Words by Madeline Reid, Maggie Scaife and Eni Subair.
The ‘portraits’ section of our print issue has always been a space we’ve been particularly proud of as it allows us as a magazine to shine our spotlight on those in our community doing work we truly believe in highlighting. Throughout our different issues this space has been filled with a variety of faces, each tying in with the issue theme – including body-positivity icons in The Body Issue and change-makers in The Future Issue.
None, however, are more deserving of recognition and support than this issue’s selection. For ‘The Rise Together’ issue, we interviewed activist collectives. In our current media landscape, where our newsfeeds are swamped in new content every few minutes, the term ‘activist’ has been loosely adopted by anyone who’s attended a march, signed an online petition or had a rant on their Instagram live. While these actions are commendable, the performative nature of posting these actions online can feel equally as self-serving as they are well-intentioned.
We’re honoured to have spoken to these five collectives who have united through their shared passion to create real, positive and permanent change in their respective industries, for the benefit of the wider community. From expanding the spaces for brown women in literature and womxn in football to championing women in music and revolutionising the modern, get to know the incredible activists from our latest issue.
This quartet of women do exactly as proclaimed; the collective made up of Roshni Goyate, Sharan Hunjan, Sunnah Khan, Sheena Patel forged an alliance sparked from a mutual need to infiltrate the poetic scene and navigate their own narrative as brown women. Forming a Whatsapp group, the collective quickly began working together, writing poetry that would soon encourage and inspire a multitude of women.
Since their union, the women have managed to penetrate the scene with an incredibly expressive, raw book under the group’s eponymous title, exploring the various complex entities that come with being a woman of colour while navigating everyday spaces and sexuality. Following on from their successful stint at Edinburgh’s Fringe festival last summer, they went on to host a London edition of their sold-out fringe debut and released an exclusive crowdfunded zine, Jalebi Theories.
The zine, which was released during mid-November last year, boasts lengthier pieces of spoken word in hopes of diversifying the world of poetry. Jalebi, (referring to the South Asian sweet) is prominent on the cover of the women’s newest offering – no-doubt a further nod to their heritage – and while the zine shines a light on South Asian women, articulating their fears, frustrations and upbringing in a way that resonates so clearly, it also speaks to the current political climate.
Judging from their wildly successful 2019, 2020 is surely for the taking (& looking promising) and 4 Brown Girls Who Write are slowly chipping away at the archaic walls surrounding the world of literature.
Overworked, underpaid, and a complete lack of employment stability has slowly become the expected practice in the world of architecture. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the industry’s governing body since 1834, has long given a false sense of security to architects, promising its workers support and security. In reality, it has few safeguards to ensure that workers aren’t being exploited, and only protects those at the executive level.
For centuries this has been accepted, but a new generation of architects is reevaluating this tired (and frankly, unethical) mode of practice and revolutionising the future of the profession for the benefit of all.
The United Voices of the World – Section of Architectural Workers (UVW-SAW) is a newly-formed grassroots trade union for architectural workers in the U.K. As architectural workers, members of SAW collectively take action and fight the negative impacts of architectural work on workers, wider society, and the environment. A shocking 2019 survey by the British Architects’ Journal found the industry rife with institutional racism, sexual discrimination and harassment, a gender pay gap one third larger than the national average, and devious contracts that wave workers’ rights to a 48-hour working week. It’s going to be an uphill battle, but it’s for a future that SAW is prepared to fight for.
Remarkably, SAW is the first-ever trade union to include architectural assistants, illustrators, bim technicians, admin workers and office cleaners alongside architects, championing equal representation and support for all working in the sector, not just those with seven-year degrees.
Since forming in 2019, the union has amassed more than one hundred members. Meeting weekly, they host workshops on how to deal with workplace harassment, have spoken on panels with leading architectural company directors on abuse in the sector, and continue their campaign for sustainable modes of practice.
Spice Goals is a grassroots football team based in Brighton open to women, non-binary and trans people that was formed due to a severe lack of womxn’s beginner level football in the area. Founded in September 2018 by Jess Grant, Spice Goals is a team predominantly made up of creatives and care-workers. The team firmly believe that the community in a sports team is incomparable in the companionship and support that it offers.
Spice Goals aim to create a safe space for women, non-binary and trans folk to get involved in sports without the criticism and judgement of skill that is widely associated with men’s football while campaigning for more spaces to make this even more accessible. At the team’s core is a message of community, allowing marginalised groups to come together to invade spaces that are mostly dominated by cis men.
The end of 2019 saw Spice Goals help to launch the only womxn’s five a side league in Brighton, with more grassroots teams forming to get involved and compete. Spice Goals run a free open practice once a week that welcomes women, non-binary and trans folk of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to get involved.
Co-founded by writers Dani Ran and Grace Goslin, Femme Collective define themselves as a “multi-platform project dedicated to increasing gender equality in the music industry.”
The pair were studying Journalism at Goldsmiths university, presenting together on the campus radio station ‘Wired’. Fed up of underrepresentation within mainstream media, they deligated one hour a week to solely providing a platform for female and non-binary talent. However, this hour did not suffice and so in late 2017 Femme Collective was born.
As an ongoing project, Femme are set to release their fourth collaborative zine very soon following their past musical cover stars Girli, Nilufer Yanya and Confidence Man. Alongside their blog and regular club nights at venues such as The Windmill in Brixton, they have continued to grow with their increased success.
With Dani living in Brighton and Grace residing in London, the pair manage to balance the weight of their project amongst themselves, along with constant submissions and content from members of the collective’s active community.
Dani and Grace have just announced that they are proud to be partnering with exciting new music festival ‘Wide Awake’, launching summer 2020 in Brockwell Park, South London. A specially curated area on-site will house both ‘Femme’ and political zine ‘Hate’, a desirable collaboration.
Azeema represent four soul things; empowerment, strength, resistance and culture. These take shape in an annual print magazine and growing digital platform which tackles topics affecting womxn who are part of the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, diasporas and communities beyond.
Turning 2-years-old in November 2019, the magazine takes a purposeful, confrontational approach to journalism that challenges prevalent issues such as representation and diversity by encouraging those who struggle to join their inclusive community that champions their cultures without any borders.
Based in London, Jameela Elfaki is founding Editor and Art Director, Sunayah Arshad acts as Deputy Editor as well as organising their social media platforms and producing content then Noor Alabdulbaqi is Azeema’s Senior and Features Editor.
Protecting and celebrating the multi-faceted womxn of the MENASA region is vital to the creators of Azeema Mag. Their online community of around 15,000 supporters is tight-knit and engaged in both political and creative spheres. The team forge lasting relationships within the fashion and art world including the V&A with their anti-art school and being a key voice withinThe Face magazine’s community.
The team were also recently commissioned by Trippin World travel community and Nike London to produce and direct a short film created for their Shox – ‘Heritage of Tomorrow’ event which featured stories from different womxn exploring heritage in London.