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Why I Feared losing my Virginity

Thursday, 4 May 2017
Artwork by Molly Chan
 I feared losing my virginity like a millennial 13-year-old fears social media embarrassment. A sort of fear where you know it’s going to have to happen at some point, so you brace yourself for the day and pray that it happens quickly, painlessly and shamelessly. 

The Steps between Them

Monday, 13 March 2017

Under a mild Sunday haze, they stood face to face with just four steps between them. 
He took one step forward and unveiled his love for her.
He uttered,
 "I adore you. I have done since the day I first saw you.
 I see nothing but perfection in you"


Saturday, 25 February 2017

I've lived in 3 different countries, 4 different cities and 2 small towns; but no matter where I go, or how long I stay away, Manchester always feels like home.


Friday, 17 February 2017

I had only known London in the company of  my family, during rushed day trips where my exploration would be restricted to purpose of the trip. I had never gotten to know London for the sake of getting to know London. So it was about time London and I got acquainted on a deeper level.

During a short 3 days and 2 nights' stay I tried to figure her (London) out. 
Like an expensive mistress, she rinsed me of my money and left me (a poor underfunded student) counting my last pennies. But her seduction was enough to convince me that I should return; and like a keen lover, I doubt I'll stay away.

On the underground one finds people that are too absorbed in their own lives to care about yours. They're too focused on getting from point A to B to notice your new fur coat. They're too engrossed in the music that blares into their eardrums to admire your new fringe. They're too far into their thoughts to express a friendly face of polite acknowledgement. But yet, it is their perfected nonchalance which creates a space of carelessness that provides a small-town-girl with the emancipation to be whomever she desires. She can take on a new persona (be unapologetic) , a new style (wear those loud trousers) and even a new identity; because in the city one is always guaranteed a certain freedom from judgement.

 In the night, those capitalist lights shine on the city and give it artificial life.

See also MANCHESTER: Series 1

Dearest Georgia

Monday, 13 February 2017

Not a close friend, or one that I have known a while. I met Georgia on a freshers night out through our good friend Kerys. This time last year, our interactions were not limited by distance (as they are now), and the times we graced Evoque's dance floor were not exclusive to special occasions.  Although I may no longer have a regular presence in her life, I still care for her like I would a distant sister. 

Last weekend we met again in Preston to celebrate Kerys' 20th birthday. This time around Georgia's spirits were low and rightfully so- on the 29th of July 2016 Georgia lost her dear Mother - Sharron Babrahani-, and so the light that I had gotten to know had dimmed.

Cancer was the blunt knife that cut short the moments that Georgia and her mother were to go on and share- from the festive and meaningful celebrations (Birthdays, Christmas', Easters), the life changing events (graduations, weddings, career changes), to the more uniquely intimate moments that one cannot describe, but can only experience when in the embrace of their mum. 

Like with every tragedy the ones left behind must find strength to live on- a task harder than you or I could ever imagine.

It is with bold bravery, courageous hope and a resilient heart that Georgia has decided to pay tribute to her remarkable mother by running the 'Great Manchester Run' for Macmillan Cancer Support. In doing so, not only will she be healing her own heart and soothing her own pain, but she will be saying a deep meaningful 'thank you' to the selfless nurses that supported her mother in ways she simply could not; she will join an international army of daughters, sons, husbands, wives, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends that fight in the battle against cancer.

You and I can help strengthen her crusade; our simple donations will not only aid her emotional recovery, but they will ensure that those who are currently suffering, and that those that may go on to suffer, a similar loss can benefit from the support that Macmillan give.

I see Georgia finding strength again, I see the sorrow concealed in the depths of her heart soften up and become easier to bare. I see her anxiety diminish and her emotional scares begin to fade. I see the sadness in her eyes lighten up and the spark behind them shine through. I pray her support system stays solid forever.

Cancer was the curse that sent her mother’s soul to sleep, and so may she forever rest in peace.

CLICK ON THIS LINK TO DONATE TO DEAREST GEORGIA.  All donations are welcomed and invited

A Guide to Self

Saturday, 4 February 2017

No one is given a guidebook on how to be themselves, instead we look for anything, sometimes everything, to tell us how to be ourselves. So this is me noting down the thoughts that have shaped my approach to 'self-love' and 'self-confidence'- sort of constructing my personal guidebook to self, if you like.

In my younger years of greater naivety, I was fooled into believing that one must aim to be anybody but themselves, and so I did. Amongst my peers I found a girl that best conformed to society’s ideals. She was ‘perfect’- tall, long blonde hair, skinny, athletic, intelligent and desired by all the boys. I remember making a conscious decision to be just like her. But soon enough I began to lose myself when I tried to become her. My identity became blurred when I dressed like her, I became unrecognisable when I behaved like her, I began to hate myself when I thought like her. So when the mirror no longer reflected who I was, and when my mind had entered the depths of a dark confusion, I accepted that I couldn't be her and that, in fact, I physically, mentally and emotionally could not be anybody else but myself.

And so I went, and am still going through, a phase where I internally question who I am in every sense. In doing so I get to know that internal voice in mind. How it controls my emotions, how it conducts the movements of my body, how it rehearses the words that come out of my mouth. That voice has no filter. It suffers no judgement from my surroundings, and so it is brutal, honest, raw and genuine. It is only sensitive to the emotions of those whom I truly care about. There is no escaping or ignoring this voice. Its residence is within my head, so, without choice, I take it everywhere I go. I am kind to it, I listen to it and I comprehend it. In its purest form, the voice is the realest me. To ignore it would be to ignore myself.

I continue to try and accept the natural curves of my body, the not to so symmetrical structure of my face, the stretch marks that hug my growing features and the faint freckle on my nose.I embrace the talents that I once neglected and the flaws that I have protected. In the privacy of my own mind, I am becoming comfortable with these parts of me, so much so, that I exhibit them like artwork and support them like I would a close friend. They make up my being, my person and my nature; so I have welcomed them with a mind that isn't clouded with social expectations, or one that isn't trying to uphold a certain image - instead, I'm coming to terms with them with a mind that is free in thought and authentic in articulation.

Great authors, and beholders of minds that I admire, have said that to love yourself is to appreciate, respect, to be comfortable in yourself and to be to kind to yourself. And well, according to Shakespeare, love is 'an ever-fixed mark' that is 'never shaken', so therefore to love is to love for every second, of every day (or must that only apply to romantic love?).  And although, right now in this moment, in a neutral state free from euphoria or depression, I am comfortable in myself and I am kind to myself, this moment is not one that lasts an entire day; but each day the moment of ‘self-love’ elongates in time, thus bringing me closer to myself.

I must admit that my theory on self-love is a selfish one, but perhaps it has to be. You see, I have observed many fail in seeking self-affirmation from a source that isn’t themselves, and when that source neglects and abandons them they are left with a hollow void- one that is now lonelier than ever before. So I must trust in my selfish theory and I remind myself that no man, no woman, no material possession or injection, can provide me with the gift of self-love, only I can.

A guide to self-love is one I cannot give you. I have no right to preach on such topic since I have not yet achieved it, 'self love' that is, nor discovered it- in fact, I challenge all those that say they have.

Photo courtesy of Ari Naziri

My Mother's Portrait

Monday, 23 January 2017

My Mother's Portrait. A piece dedicated to the strongest soul I know. Read it. Remind yourself that some do not choose to immigrate. That for some to immigrate is to leave behind the comfort of their heart. It is to seek better knowing your spirit may never settle.

An insight into a woman that did not choose to immigrate for the benefits that it would bring to her, but for the life that her beloved country could not provide for her children. Selfless in character and strong by nature. This is my Mother's Portrait.

Angola is where her heart resides, where her soul will rest and where her spirit will fill with genuine happiness. Britain is where she has held her family together; where she endured through a series of breaking points; where she has, and will, successfully see all three of her children through university; where she has become a grandmother to a child that is an undeniable reflection of her and where she, and her husband of 25+ years, have matured in age.

I should've recognised and appreciated her struggle from a younger age. From the days where the grip of her hand could have cut the circulation of mine, as we walked down our street, surveilled by some of our vocally racist neighbours who populated the small community we had settled in.

From the days where I'd often come home from school to find her sat on the edge of the sofa, in the discomfort of a cold atmosphere, gazing into a blank television with the home phone on her lap. A simple phone call, from a world she had left behind, was enough to populate the tears that I had witnessed slowly dry on the surface of her cheeks. Often it was an Aunt that begged for financial aid, to afford the electricity that rarely inhibited the four walls she called a home, or the medicine that her government neglected to fund. Sometimes, although infrequently, it was the news of a cousin that had passed away as a result of an illness that could have been cured, or a murder that could have been solved, or even prevented, in a state where justice and security is paramount.

I never asked her about it. I didn't know how. I simply stood at the doorway of the living room, absorbing the scene, recording her pain, engraving it into my memory, before taking delicate steps towards embracing her. Once the moment had passed, her unbreakable strength made it hard for one to believe that she had ever been that weak.

Over the years, the stills in my memory of my mother have become enough to publish a picture book.

Strength and bravery she knew how to depict, but affectionate emotion she knew not how. This was no fault of her own, for one struggles to express what they themselves have not felt (as my Father had put it so very often). The paternal love that all young girls can come to depend on was stolen from her from a cowardly man that had rejected her as his own. The maternal love that can guide and comfort a young adolescent was cut short at the death of her mother, and thus was never replaced.

But despite her inability to generically articulate her maternal affection, she loves me. This I have always known. Her overly protective nature told me so. From the way in which she'd make me wear at least 5 layers in the winter season (fearing I'd catch a cold), to how she'd scowled me for grazing my knees after failing to chase after my brothers; because for every ache, sickness or discomfort that I felt, she felt it a hundred times heavier- and this showed in her expression.

To settle in an unfamiliar part of the world; to leave behind all you have ever known; to gamble the entirety of your whole life away, for the dream of providing a stable, safe and guarded lifestyle, with the best quality of education, for your two young boys and even younger girl; to persevere through the most inhumane acts of discrimination; to hold out hope for better days; to be brave through it all; to be the glue, the mediator, to have held a family together; to never have turned your back, retraced your steps and returned ... that is the greatest declaration of love.

This is Your Portrait.

I thank you, I live for you, I love you.

It : An Open Letter

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Free flow and unedited'It' - An Open Letter

Dear -------

This isn’t about you- not specifically anyway. This is about that thing we confessed to maybe having had; this is about it; this is me attempting to make sense of it, to move on from it; and this is me concluding its chapter- one that is mostly blank, with few filled pages.

It was that nervous dance that occurs when you force two positive magnets together; a compelling attraction that is halted by the basic rules of physics. It was that thin smile and measly raise of eyebrows that happens when you lock eyes with someone you used to know- fearing awkwardness that would ensue if you were to engage in politely forced conversation. 
It was a foreign feeling, an alien atmosphere and an unspoken conversation. It was me playing detective, scrolling through social media, tracking your footprints, looking for anything to give me something. I know you felt it. At least I convinced myself you did, or, perhaps more accurately, you led me to believe you did.
It was never defined, but impliedly confessed through a sequence of messages that were irregularly exchanged. Messages where you fed me ambiguous words that were never specific enough to mean anything, but were just right enough to allude to what you knew I wanted to hear. Words that suggested actions which I knew you weren't going to take, but you knew that I wished you would. 

When I consider your perspective I acknowledge that perhaps the words you wrote to me were innocently careless, and carried no intentional implications or manipulations. And I can admit that my open bluntness and frank skepticism could've created the impediment that encouraged you to hold back and 'play it cool'. But to take the full weight of the blame is something I cannot do. 

Maybe it's the steel shield that I have built around my vulnerability that prevents me from believing that most of the things you said were ever genuine. If so be the case that I am wrong, then i apologise for portraying you in such a harsh light. 

But anyway, this isn't about you, or what you did not do, this is about it. And after years of harbouring it and waiting for it to happen, i conclude that it is exhausting and it is pathetic and I have nothing to show for it, so it was meaningless and now it must end. 

But note that I hold no bitter feelings, just a sour taste that will fade with time or replacement.

This is a Personal One

Thursday, 17 November 2016

'On a Friday night in a small overheated uni room, two fiercely argumentative law students discussed race, over a bottle of Pinot Noir. One of the girls was of Moroccan descent, but had grown up in Eastern Norway. The other, was of Angolan/Portuguese descent, but had grown up in Southern England. 

Despite both having a variety of cultural identities to choose from, their views on which one defined them was brutally different. One strongly believed in defining herself by her ethnic culture; the other hadn't made up her mind, but passionately refused to view her ethnicity as her cultural identity.'

- This was the setting of a conversation that plagued me with questions of who I am and who I should be.

Like opening a greasy can of worms, and allowing the creatures to spread like mould- questions of identity, culture, race, ethnicity and nationality infiltrated my mind, and, to this day, continue to inhabit my daily thoughts.

Not really White, Not truly Black, Not ethnically Portuguese, Not culturally Angolan and not legally British. Well, what am I- and more importantly, what does it mean to be any of them?

On a late Wednesday night (when I should've been prepping for a Public Law workshop) I procrastinated by watching Episode Two of 'Black is the new Black'. It wasn't until then, that I realised that I wasn't the only one who felt pressured to pick one cultural identity, out of the many on offer.

Nine minutes and forty-two seconds into beautifully produced documentary, Reggie Yates said something that pin-pointed what could be the root of my cultural confusion.

"You have that argument with your parents, where they scream at you and say 'you're not like your white friends'.

On some level they're right- because you definitely don't look like your white friends,

but on (another) level you are (like your white friends), because you've grown up with the same cultural references, in the same school and with the same accent"

This couldn't be more accurate and applicable to my teenage years.

During secondary school, whether or not my (at the time) culturally limited white peers considered me as 'one of them', depended on the topic of conversation and the socially popular view of the time. For the most part, I saw no  differences between me and them. But my parents were always quick to remind me otherwise when I'd (often) get sassy with them, and (commonly) 'mouth back'- especially my dad.

Although 'Black is the New Black' cleared the smoke of some of my confusion, the fire still burns. So, even though I remain culturally confused, I know for certain that to say that I am a mix of all, or a selection of two, is a far too simplistic conclusion.

Perhaps I have to go through the motions of continuously questioning my identity, to finally feel exhausted with the topic, and find peace in the fact that "I am a human being, and that is all I need to know" [Shahina Ahmed]

(Previously published on 'Lapp the Brand' and Sukeban)

Searching for 'A Banksy'

Monday, 10 October 2016

My earliest memories of Bristol had always revolved around measly Christmas school trips or excruciating family days out to Cribbs Causeway; so I made a point of exploring the city once I had settled at uni.

On a somewhat sunny day, I convinced my mate, Huma, to go on a 'treasure hunt' style search for 'A Banksy'.

With a quick internet search we found 'The Well Hung Lover' on the side of a sexual health clinic.

There's something different about seeing a Banksy in it's natural habitat. Nobody makes a great fuss, or stares intensely at the artwork to find it's deeper meaning; instead, casual Bristolian's nonchalantly stroll past indifferent to the artwork before them. By chance you may catch one take a quick glance- as if to acknowledge that it was still there, and not yet removed to be sold on.

Unlike the few other cities that I have visited, Central Bristol is a walking urban gallery. In-between the beautifully sculpted old city buildings, the characterless boxes of offices and the slick modern edifices, there's always someone's artistic expression plastered on the side of a tall wall.

'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' was my favourite out of the two we found. This graffiti take on Vermeer's mysterious 'Girl with a Pearl Earring', has more of a faceless innocence that creates a more captivating vibe.

We found this piece at the Albion Dockside after being led around in circles by Google Maps. 

Photos 1,8 and 10 courtesy of Huma Ahmed

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