“We need to get to a stage where Muslim women are visible in all areas of society, not because our adversity or a tick box exercise but because those women are doing excellent things.”
Hanan Issa is a writer, poet and spoken word artist who has been working publicly for three years but has been writing from the very early age of 6. Change the Script had a chance to have a conversation with her at the forum held in Cardiff, Wales. Issa touched on subjects such as self-identity and being a Muslim woman in Britain.
Growing up with a Iraqi and Welsh heritage means that she falls between the lines of ethnicity, and being in that place has influenced her work and the way she sees the world. On that, she points out “I have never fitted neatly into one of those categories, it made me challenge every category which is a journey I am exploring through my work.” She likens her position to a quirky love of hers; unicorns! “FYI I loved them before they were a big thing! But on a serious note, I feel the unicorn represents someone who is not quite understood and doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. There are a lot of unicorns in the world that exist within the different realms of society.”
On self-identity, Hanan describes herself as a poet, but explains that “it really does depend on the day and the mood [and] who is asking me.” Her answer may vary depending on personal agenda, for example, if a member of the BNP asked her, she would say “Welsh, and my Nan’s from the Valley!” But nine times out ten she likes to identify herself as, simply, a poet.
“I am a believer in when you see something you don’t agree with or isn’t benefitting people in the right way then you should try to change it in whatever way you can.”
When talking about making changes in society, Hanan quotes Toni Morrison, “in times of dread, artists must never choose to be silent.” As the co-founder of an open-mic series aimed at creative minority ethnics, she provides a platform for their voices to be heard and to showcase the talent which exists in non-white communities. She says, that one of the challenges she faces as a poet in the Welsh literary scene is that,“they have a lack of inclusion and while there are some changes being made, it does still feel like a predominantly white space.”
Through her work, Hanan is able to start challenging these areas and is enabling others to do the same. In doing so herself she hopes to become an established writer and published author.
“Something that is very important to me is pursuing Ihsan (excellence, in Arabic) in everything that I do or try to do.”