Sometimes publications just hit the nail on the head; their pages filled with stories that resonate and speak to audiences. They manage to highlight important issues but tackle them in beautiful and challenging ways. Azeema is one of those publications. Created by founding editor and art director Jameela Elfaki, deputy editor Noor Alabdulbaqi and senior editor Sunayah Arshad, with new additions culture editor Evar Hussayni and fashion editor at large Ella Lucia, Azeema is an independent title exploring strength and femininity within Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian women and women of colour.
Now a much weightier annual offering, Azeema’s third issue is already proving a hit: “The response from our audience here in the UK and internationally has been phenomenal,” Jameela tells It’s Nice That, “Young women have been reaching out to us to say that they wished this existed when they were growing up and that every page of the issue is beautiful, meaningful and so important.”
Titled the Haraka (movement) issue, the team’s latest success delves into both tangible and intangible types of movement: “Those that allow us to grow, those that spark evolutions, those that teach us self-love and those that make us free.” This potent topic was decided on when Jameela, Sunayah and Noor met at the beginning of the year to discuss ideas. “We talked about things that were happening in society, along with things and people we wanted to represent and portray in the magazine,” they recall. “We kept going back to the word ‘movement’. It seemed like the right choice, as there are so many different elements to it.”
Through the Haraka issue’s 170 pages, these different elements are explored in myriad ways. A pertinent essay titled Undocumented Women In Britain by Evar examines detention centres across the UK and the concepts of forced movement and “othering”. Joining forces with Sunayah, a second piece by Evar – accompanied by a photo shoot by Jameela – looks at the art of Henna. The story reflects on this long-standing part of Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian culture, a tradition which has been passed down through generations and diasporas, and the importance of its craft to these communities.
Taking place in their south London home, Azeema interviewed Tia and Naeem from BBZ. “They’re a curatorial collective that put on club nights and exhibitions, prioritising the experiences of Queer women, trans and non-binary people of colour,” the team explains. “They spoke to us about their journey in love and the ups and downs of their relationship and working together. They’re doing a lot for their community and it’s so inspiring to watch.” Further afield, Noor interviewed DJ Sama, the first female DJ to introduce techno to her hometown of Ramallah in Palestine. “She played the first ever Boiler Room there, which is a huge movement in itself,” they add.
Azeema, with its engaging, nurturing and powerful stories, is creating a platform which resonates far beyond its printed pages. By filling a gap in an industry and initiating conversation as to why that gap exists in the first place, it has garnered a deserving audience, empowered by its stories. “We see ourselves as a platform which we really want to utilise over the next year,” the team says. "We have a lot of exciting ideas which we want to bring to life, so fingers crossed there will be a lot more projects for us in the pipeline.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.