Supporting women and non-binary people within West Asia, North Africa, and South Asia, diasporas and beyond, the issue carves out a space to champion power over pain
Print magazine, digital platform, and creative agency AZEEMA has long celebrated the voices of women and non-binary people from West Asian, North African, and South Asian disaporas and beyond, showcasing those that are often left of of mainstream media’s representation of its cultures.
Besides independently publishing three print issues and a website since its 2017 launch, the UK-based collective has taken over the V&A’s Raphael Gallery as part of the museum’s Friday Late programme; hosted a six-month DJ workshop series with Foundation FM; and helped Nike launch its first modest swimwear line by spotlighting six muslim women in sport. Through each project, the collective aims to confront and challenge diversity issues – all while creating an inclusive and meaningful community-centred space.
Now the mag returns after a three-year hiatus for its fourth print release, titled “The Rituals Issue”. AZEEMA is turning the lens inward to look at the different cultures and identities which make up its community and, more specifically, the traditions that shape their lives.
“So much of our visibility is often aligned with trauma and pain,” says Jameela Elfaki, founder, editor-in-chief, and creative director at AZEEMA. “As immigrants and daughters of immigrants, it’s important that we carve out this space and celebrate our power.”
Inside the 244-page issue, the team explores a number of cultural movements through insightful writing and editorials from photographers, illustrators, and artists. In the two cover stories, Nepali artist Tsunaina shares her musical influences and the rituals which keep her grounded, while Eritrean and Ethiopian musician Rimon discusses accepting her roots to weave heritage into her artistry.
Elsewhere, Nada Sayed writes about the spiritual practices, sacredness, and history of Bukhoor scent rituals (Sudanese incense) in “Scent is the Food of Souls”. “Perfumery and incense remain a powerful tool in decolonising my faith, honouring ancestral practices, and communicating a language beyond time and words,” writes Sayed. “My scents are wherever I go.”
‘The South Asian community has influenced British culture in so many ways and being able to highlight just some of these is so important’ - Sunayah Arshad
AZEEMA’s deputy editor, Sunayah Arshad, interviews members of her own family –exploring the history of the British South Asian community from her grandmother's arrival in the UK after the 1947 Partition of India to her own personal experiences. “Growing up immersed in the Western world, I always struggled to grasp how both my South Asian identity and Western identity can coexist, so this feature means a lot to me,” she writes. “The South Asian community has influenced British culture in so many ways and being able to highlight just some of these is so important.”
Senior Editor Evar Hussayni also explains that a story about The Hecha – a form of dance performed by the Kawliya group, the Iraqi Roma community means the most to her. “The idea came from a faint memory I had of growing up and watching music videos where Arab video vixens would do this dance, and I would mimic it,” she says.
“As a Kurdish girl, life was hard growing up because of patriarchal traditions and expectations, but these music videos with the girls dancing the Hecha’a was such a contrast to that life. It was rebellious and hypnotising and beautiful all at the same time.”
Additionally the issue contains pieces about memories of Palestine with Nol Collective’s Yasmeen Mjalli, extracts from the clubbing community Pride of Arabia, and explorations of Welsh Somali roots with Ashrah Suudy. Visuals stories share the history and importance of Kohl, underground raves, and a portfolio of women and non-binary people from AZEEMA’s own London-based community, shot by Egyptian photograher Malak Kabbani.
‘I want (readers) to know that we don’t have to cater to the while or patriarchal gaze to create beautiful things or showcase our talents. That we can exist for ourselves’ - Evar Hussayni
The issue came together as the Western world was forced to recognise and respond to humanitarian issues across the globe mid-pandemic. “It means so much to see it finally in our hands, a piece of history and a documentation of such a special community and archiving who we are at this moment in time,” shares Elfaki.
Together, the team offer hopes that the issue will inspire pride in its community – that they feel seen, cared for, and celebrated. “I want (readers) to know that we don’t have to cater to the white or patriarchal gaze to create beautiful things or showcase our talents. That we can exist for ourselves,” writes Hussayni. “I think this issue captured that, and I think our readers will notice that too.”
Order “The Rituals Issue” here