KANGA Meets Fatemah
Say hello to Fatemah! "Theatres very own Hijabi." Fatemah is a budding actress and model who as a hijabi, is on a mission to break down barriers and stereotypes in the industry!
KANGA admires her tenacity, drive and her willingness to face the struggles of the industry head on! We are happy to give Fatemah KANGA space to share her story...
A passion, a dream and . . A hijab. I am Fatemah, Theatres Very Own Hijabi and from a very young age I had discovered my desire to want to become a world renowned Actress. I've learnt that in this world, struggle is unavoidable, and no matter how hard you try there will always be barriers that you must be strong enough to break in order to achieve your goal. This is my mission in life as I embark on my journey through the industry, living out my dream as an Actress for both stage and screen and as a Model, whilst trying to change the conformed notions and existing stereotypes created by society in order to create unity, acceptance and diversity. I hope you'll follow my journey...
In the mirror, I look at myself. A close examination of my face, my lips, my nose . . . all quirky, all my own. But were they? An ethnically inclined woman, where were my features from?
CULTURE: The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.
HERITAGE: The belonging to a certain culture or society.
RACE: A group of people with common ancestry distinguished from similar characteristics.
ETHNICITY: The state of belonging to a particular social group which bares common national traditions.
In accordance to the Google definition, it was all so simple we are born, we belong. We belong to a specific social group based on our ancestry and based upon the way we look, but sometimes, some people are just ‘too exotic’. So, What if you are someone like me? What if you have a mixed Ethnicity? Is it as simple as a Google definition and do we so easily ‘belong’ with a group of people who match us completely? These were the questions for which the answers I so desperately craved for as I inspected my part Indian, part African feature’s.
It was as I was growing up that I realised that prejudice between races was consuming our society, Not only was it seemingly difficult for me to grow up being a 'Hijab-observing Muslim,' it was also difficult for me to fit into a certain Ethnic group as they often questioned ‘how much’ like them I truly was. To me, I never understood why the question of ‘where do you originate from?’ arose in any first conversation. Of course, it wasn’t that I wasn’t proud of my heritage, I was, however I did not want this to define me. I did not want to become a robot of a label that had been created for me by societal constructs of the notion of race and culture. I felt that people had become somewhat obsessed with questioning my roots that it had made me somewhat insecure to say out loud. Again, this was not because I was embarrassed, it was because people seldom believed me.
“My mum is Indian with African influences from her father’s side and my dad is African” I would say, weary of how the conversation would go, and the responses nearly always stayed the same. ‘You are definitely not Indian, you don’t sound it and your features don’t look Indian’ or ‘You can’t claim to be African, your skins too light, you haven’t dealt with the racial abuse that we deal with and you aren’t FULLY African’. But that’s where people were wrong, because I had in fact dealt with the racism and the rejection from my own cultural group, where I wasn’t ‘Indian enough’ or ‘African enough’ to be accepted. It was the same rejection my family had faced in Africa in the Sixties when they were forced away from their homes, where they had to struggle to forge new paths to rise form the horrific truths of unacceptance and prejudice. My appearance was always at question, in terms of the quest to pin me down with this societal labelling system… but these are the barriers that I work hard to break through my journey of becoming a Model and Actress.
Growing up, and even to this day, my ethnicity is always rejected and dare I say, that even in a society and world which is opening up, Black is still Black, White is still White and anything in between is unidentifiable to the conformed eye. This didn’t affect me as much as when I saw that this prejudice was affecting my work and the roles I could potentially attain…
Another day, Another Call, Another Casting Director. . .
Her: Hi Fatemah, we have this role for a really cool Indian character with big Indian style hair. Would you like to audition?
Naturally not wanting to ever reject an opportunity, I take all the details and also notice that this role is for something HUGE, a dream role to attain! I also clock that the brief states that the character has ‘big Indian hair’ (whatever that is) and I wear a Hijab, but the casting director has seen me so this shouldn’t be a problem, right?! I seize this opportunity with two hands and agree at an instant to give an audition tape for it.
Me: Yes, I would be more than happy to film a self-tape for you and I will get it in as soon as possible!
So, I send in an audition by the afternoon of this AM phone call. I am eager, I want to land this role and I want to be acting on-screen for the millions! This was my chance and I so hoped nothing would get in the way of this… right when I got the feedback.
“Your audition was great! Your skill as an actress and your comedic timing is perfect! You have such a natural flare in front of the camera, its perfect. We are, however, sorry to say that you didn’t get this part because you don’t look Indian enough and, ummm. . . not every detail about you matches the spec”
And it was then that I realised that, as an Actress, as a POC, as a Hijabi, as a female, and a human, I still had a long fight for equal rights ahead of me.
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