Tell us more about you and what’s an average day like for Rozan?
Despite popular belief both my parents are Sudanese. There’s this crazy idea that lighter-skinned people can’t possibly be wholly African. This is a lie. Africans come in many (unmixed) shades. A number of tribes all over Sudan are anciently of a redder tone. The same exists for parts of South Africa, Ethiopia and Eritrea. My mother had a no-nonsense approach to Sudanese pride. We were sent to Arabic school every Saturday for years and the family’s annual trip to Sudan was mandatory
My works focus primarily on the arts & culture opportunity – and my DNA. I was born and raised in the UK and class myself as a devout London girl. My blood is wholly African and as a proud Sudanese woman my heritage is also tinged with Arabia.
My day to day rides up and down like the most intense of roller coasters, which is obviously incredible, but also a little exhausting. I can be in a board room one day then shooting films the next. Attending the most glamorous of galas one evening then sleeping in mine-fields the next. Running through fashion shows one week to organising fashion shows in orphanages. Speaking at Oxford one morning to running workshops with kids in inner city London by the afternoon. I really believe that my third culture context has given me the opportunity to literally be everything. And that I am.
Which achievements are you the most proud of?
In terms of proud achievements, there’s a few. Starting my own business was a real moment, knowing true ownership, to witness your vision come to life… that really does a lot for the soul. My work with the United Nations, Diddy, Dr Sebi, RWD, fashion in Africa, design in Arabia, and finally launching The Magic Drive. I can’t wait to bring the grand and glory of all I know in music and fashion to the children who need it most. There’s nothing more fulfilling for me then igniting human potential, inspiring confidence and establishing a collective win.
My only real setback is myself to be honest, and that’s a constant work in progress. Sometimes I just need to get over me, the little doubts I have of me. It’s a total waste of time. I’ve never really understood the plight of the hyper-feminist. Men have been generally wonderful in my career as have the women. I’ve crafted a strong circle of excellence and plan to keep it that way. Because that’s my choice. Of course overcoming hardships isn’t easy, but this is a big world, and there are many facing similar problems. Find them, discuss, and I am certain some kind of solution can be found.
What are the prospects like for Muslim women working in media, arts and culture? Do you think more needs to be done to encourage them to work in your line of work?
I think it really depends on which field you choose to play in, and your levels of expectation. I travel the world advising, curating, writing, shooting, building and speaking. Every experience is different by way of representation – as a woman, a Black British woman, a Muslim, an Arab, an African. It really does vary. I ran my own business for a long time so the pleasure of creating my own working environment was there. On a grander scale I do feel there’s a shift in place. What’s unfortunate is that it took this long.
I am globalization, and that alone is a grand opportunity. This is how I view myself as a “third culture” human and I feel more of us need to see that within us, and project ourselves in that manner of value. It’s pretty much guaranteed that most Muslim girls in the UK will had have multiple cultural references in their upbringing. Growing up with that multi-way of living was a crisis for me, and that may well be the case for other young women today. But, it shouldn’t. We are the added value in this global village. It’s time to embrace the fact that we don’t fit in anywhere, because we fit in everywhere.
As a British Muslim woman growing up in the UK did you encounter any difficulties because of your identity, gender and faith?
Always, like I said it was a crisis. I didn’t know where I belonged. Too Sudanese to be English, too English to be Sudanese. Too African to be Arab, too Arab to be African. I honestly felt at times like I had no home outside of my parental safety. My mother and father were staunch in their “Sudanese-dom” but always open to the British environment they knew they were raising us in. I moved schools a lot growing up, which exposed me to a lot by way of reaction to my various touch-points. In whiter schools I’d get comments here and there for being Black, while in Blacker schools it was more about me being Muslim.
As for the working world, I was the youngest appointed editor in the British publishing. My age was the difficulty if anything! As well as pushing a genre that had no name and generally no support. We all know that sound today as one of the UK’s biggest – grime. I feel as Londoners we’re blessed with a better openness generally. Grime wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that unique London energy that transcends all other ‘labels’. Or maybe I just refused to let the challenges overrun the possibilities
How can we go about changing the narrative for Muslims in the UK?
By owning it. Owning our spaces and owning our voices. I’d like to see more of that. Just more of our own within our own. I also feel its important we understand just how important it is to work together. We’re in a space of re-imagination right here and now. Minds are changing, and we must be more unified in overall messaging and presentation, goals and community. The only way to challenge an overall perception is to counter it with an overall truth.
I’d like to see more Muslim women, and women in general really, just come together more. This is crucial.
Can you think of one visual image or story of a Muslim woman in the media you felt that’s how Muslim women should be portrayed!
Honestly… none. We’re so naturally inclusive as Muslim women, so beautifully diverse and multi-layered. It’s hard… I don’t think our ‘image’ can be nailed by a single woman either? If I really had to choose one I’d go for Zainab Badawi. She’s “unexpectedly” Muslim, which I love, because it’s immediate shattering of stereotypes. She’s incredibly smart, a media powerhouse, and an amazing mother. Which I love even more.