Words can have an impact. Meet poet, producer and creative practitioner Nasima Begum who is aiming to affect social change through her resounding performances.

Nasima, a British Bangladeshi poet, also works in Youth Development for a voluntary sector organisation and is a trustee for a spoken word collective called Young Identity, where she hopes to make creative art accessible to young and marginalised people.

Nasima said, “As an artist, my work explores intersectionality and I’m interested in telling stories through performance that are relevant.

“I am also interested in diverse leadership and representation, particularly in the cultural sector. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to make stuff, but didn’t quite know how to.

“I’d never really felt comfortable in arts spaces and rarely saw anyone that resembled me in any way in the media or in the arts world. I wanted to change this and am still trying.”

Her personal and poignant poetry has been heard across the UK and in Europe, including at Museum Night in Antwerp Belgium. Nasima explains the catalyst behind the poem about her name.

“Growing up, through school, university and my working career, people have often failed to pronounce my name correctly.

“I believe there’s a conditioning that people of colour have, to ignore it and let it pass. 

“We have been silenced in order to keep quiet about the difficult things, such as colonialism, racism and Islamophobia. It’s always the elephant in the room. 

“There is a racism behind mispronouncing names. 

“I know this because it happened and still happens to me so often.

“When I correct people, I was often ignored. It made me really mad, because a name is a basic thing, it is a human right. It is a prerogative to be addressed how you wish and by who you actually are, so I wrote a poem about it.”

Writing since she was a young girl, Nasima says she always had a wild imagination and that writing was a means for her to channel her understanding of the world.

“My work is often inspired by experience and my take on the world.

“I observe a lot and I write about things that I see that affect myself and the world we live in. 

“Having said that, sometimes I just write because I have to. It’s an urgency, an act of resistance. I write because I feel like I have nothing else to give at times and I see it as a duty. I want to make people think.”

Asian Image:

Nasima, who also works full time at the Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation, was recently commissioned by the Public Programmes, an NHS health research engagement team to write the Menopause Monologues after research found there are many myths and stigmas attached to menopause in the South Asian community.

At present, Nasima is undergoing the Jerwood Arts Creative fellowship with MIF19. Nasima explained what this entails.

“The Jerwood Fellowship allowed me and five other Greater Manchester artists to get up close and personal to the Manchester International Festival.

“It’s hard being creative when you work full time in a consuming job and the fellowship allowed me to take that time off to just be an artist. 

“Manchester International Festival and ANU commissioned me to contribute to this work. One of the poems I wrote was about my mum, who I never appreciated as a working woman.

“When she first migrated to England, she worked as a seamstress in the fast fashion industry. Later she did some private tailoring and was self-employed. 

“I remember she’d work whilst she had me running around the space and managed to keep an eye on me and even test me on my times tables and homework all whilst sat working on her sewing machine!

“Being the youngest child, I got the latter end of this, but it’s something I never actually thought about due to the perception and propaganda of the role of a traditional woman, seemingly a Muslim, south Asian woman too.”

Nasima said she was ‘taken aback’ after she was approached by the Manchester City Council to be one of fifteen women to represent Manchester’s 2019 International Women’s Day campaign that aimed to be diverse and explored the stories of women who were bringing about positive change within the city.

“I wanted to break the barriers in mainstream representation and push for diversity in leadership. Doing this campaign was a huge reminder of this. This is only the beginning.”