Festivalprat #8: Rafia Zakaria

Rafia Zakaria er advokat, aktivist og forfatter av boka The upstairs wife. Der vever hun sin egen families erfaringer inn i Pakistans brutale historie. Av Newsweek ble boka omtalt som av de mest imponerende bøkene fra det indiske subkontinentet i nyere tid.

Møt Rafia Zakaria i programpostene Den andre kvinnen og [Urframføring] Fire tekster om arv

Why did you write The Upstairs Wife?

I had felt for a long time that the story of Pakistan was one told in terms of terror and security and strategic interests. The humanity of Pakistan and Pakistanis, particularly Pakistani women, was omitted. I chose to write about the life of one ordinary family and interweave it with the story of women in larger Pakistani history and politics. My motivation was to create a picture of the emotional landscape of Pakistan.

What is the most urgent issues for women worldwide today?

I think the fact that public space is not safe for women, whether it is actual physical danger or in virtual realms like the internet and social media, is a pressing and urgent issue. The more the girls of the world, the women of tomorrow, have to feel defensive beyond private spaces, the more elusive the project of empowerment, emancipation and equality becomes for us.

Can you mention three books or writers that have mattered much to you, and why?

The Crooked Line by Ismat Chughtai, a feminist author who wrote in Urdu in the years preceding the partition of Pakistan and India in 1947. It’s heroine is the brave and intrepid Shama (Flame) who grows up in seclusion in a woman only world, and then grows up to shake off domesticity and become an educator for girls. I love this book because even beyond a familiar emancipatory arc; it takes care to note that even while Shama revels in the life she has chosen, she is simultaneously wistful about the end of an era and of the sisterhood of suffering that existed when women had not left to come out of seclusion.

Women and the Quran by Amina Wadud. This book is perhaps the most influential text pertaining to Muslim women that exists today. It began as Dr Amina Wadud’s dissertation thesis and it provides a feminist interpretation of the Holy Quran; pointing out that existing exegesis was entirely male and hence reflected the patriarchal mores of the past.

Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I love this book for its scale and courage. Growing up in Karachi, the dominant visual theme was the dry desert and the effort it took to coax out a garden from it. Dr. Zhivago is the opposite, its visual theme (and I love visual writing) is the cold; ice and snow. I found this fascinating, not to mention the tender and evocative love story of Lara and Zhivago.

Intervju av Teresa Grøtan