Talking at the Barbican

IMG_0813I was delighted to be invited to give a talk at the Barbican Centre’s Curve Gallery on 19th May. The talk was part of the gallery’s programme of talks around its current exhibition of Imran Qureshi’s work, “Where the Shadows are so Deep”. I spoke about Qureshi’s subversion of the miniature form of painting – particularly fresh in my mind after a recent visit to Lahore’s National College of Art, where Qureshi learnt his craft and where he still teaches. The paintings are beautiful but also unavoidably violent. The main focus of my talk was contextualising this preoccupation with violence: how does the perpetual threat of violence in Pakistan affect day-to-day lives, people’s relationship to their environment and society, and last but not least, it’s artistic and literary output? I’ll post the text of the speech in due course.

Islam and feminism

L-R: Humera Khan, Laura Zahra McDonald, me, Sabrina Mahfouz.
L-R: Humera Khan, Laura Zahra McDonald, me, Sabrina Mahfouz.

Is it possible to be a Muslim and a feminist? That was the central question posed for a panel discussion I took part in at the Royal Court on 31 October. Part of the theatre’s “Big Idea” series, the discussion was titled “I Speak for Myself: Feminism and Islam”. It’s a big topic and the discussion was wide-ranging and interesting. Also on the panel – chaired by Dr Laura Zahra McDonald – were consultant and researcher Humera Khan and writer and performance poet Sabrina Mahfouz.

After the event, I blogged for the New Statesman with some of my thoughts on the topic. You can read the full post here.

So, let me answer my own question: is it possible to be a Muslim and a feminist? Well, of course. As in any other large group of humans (there are 1 billion Muslims in the world, around half of whom are women), a huge range of views exist. Some of these half a billion women are not feminists; some are. There is a distinction to be drawn here between Islamic feminists who explicitly draw their feminism from their faith, and Muslim women who also happen to be feminists.