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The Aram

with Tahmina Begum
Thank you to everyone who came to The Aram's first event in real life. You brought such light and created one of the best evenings ever. You're all real ones.

This is the last of the #SouthAsianHeritageMonth series, it's been such an honour to share these stories.

Shout out to Harper's Bazaar for recommending The Aram in the September 2021 issue. You're also all real ones.
Wherever I turn, it feels as though the Muslim world is hurting right now. Be it what's currently happening in Afghanistan, Palestine, Algeria, Turkey and the list of countries goes on.

What's more heartbreaking than watching people cling onto planes in order to get to safety? That amount of pain feels unfair and unfathomable for those of us who are able to simply watch. 
Polaroids from The Aram Live event
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And though I believe, even in the most desperate of times, pain is not the complete story, I feel it is our prerogative to not only help in any way we can but to also remember this: these people are more than the traumas we witness online.

That as children of immigrants, Muslim women, people of colour — or however you wish to identify, we protect our ease in order to help others. In testing times, we're expected to not be able to breathe but the wider reality is, you have to be able to look after you in order to be able to look after anyone else. And sometimes, when it's all so overwhelming, the only thing left to do is surrender and know that it got better before so it will again inshallah. 

With that in mind, I'm going to share the newsletter I specifically wrote for The Aram Live event (with a couple of tweaks) as it still feels fitting.
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"People tend to ask me why ease, why aram, when it comes to writing about women of colour and Muslim women. Why, out of all the messy, multi-dimensional threads and the myriad of experiences that make us, do I want to focus on our comforts?

To me, that’s a simple answer. It’s glaringly obvious. We are rarely taught to just be. 

Historically, women have been raised to be givers, to look after everyone else and although these empathetic qualities are factors everyone should aspire to be, that has meant we have been taught to take care of everyone else but ourselves. If anything, we usually put ourselves last. Do you even know what it means to look after yourself?

In addition to this, if you’re a daughter of an immigrant household, and especially the eldest or only daughter of an immigrant household, you will know that we are usually the pillars that hold everyone together. We’ve been taught to be observant, know when to push and pull and most importantly, how to please.

There's nothing wrong with this, as long as you also know how to look after yourself.

"But sometimes conversations like these can feel embarrassing or indulgent. Or worse, our self-care is white-washed when we all know that self-care, be it the ways our aunties and grandmothers oil their hair to paint their hands in henna or even make time for tea with others, is a part of our heritage.

Looking after yourself as Black and brown woman isn’t something new for us, what’s new is prioritising all the work, I know you all have done, on yourself, for yourself. Not for the goal of a relationship or an idealised version of yourself but because these bodies and minds are the only homes we will only ever live in so it’s about time we make those spaces comfy.

We also live in a world where being productive or busy is glamourised while simultaneously were told to look after our mental health; even if the intersections of who we are makes that very thing difficult.

So tonight, I want you all to recognise how much noor and light you bring. How you kept going when enduring itself is not a sexy thing to do in a pandemic. How before we rush back to reality, how whole, how wonderful and enough it is to be exactly who you are. Tonight, I want to celebrate the women we are and the aram we all bring to each other. Because how are we to really care for the world if we ourselves are yet to be replenished? Here’s to preserving our ease."

Praying for ease and mercy,
Tahmina

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The Aram is a bi-monthly newsletter that explores our relationship with ease and joy. In "Getting Aram With", I ask a woman of colour and/or Muslim woman I admire questions surrounding her comforts.

For South Asian Heritage Month, I'm going to profile South Asian women in particular as a way to honour our shared roots. 


#19 is Anisha Parmar. Jewellery designer and founder of Anisha Parmar London. 

The wonderfully apt designer recently curated 'Empowered Adornment', an exhibition on gold jewellery stories for Derby Museum in honour of South Asian Heritage Month. 

She's also got a new podcast out also called Empowered Adornment where you can hear incredible stories from prolific South Asian women on their histories with gold jewellery. (I'm actually on the podcast later this month).

Talking to Parmar felt like undoing a layer of my skin and being able to breathe. There's something in the ways in which we, South Asian women, carry gold jewellery with us that feels a part of our DNA; an instantaneous sisterhood when these stories are shared.

What's currently bringing you aram?

Journaling in the garden and my oracle cards! I feel both rituals help me to be in tune with myself and keep me in check for the days I need to be easy on myself.

In the morning, I start walking on the grass barefoot to my little garden swing sipping on my coffee, taking three deep breaths and doing a card pull for the day before and open my journal! I have to be honest I don't always get time to do this or feel up for it but on the days that I do, I am so grateful for it.

For South Asian Heritage Month, you created Empowered Adornment: Gold Jewellery Stories, what was the inspiration and intention behind creating this exhibition?

This year I have been looking at jewellery collected through journeys of migration as artefacts with the capacity to be carriers of emotions and memories; gold as a woman’s security within the context of historical and contemporary diasporas and adornment to express cultural heritage.


Gold holds so much relevant oral history and heritage, that I believe is absolutely crucial to the South Asian Diaspora narrative in the UK. Through my project, I aim to reclaim these stories and showcase the incredible jewellery pieces that most South Asian families across Britain have that are either hidden away or locked up in safes — and with them these stories. Launching the podcast series alongside South Asian Heritage month was perfect! 

How would you describe your relationship with jewellery?

I am jewellery designer and brand owner but never formally trained as a jewellery maker. I am self-taught so I make and combine and use my own processes and materials to create the sentiment of South Asian Jewellery in my modern interpretation. 

I have been obsessed with jewellery and adornment ever since I can remember. Growing up in a Gujarati, Indian, Hindu, East African and British amalgamated household, adornment decked our home from statues, idols, gold embellished paintings and ornaments. Wherever you looked there was a carefully adorned nook. 

I also remember going to the temple with my grandmother, surrounded by the roar of collective chanting and clapping. When it was our turn to go the front to have our darshan (sacred sight), I would stare doe-eyed up at the idols of gods and goddesses in awe of their dress however my eyes were always drawn to their jewels; the shape, colours, and how the glow from the gold lit up their faces.

With your family heritage spanning from Gujarat in India, East Africa and Britain, do you have a favourite memory associated with jewellery?

It has to be wearing my grandmother’s 5 finger hand chain on my wedding day. It was the gold jewellery handed down to me from my late grandmother that inspired the Empowered Adornment project. She passed away when I was 12 years old and being the only daughter on my father’s side of the family, I inherited her gold jewellery pieces.

It was these pieces that led me to design jewellery and piece her story together. The frustration is that I never had the chance to ask her about her pieces. This project is born through that frustration and knowing how important it is to document the stories before they are lost is what drives me. Wearing her hand chain on my special day felt like she was with me on the day and looking back she’s always been with me as my spirit guide.

Which pieces will you be passing down?

All of them! In the hopes, the next generation can love and appreciate the sentiments and stories behind them as I do.

Share the maya and shoutout any South Asian women you'd like to bring light to. 

The first South Asian artist's work I ever came across was
@thesinghtwins_art. @shalinapatel is an inspiring history teacher and co-founder of @thehistorycorridor that everyone should look at. @Sukhmanimusic is also an incredible upcoming musician. 
What's Brought Me Aram Lately

The Aram was featured in Harper's Bazaar September issue under recommended newsletters!!! Thank you so much to the Harper's Bazaar team and Helena Lee!

Recently written articles

What does ‘doing the work’ mean? An analysis of Leandra Medine’s response to race and allyship

In Sound: In Conversation with Nabihah Iqbal

Library
I always get asked for book recommendations by South Asian authors so here's a
whole list in honour of #SouthAsianHeritageMonth.

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam

Podcast 
Off Menu with Ed Gamble and James Acaster (esp the
100th episode one with Claudia Winkleman and this one with Julie Adenuga). 
South Asian Creatives To Follow:

beauty: @urgalsal_ @tasneemcosmetics
jewellery: @anishaparmarlondon
charity: @holudgap
cafe/space: @root25ldn
music: @joycrookes
writing: @helloiammariamkhan
Hola! I'm Tahmina Begum 👋🏾 I'm a writer, editor and creative consultant. The Aram is currently free to subscribers but it does take a labour of love to write and produce, so if you'd like to support, you can buy me a digital Ko-Fi. If you'd like to commission me for any work, feel free to check out my website

Images courtesy of @anishaparmarlondon (Ofilaye/Model: Anu Shankar. Make up by Studio 4.6). 


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The Aram · Location · London , London London · United Kingdom

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