Jo Nava moved to London from Denmark with her family 3 years ago. Since then, she has made her space on the corner of Tottenham court road, where she wows passers-by with her new style of busking. Using a loop machine and her laptop she is able to create new unique songs you usually only hear on the radio right in front of you. With this she plays her own music only, introducing us to a mixture of song and rap with lyrics that tug at your heartstrings and lift your soul as she inspires you to live a positive lifestyle.
How many magazines for Muslim women that have gone mainstream do we know? Not enough. I spoke to the editor of SAKINA magazine, Naima Ali, who stated that growing up with magazines like Vogue, ELLE and Seventeen- “you, yourself, feel as if you don’t belong because you’re not represented on those platforms”. Therefore the creation of SAKINA Magazine was in hopes to give young Muslim women more of a platform for expression, a place to discuss their personal issues and inner thoughts.
Naima Ali grew up in London, England and now resides in Malmö, Sweden. She’s a student studying international relations at Malmö University. Naima and her fellow editors started from scratch and came up with a vision. The creation of SAKINA magazine is a way of taking a proactive approach in what they believe it. Instead of dwelling on the past and questioning why mainstream magazines don’t feature Muslim women, they decided to create their own space for Muslim women. SAKINA is a word derived from the Quran and means “spirit of tranquility” and peace. With a compelling word like that as the name of the magazine, it invokes readers to understand what the concept of the magazine it.
The creation of the first issue took a lot of time and planning. Naima insisted that the magazine should be published differently from others. So instead of using a website or a blog, the group launched their magazine on a site called “ISSUU”. This is a interactive platform where you can upload magazines and flip through the pages as if it was a hard copy- exposing yourself to online communities. Anyone can access it. Naima describes the experience- “we thought that was really cool but it did take a lot planning, In-design and Photoshop. But regardless it was a fun experience. We would obviously want to try other things instead of limiting our issues to online.”
For the editors of the magazine, starting it from scratch not only meant needing skills required for different softwares but deeply thinking about what content to include. Therefore there was trials and tribulations to overcome in order to have a successful first issue. Learning the rudiments of a magazine meant understanding your audience and what they would like to read. Naima explained to me over the phone that the team wanted to make sure “it wasn’t a religious magazine” instead saying that “we wanted to give our viewpoints on various topics from a Islamic perspective”. That includes dividing the magazines into five categories: beauty, lifestyle: mental health, entertainment: arts and culture, fashion as well as interviewing influential people. Therefore the basis of the magazine is valued by what their consumers want to read.
Naima says that her and her team think to themselves “if we had the magazine growing up, what would we want it to include?” So that’s how they determine the content of the magazine. By touching upon topics that young Muslim women would want to know about so they can look at it and say “yes this is me, and i need this”. Overall it is important to “take inspiration from our audience and craft something that is as realistic as possible”. Currently the magazine only has one issue but the team said they would like to have a theme behind each issue in the future. Already drawing upon new ideas.
I asked Naima what makes SAKINA different from other upcoming magazines on the market. She replied that the main difference is that it is “entirely for Muslim women and we are sticking to a specific age group: 18 to 25”. As well as the demographic being for young women, Naima stressed on the importance of giving more representation to Muslim women of colour, especially black Muslim women. Saying “that is not to exclude anybody else, but we know in the media black Muslim women get the least amount of coverage”. This is essential as the magazine gives the readers a voice. Naima describes SAKINA magazine for their audience as a “safe space”, adding on that it’s “something that can make Muslim women feel like they belong considering most of the time they don’t feel included in society”. That being so, SAKINA is something that can “unite us all”.
So what’s the next mission for the team behind the magazine? Personally for Naima, she writes in the mental health column and her goal is help their readers speak out about issues – “I want them to know that if they feel like they can’t get the help they need because of stigmas in their community, here in SAKINA we know what you’re going through, we understand so don’t hesitate to reach out to us”. For the magazine as a whole, the main goal is to continue making Muslim women feel great about themselves. So instead of feeling like young girls/women have to pick out a bigger mainstream magazines, they can pick out SAKINA instead and see that it caters towards them.
It is 11:40 in the UK, 12:40 in Spain. Marcelo sends me a message, he is ready. A couple of minutes after that, I receive a phone call from him. He starts talking to me in Spanish in a kind way, as if talking to a close friend.
Then, we change into English and we continue with the conversation. Marcelo tells me about his childhood. He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1997. In 2003, when he was five years old, his family moved to Santiago de Compostela, in the North West of Spain. After that, he describes his childhood in a curious way: “I’ve been all my life having sight, like absolutely normal sight. Watching everything, skating, seeing everything around me…”
Marcelo begins speaking about the event that changed his life for ever. In June 2015, when he was 17, he started losing sight in his right eye. At that point, doctors did not know what was going on, even Marcelo was not aware of his own condition: “It was a pretty confusing month for me, because I didn’t know what was happening”. By November, he began to lose his vision in his left eye.
Marcelo keeps talking about his state and how doctors did not think he was going to be blind: “They told me my optical nerves were affected by a virus, but they didn’t know at all. It was just like a thought of them.”
After a brief pause, Marcelo tells me about his genetic disease: Leber hereditary optic neuropathy. This gene transfers from generation to generation,but it only affects men. The disease stars in one eye and then moves to the other “and then it gets worse”. He also explains that there are different cases: some people with this disease have a good percentage of sight and they are, somehow, able to read, but Marcelo’s situation is different:
He continues describing his life and how in April of 2016 it started getting worse: “I was in my house, pretty depressed”. After that, he cheers himself up by talking about something that is really important in his life, music. He used to play the guitar before getting blind, but he put more effort into it when he began losing his sight: “I started playing sad songs and that stuff” he laughs “I don’t know, it is really cool to play music being blind and feel the sound”
But Marcelo was not alone in his battle. He describes the unconditional support of his parents and his skating friends, and how one day his mother introduced him to a blind friend of hers who changed Marcelo’s standpoint: “Blind people can do everything, they can go to school, use computers, mobile phones, everything like, really normal. And I don’t know, I guess that pushed me to go outside and be happy again.”
Next, he talks me through how he
started skating again. Marcelo, with the help of his white cane, decided to go
to the plaza where he used to skate, but without his skateboard. He describes
how his friends pushed him to get on his board and how it was like “starting
from the beginning”.
He also explains that his friends helped him to learn new tricks, like the kickflip, and how he could have not done it without them, because he could not know if the board was flipping on the right direction: “It was really fun to learn with them around me and supporting me.”
Marcelo, also known as the “Blind Rider” on Instagram, with a following of over 50,000 users, tackles the social media topic from a humble perspective: “skateboarding has also supported me a lot with people from around the world that follow me and like my videos”
The “Blind Rider” continues by defining how being blind has changed his perspective in life: “Well, being blind maybe it’s like something bad at first, but it can give you a different point of view” says Marcelo laughing. He finishes by explaining the way in which he meets people now, which has changed completely, as he pays more attention to personality now: “that’s pretty cool actually, not focusing on the physical appearance”
The phone call ends like it started,
talking in Spanish while laughing, as Marcelo comments how weird it was for two
Spanish speakers to maintain a conversation in English.