Anja Saleh: German-Egyptian Poet and Designer Tackling Reminiscence Tradition and Heritage
Anja Saleh is a German-Egyptian with many abilities, she runs TAVII Studio, and he or she presently has a poetry e-book obtainable on pre-order known as “Quickly, The Way forward for Reminiscence”. She can also be an educator, and runs a inventive academy known as “Datteltäter Academy” remotely in Germany which is a fellowship that helps younger BIPOC content material creators within the video and artwork realm contributing to social discourse.
Egyptian Streets spoke with Saleh about her Egyptian and German identities in addition to her inventive aspirations.
Egyptian Streets: Inform us about your self and what you do.
Anja Saleh: I’m Anja Saleh. I’m a author, designer, and entrepreneur. My background is in social and political science, however proper now I’m really specializing in a inventive academy that I’m managing, in addition to writing and designing.
ES: When did you begin moving into poetry?
Saleh: I can not pin it right down to a selected 12 months or time. I do know that sooner or later, I began writing as an outlet, and particularly in English, as a result of no one might learn English in my household on the time. I feel that is how I type of discovered my method from writing, into studying novels, to studying poetry, and to beginning to write poetry myself. But it surely was very imprecise, I feel round 14 or 15.
ES: What sort of matters does your poetry revolve round today?
Saleh: I all the time name it a eulogy concerning the previous, current, future, reminiscence tradition, reminiscence politics, and the way they’re really taking on numerous area in our each day with out us actually being conscious of it. It’s additionally loads about love, however when folks hear love, we routinely take into consideration that tacky Hollywood romance stuff, and that is most likely the furthest away from the love that I write about. I’m unsure if you’re aware of the e-book All About Love by Bell Hooks, however that is extra the route I’m going once I discuss love; a few extra wholesome connection to ourselves, regardless of reminiscence tradition and reminiscence politics typically being fairly deceiving. This manifests in the way in which we find out about historical past and the way in which we’re made to view ourselves.
I feel additionally it is essential to say that I’m Egyptian however I grew up in Germany, due to the context – despite the fact that I additionally know that reminiscence tradition inside an Egyptian context is just not essentially one which makes Egyptians embrace or love their historical past, or learn about all of the nuances of the historical past. However I feel that this “displacement” additionally performs an element, that means me not being a part of the bulk society, however extra of what they name a “minority”. It’s all these imprecise phrases that I’m simply placing into citation marks as a result of I don’t simply wish to point out them to throw them in.
ES: Are you able to inform us extra about what you particularly imply by reminiscence tradition and reminiscence politics?
Saleh: I feel in poetry, it’s extra of how is Germany seen in German historical past? And the way a lot are we not being informed of our historical past, however folks know as a result of it’s a part of their direct historical past and direct oppression or privileges. It’s all the time this very linear show of achievements and improvement inside a sure context. So that you by no means have historical past of dangerous issues aside from one thing just like the Holocaust that you just can not overlook. It’s very selective. It’s about what is going to make a nation look good, and I feel in a German context, it’s labored extraordinarily nicely internationally as a result of individuals are largely unaware of the racism, the oppression, the police brutality, all this stuff which are nonetheless happening immediately, however we’re identified for good high quality and effectivity and punctuality.
Even the stereotypes we’ve immediately play an element on this as a result of 30, 40, 100 years from now, what we’ve immediately goes to be a part of reminiscence tradition. That is the place the title of my e-book “Quickly, The Way forward for Reminiscence” comes from, as nicely. As a result of we’re additionally going to be part of this reminiscence, and that is why “Quickly, The Way forward for Reminiscence” as a result of quickly sufficient, we’re going to be the way forward for this reminiscence that we most likely gained’t even learn about anymore, as a result of we’ll be lengthy deceased.
ES: You talked about your e-book, and also you’ve been writing poetry for years, what lastly prompted your e-book now?
Saleh: In some unspecified time in the future in each author’s life, I feel, one of many ideas is possibly I’ll publish a e-book sometime, or possibly not.
I used to be studying poems at a literature pageant in 2019, and this creator that I had referred to as a political activist and creator for a really very long time was current. She approached me and mentioned ‘I actually favored what you had been studying there. Would you contemplate publishing a e-book?’ My first intuition was ‘me, a e-book, Why?’ We talked about it, we met, she informed me about her e-book collection, which is in English, which is uncommon to search out in Germany, and that it focuses on authors of African descent and black authors. It was excellent. Funnily sufficient, I didn’t take any of the poetry I wrote earlier than 2019, as a result of I didn’t see it within the e-book anymore, so I’m fairly pleased the chance by no means occurred earlier than.
ES: Pivoting from the e-book to your jewellery design, are you able to inform me about Tavii Studio and the way that began?
AS: You’re primarily based in the place I work with the producers, I work with Cairene folks primarily, however our final couple of collaborations was in Burkina Faso. Tavii Studio was launched in 2018 and one of many causes was that my mother had been designing jewellery for over 10 years on the time. I’d all the time sit by way of the periods together with her, and once I was youthful, it was boring. Then sooner or later, I bought concerned and was tremendous cool and attention-grabbing and I began doing my very own stuff. And I bought actually good suggestions.
Then 2011 got here, and the producers that we’d been working with for therefore lengthy, who partially turned household, associates, had been struggling loads. So, me being younger and naiive, I believed ‘let’s simply work with them after which this ensures not less than their fee after which I’ll determine the remaining out.’ And it type of labored out. However clearly, my contribution is not going to feed their households for 3 months.
Then, additionally, this was a time once I began researching reminiscence, cultural reminiscence and politics, in a deeper sense, and extra emotional sense, all these layers of reminiscence. And at any time when I discuss to somebody they’d put on a lovely ring and say ‘my grandmother gave me this to me’ or ‘this was my nice, nice grandmother’s’. In order that they had been “hand-me-downs”, however actually treasured ones. Valuable metals clearly outlive us, and eager about the historical past of historic Egypt, we nonetheless discover gold and silver that’s completely intact, and may nonetheless be used as artifacts that actually outlive generations and civilizations.
This grabbed me extra into the historic context of bijou, but additionally with me discovering numerous pleasure designing it.
I began Tavii studio not solely as a web based store but additionally as a platform, I interviewed a number of folks for the platform that I noticed becoming. It’s to offer these folks area to only discuss what they assume what they really feel and never essentially all the time related to adverse experiences, however simply them and highlighting what they do.
ES: The place did the title Tavii come from?
Tavii is derived from Sema Tawy, which suggests the union of the 2 lands. For me personally, I’ve household from the Nubian areas of Egypt, after which additionally most of my household grew up in Cairo, which has loads to do with the excessive dam that was constructed. So, it is a biographical reference to have the union of the 2 lands united in what I do, or united in what I create, however then additionally the 2 lands as in Egypt and Germany as a result of there are two houses for me.
ES: How does your Egyptian and African identification contribute to your artwork?
Saleh: Nicely, I feel it contributes to my being in order that simply flows into the artwork instantly. I grew up extraordinarily near my heritage and to my different dwelling, and it’s not only a fantasy, despite the fact that, and I feel that is solely truthful to say there’s numerous most about experiences that I’ve by no means made however I lived by way of my mother with numerous issues, be it painful or joyful issues.
My mom is likely one of the foremost figures within the e-book, which originally I didn’t notice. However she is my entrance into each worlds. Her experiences formed my German expertise as a result of she got here right here as an immigrant who didn’t communicate the language, didn’t know the system, and whose schooling was not acknowledged on this nation. So there’s numerous issues that I needed to be taught from a really younger age. And I bought to know Germany from its ugliest sides by way of my mother, with out her wanting this, clearly.
However I additionally bought to know Egypt by way of my mom, as a result of that is her dwelling. She by no means left the nation till she was virtually 30 years previous, so my mother is like my glasses that I see by way of. I lived very briefly in Egypt once I was youthful however all I keep in mind is my household, not the nation, not the politics, not the historical past. It’s only a very agency a part of me.
ES: You reside overseas, and you’ve got a broader view of identification and residential that’s mirrored in your work. Is there something you would like that Egyptian readers knew, who maybe could not determine with their African identification as a lot or are a part of generations of distancing themselves away from that identification?
Saleh: It is a wound extensive open, truthfully. I feel I used to be simply fortunate to develop up in a family the place my mom mentioned she was African earlier than she was Egyptian. I feel colonialism is difficult simply to get out of the minds of individuals, and it hurts me how current it’s within the minds of Egyptians – and never solely Egyptians, clearly, however that is the context we’re talking in. Once I used to put on my head cowl in Egypt, folks would say I regarded African and I all the time surprise what they meant by that since we’re all African, in actual fact. I perceive that there’s a lot of Egyptians which have a descent that’s exterior of Africa, a European or Turkish descent nevertheless it’s all the time startled me to be requested this query in Egypt with a shock of their voice.
As a result of, how are you going to be shocked about me being African in Africa?
I additionally perceive that there’s numerous Arabization that occurred that made folks look upon Africanness as inferior, which is that this notion of internalized racism and colonialism in a really multi-layered method.
In the case of this, I’m fairly clueless about deal with this. I simply assume that as such a robust nation on the African continent, it could be great if we had been extra conscious of this and if this really discovered a spot in mainstream discourses, however you then all the time in a short time notice that the majority of those phrases and matters aren’t actually superior in Arabic. So you will have a discourse on de-colonialism in English, which is the colonial language. And for the Nubian and numerous Southern Egyptian areas, Arabic can also be a colonial language, however then we have to speak about that, too.
There may be numerous ache related to what I see. However I additionally realized lately that youthful generations are increasingly more conscious of it, and so they’re reclaiming extra, educating themselves and studying and taking part, and that’s one thing that makes me actually pleased and hopeful.
It’s a tough one, however I feel for the previous three years, Hanif Abdurraqib, African-American author. I’d even learn an Instagram caption by him and I’d soften it and assume ‘how delicate can an individual write?’ He’s truthfully one in all my favourite writers ever. There’s simply a lot sensitivity and his selection of phrases, and I don’t even know describe it.
Favourite nation that you just’ve visited?
I feel South Africa and particularly Johannesburg. Individuals are completely different, very completely different vibe and really supportive. On the finish of the day, wherever you go, it’s the folks round you. Usually, it was simply this loopy combination of very lovely but additionally very wealthy in tradition after which extraordinarily form folks.
Anybody who loves meals doesn’t have one favourite meals, I’m considering of so many issues. I really like my mother’s mom Molokheya with prawns, and grilled fish, mom-style.
Favourite place in Egypt?
Shoubra Masr as a result of it’s the place my mother grew up. I’ve come to like and recognize it increasingly more with age. The extra I examine it, the extra I keep in mind it, the extra I doc it, the extra I began loving it, to be sincere.
Favourite artist as a author ought to be Zadie Smith, in addition to Felwine Sarr, he makes music and he additionally writes and I simply actually admire what number of issues he’s doing and uniting them in only one individual. I like that as a result of normally, we’re being informed you all the time should accept one self-discipline, and I resist it. He doesn’t accept one self-discipline.
This article is a part of our ongoing initiative, Highlight Sundays the place we hope to rejoice completely different Egyptians from the neighborhood.
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