [period after divorce or death of husband when a woman cannot remarry]. It is during this time, through her writing, that she recounts the major events in their lives together in a cathartic attempt at resolution. Whilst her lifelong friend Aissatou has emigrated to America, Ramatoulaye has chosen to remain, mothering twelve children and living in a polygamous marriage. In the two hundred pages of her letter, Ramatoulaye ponders over her life so far and on where she must now journey to. I was struck by the metaphor that death and life meant that both parties were travelling in opposing directions. Whilst her deceased husband had left this world, Ramatoulaye was now to enter it more prominently. Ba’s writing, although translated from the original written in French, is rich and poignant relaying her thoughts with depth and honesty. It is also interesting how the life stories of Ramatoulaye and Aissatou journey from similarity to difference and back again.
The novel won the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980 and remains a seminal text.
Do try this at home
Writing as a means of communicating is something we are encouraged to do more each day. With text messaging and social media, even those who don’t write for a living or deem themselves to be adequate writers will share their words potentially with thousands of readers, writing thoughts or feelings that will live on far longer than the experiences from which they originate.
Writing in this way can also be used as a way of helping us to know ourselves better and to reflect on things more deeply and rationally.
At the top of a plain piece of paper write the words ‘I am…’ Now write a list of words below it which you feel most honestly describe you. These must be your chosen words, not those of others. Perhaps you disagree with how others see you, or you have never thought about yourself in this way. What you may find from the simple prompt ‘I am’ is that words from your unconscious pop into your mind, words that you would never otherwise choose. Words that express how you truly feel. If nothing much happens the first time you do this then that is fine. Life is a process and it may take several attempts to uncover how you truly feel about yourself. Enjoy.