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ELEMENTS 3
Photography: Jameela Elfaki, Beauty: Mata Labs assisted by Mandana Mirzaii, Styling: Ella Lucia assisted by Martyna Bandura, Henna: Ishna A, Nails: Fuego Nails LDN and Angel's Nailz, Set Design: Aliou Janha

AZEEMA magazine puts Middle Eastern and North African women in the picture


TextAnya Angert

Check out some of the most powerful images from the new issue, which is revolutionising the depiction of women of colour in the media

“Mental health was always something that was hidden. Alcoholism was really prominent in my community and no one ever talked about it. All I would hear is hushed conversations ending in, “Log kya kehenge”, meaning: “What would people think”. If we were going to ignore something that serious that affected everyone, how was I supposed to open up about what I was going through. Stigma kept my mouth shut.” 

This is an excerpt from A Mental Health Revolution by Jessie Brar, an article in the latest issue of AZEEMA magazine, a unifying platform saturated with candid interviews with the likes of curatorial collective BBZ and spoken-word artist Asma Elbadawi, as well as words and photographs that lend insight into the daily lives of inspiring yet unrepresented women across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

As an independent publication, AZEEMA champions diversity and representation as well as femininity, heritage and identity, challenging and redefining current Westernised beauty ideals. The magazine’s founding editor and art director, Jameela Elfaki is a London-based photographer. She explains: “I started AZEEMA over a year ago now. Growing up, I really wanted to see images of women that looked like me and I wanted to read stories about women who had similar backgrounds. It just didn't exist at the time. Years later I realised that there still weren't any print magazines exploring women from the MENASA regions, diaspora and women of colour."

The most recent issue of AZEEMA is called The Haraka issue, and it explores the essence of movement, embracing elements of activism, love, mental health, acceptance of identities, strength, change and the future. All of the shoots featured in the magazine tie into these themes, and relate to the core goal of improving representation. 

Below, Jameela shares five beautiful images from AZEEMA’s third issue, and lets us in on the thinking behind the empowering magazine that’s propelling the marginalised into the mainstream.

Elements 

This shoot was created to coincide with the article 'The Sun, Moon, Henna & Tattoos' written by Sunayah and Evar, which talks about the tradition of henna and tattoos within Middle Eastern, North African & South Asian culture. These crafts have been passed down over generations and through diasporas, so it was important for us to highlight its history. The henna in the shoot is a small reflection of the different but beautiful styles used across the regions. This beauty shoot was also inspired by the elements of the earth, specifically water, fire and earth.

Paint 

This shoot was slightly different to our others as it was a workshop and a shoot combined together. We decided to invite some talented and creative women and artists down to a life drawing class that we hosted. The class was inspired by the ideology that women from the MENASA region are often painted with one stroke. Often stereotyped or branded. The class, shoot and the women involved was a celebration of the richness of different ethnicities, cultures and religions within these regions.

Surfing Iran   

We chose to include this beautiful series in the magazine because of Shahla's incredible story and the stunning images that illustrate it. Giulia Frigieri shot these images of Shahla Yasini in Iran. Back in 2013, Shahla became the first Iranian woman to ever surf in Iran. It was an important moment in history as she helped to pave the way for so many more Muslim women in sports. She didn’t realise she was about to pioneer something that would change history for Iranian women the day she stepped into the water with her board

Anira  

Anira a free spirit, an unapologetic strong woman, a creative and aspiring DJ who aims to create party spaces for the queer community. Anira is a queer trans woman from Denmark with Moroccan roots. We shot Anira in London this year and these images go alongside a short interview with her where she talks about the spectrum of gender identities, discrimination, loving yourself and blossoming into the beautiful flower that she is.

Power  

Our limited edition cover star, activist and artist Saffiyah Khan, is photographed riding a horse at the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton. The shoot encapsulates what AZEEMA is about: strength, power, grace and beauty. Not only is Saffiyah a beautiful outspoken young woman, she's an activist for positive change so it made sense that she would be one of our two covers. 

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