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'Radical Whispers' sets off from St Pancras station

19OctFrom Maslah
By Abdul Hasan

'Radical Whispers' sets off from St Pancras station

Maslaha is delighted to announce the launch of our latest project - Radical Whispers. In partnership with Poet in the City, the project aims to provide a UK platform for Afghan women’s poetry, showcasing how poetry is used by women in Afghanistan as a tool to influence change, express dissent and find community.

There will be a particular focus on the ancient form of the landai, a satirical couplet, used by Pashtun women as a means of female resistance and solidarity in the face of limited freedom of expression. 

We launched the project with an exciting all-day event ‘Journeys’ on National Poetry Day, collaborating with the historic poetry site of St Pancras International to celebrate the role of poetry and landais in narrating journeys and producing knowledge. There were thought provoking landais printed on train tickets to be found in cafes and shops, whilst Alia Alzougbi, Deanna Rodgers, Laurie Ogden and Madi Maxwell-Libby enchanted passers-by with stories and poems, encouraging unsuspecting travellers to tell their own stories, reflections and journeys. Later in the evening, poets Anthony Anaxagorou, Bridget Minamore and Sabrina Mahfouz performed their outspoken poetry under the station’s John Betjeman statue, and Benin City closed off the evening with an electric music set. 

The driving question of the day was: ‘what would you say, if you could say anything?’, a question that will be guiding the educational and community engagement side of the project set to kick off in spring 2017. We will work with young people in schools and older women in community groups across London in a series of immersive workshops, exploring questions of identity, belonging, vulnerability and expression, drawing on the landai form as a teaching tool. 

Honouring the oral and aural nature of the landai form and women’s poetry groups in Afghanistan, we are keen to use podcasts as a means of widening participation in the project and broadening the reach of these poems. These podcasts will hopefully showcase new voices and narratives that are vital to refreshing the discourse on Muslim communities in the UK. 

We will also be collaborating with partners including Kabul-based literary group, Mirman Baheer, to identify and publish new poetry from women in Afghanistan, as well as commissioning writing from UK poets. These works will also feature in an interactive online exhibition alongside photos, illustrations, podcasts and audio clips of recited poetry. Importantly, this online exhibition is intended to start an on-going dialogue about issues around identity, stereotyping, Islam and Feminism that will be accessible and open to contributions in multiple ways, creating an exciting ‘global moment’ celebrating voice and humanity through the landai form. 

Check out our website - http://www.radicalwhispers.org/ - featuring beautiful original artwork by Raazia Batool for more information about the project, the history of the landai and how you could get involved!

Download a copy of the project brief here.