Meet artist/scholar duo Samira Mahboub and Ania Catherine, also known as SAMANIA. They create work that combines performance, photography, politics, film, movement, feminism, critique, choreography and postcolonial theory.
How has working on the “Engima of Being Awake” been so far? What are you most excited to tell people about this story?
Working on Enigma of Being Awake thus far has been really exciting. An interesting fact about this film is that it is a collaborative one being made among friends, which creates an intimate work environment and also turns many “hang outs” into work meetings. In terms of what makes us so enthusiastic about the project: while there has been an increase in non-hetero protagonists and characters in both film and television, often times the storylines revolve so much around their sexual orientation that they risk becoming un-relatable to those outside the LGBTQ community. We are excited to take sexual minority characters one step further and tell a love story in which the defining feature of the characters is not their sexual orientation. Charlie and Lux are artists and people before they are queer. We think it is important to have LGBTQ characters to whom anyone can relate and who happen to be gay, not only those whose entire identities are wrapped around their sexual orientation as though that is their most important characteristic. Finding out someone is heterosexual doesn’t reveal anything about that person, so why is it made the central and principal feature of gay characters? We want to address this issue and hope that people of all ages, backgrounds, and sexual identities can relate to the Enigma characters and story on a human level.
You mention how important it for there to be increased visibility of non hetero relationships and nonnormative gender identities and sexualities. How big of a role has this played in creating the story of “Enigma of Being Awake?”
Emmeline Kim is the writer/director of Enigma of Being Awake; she is committed to telling the stories of those who have historically been unheard or misrepresented. Our interests in this regard very much align.
You two met through your studies at school. Why should people take gender studies?
Gender studies is a very complex field of study, as it is interdisciplinary and if taken seriously, cannot NOT change the way you view both yourself and society. It requires you to not only look at what gender is and does, but also how other axes of difference (ethnicity, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, etc.) hierarchically structure society. Studying gender is rewarding but at the same time a struggle as it forces you to ask uncomfortable questions (which we think is important and want our work to do as well); it makes you examine that which usually goes unexamined. Engaging with the subject of gender enables you to analyze how invisible systems of power operate and the extent to which they impact day-to-day life.
Your film “Cloth” focused on the struggled between oppression and liberation, where do you think the line lies for women today?
“Cloth” is a visual postcolonial critique of universalising claims about which women are oppressed and which women are liberated—as these judgments are typically rooted in Western ethnocentrism. We wanted to demonstrate that women are oppressed and liberated in different ways across cultures and that there is no legitimate way to evaluate a woman’s social status through something like dress.
Why do you feel people base their opinions on someone’s oppression/liberation on others’ clothing?
This is a very difficult question to answer because there are so many social and historical layers that come together to create the association between clothing and oppression/liberation. On a basic level, it is very easy to judge by clothing because it is a clearly visible marker of difference. Certain markers of difference, in this case, the veil, are assigned meaning within larger political/neocolonial discourses through which any form of women’s dress that differs from that of the West—which has been advertised as the only place where ‘freedom’ exists—becomes associated with ‘unfree’ societies. These labels and determinations are strategically designed and serve larger political aims.
You mentioned while working on “Cloth” your visions were so in sync you didn’t even have to discuss the outcome, has this been the same for your other collaborations?
Yes. We are very lucky! It is quite remarkable how in tune we have been for every single project. Each one of course involves lengthy and intense discussions during which we challenge each other and aim to integrate both of our points of view, but when it comes to creating, aesthetically and artistically we do always imagine the exact same thing. Maybe that moment of serious creative disagreement is on the horizon, but so far so good…haha.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It is really common to see female creatives, young and old, downplay their talent and seriously question their abilities/potential (see impostor syndrome). We’d like to take this moment to say CREATE if you feel called to do so, reach out to people who inspire you, and collaborate with people who believe in you. You never know who could be waiting to experience your work or whom it may touch.
Please support women telling women’s stories and share/donate to the Kickstarter campaign for Enigma of Being Awake.
If you are interested in learning more about SAMANIA and their work, check out their website www.bysamania.com and follow them @bysamania.