South African Black Womxn’s art collective iQhiya
In 1998, Vogue assigned a story on my fellow Somali and sister model Waris Dirie, who was then, as both victim and advocate, bravely bringing to the world’s attention the horrifying practice of female genital mutilation. Since the procedure is prevalent in Somalia, as well as in many other parts of Africa, I was tapped to conduct the interview. Given the traumatic nature of Waris’s tale, I was really just grateful to be there to offer her solidarity and maternal protectiveness.
Our portrait was assigned to Annie Leibovitz, who brought her uncommon sensitivity and empathy to the story. In my opinion, it’s not Waris’s pain that gives the image its mesmerizing strength but rather the compassion it stirs in the viewer. Annie didn’t attempt to search out and reveal some repressed secret in Waris, or in our friendship; she astutely understood that the reason Waris stood before her was revelation enough.
Iman Abdulmajid + Waris Dirie for Vogue
"I haven’t forgotten you
And you seduced me with a sweetly-calling and tender tongue
And a hand extending towards me like a hand stretched out through the waves to a drowning person
And a light searching for a wanderer
But where is that light in your eyes?
My darling, I visited your nest one day as a bird of desire singing my pain
You’ve become self-important, spoiled and capricious
And you inflict harm like a powerful tyrant
And my longing for you cauterized my ribs
And the moments were embers in my blood
Give me my freedom, release my hands
Indeed, I’ve given you yours and did not try to retain anything"
Al-Atlal (Um Kalthoum song) by Ibraheem Naji (via monsandroses)
She is considered perhaps the greatest singer in Arab history. She does not need a title, just “Umm Kulthum” is enough to define her widespread phenomenon. Her voice is saltiness and sweetness: an asexual voice, but a bisexual one, too. The lyrics to her songs are in a masculine voice, but one that encompasses the feminine. She is even called “The Lady”. That’s all, just el-sitt “The Lady” as if to confirm all that is uncertain, equivocal, undecided; as if to decide once and for all, both to escape and to contain any remaining confusion. Women hear her as a man, and men hear her as a woman. Her voice offers the anger of a woman and the resignation of a man. Her voice is the exchange of lovers.
The Egyptian actress and producer Etemad Khorshid’s book “A Witness to the corruption of Salah Nasr” was recommended to me by a reliable source, who declined to be identified. I read it to contain a reference to Umm Kulthum’s sexual orientation, on page 113, the following text: “There was the great singer who exceeded the prospects of fame, but she was attracted to women and young girls”. An Egyptian activist told me: “She got married late. He was her doctor rather than a husband. She had a female close friend and they lived almost together. Many men offered to marry her and she had many lovers, but she refused all of them. She had no children. Her friend disappeared completely after her death. The light was not shed on her friend like the other parts of her family”.