AMUNA and HANNAH
Could you start by each telling a little bit about your relationship to one another? How did you meet/what brought the two of you together?
H: Amuna is my very best friend. We got to know each other in school but didn't hang out until our final year. Even though we were in the same friend group, we never realized how similar we were until we went on a school trip to Paris. Once we understood that we shared the same interests and the exact same humor, we ended up hanging out every single day and soon decided to go on a trip across five continents. I cannot imagine a life without Amuna anymore; she motivates me and somehow always manages to bring out the best in me while also giving me shit for all my flaws which keeps me grounded.
A: I think the key to our very special relationship is that we have always worked on creative projects together. Starting with a travel blog (www.thetournalists.blogspot.com) in which we documented our adventures, up to Kandaka; we are always filming and creating, learning about and discussing topics that affect us and the people around us, and trying to make sense of the world. Hannah is my favorite person; my life is incomplete without her (we live in different countries, so it is incomplete most of the time). She knows me better than anyone else and the unconditional trust we share is what makes our work genuine and powerful. Also, she is hilarious.
Could you go into detail regarding each of your creative pursuits? Hannah, you make films - could you talk a little about that?
H: My passion for film started with my love for photography. I got my first camera when I was 6 years old and my first proper Canon camera at the age of 14. When Amuna and I went traveling, I felt like my photos weren't enough anymore - I wanted to tell the stories behind my pictures, which is how I got into documentary. In my work, I like to discover different lifestyles and unique connections between all sorts of people. I try to give those a voice who are often unheard; my first TV film was about a homeless man whose biggest goal is to bring “ordinary” people and homeless folks on the same level again. Right now I am working on a film about a train station which in my opinion is a pivot from all walks of life. Besides my work for the TV, I want to focus on women's issues. I aim to create female dominated film projects, which is very challenging in an industry that mainly focuses on and is overwhelmingly produced by men, however it also makes my job very exciting.
And Amuna, you're a writer - could you talk a little about that?
A: I have always loved to tell stories and state my opinion; my parents say that I was already arguing with them out of my stroller when I couldn't even walk yet. My mum used to read to me every night and my dad raised me with Sudanese anecdotes, so by the time I was 7 they had fed my imagination so much that I started writing my own stories. Writing helps me to structure my thoughts while at the same time functioning like a magnifying glass; usually I don't plan what I want to say, I just start writing down a random thought and somehow eventually it all makes sense and I feel like my head is a bit clearer than it was before. I also struggle with talking about anything related to intimacy, so putting my feelings into words is sort of a therapeutic way to challenge and force myself to grow up and be my most genuine self.
The name Kandaka is perfect - you talk about this on your blog, but for our readers here, could you elaborate on what that word means and represents?
BOTH: Once we decided to start our blog, we didn't want to come up with a name, we wanted the name to "find us" – and it did right when we started our creative work, in the form of a Sudanese restaurant in Berlin called "Kandaka." It is run by a lovely man who sat down with us for a whole evening, telling us about strong African queens (Kandakat) whilst playing us his music and treating us to dessert. He was telling us how the kingdom that the Kandakat used to run (The Kingdom of Kush), was a prosperous and safe place and how the contemporary world would be much better if only women were still as influential as back then. Good music, food, woke people, and late night talks about beautiful strong women is basically the feeling of Kandaka. The name represents a safe space that we can create anywhere in the world, as long as we find the right people. Also, it has a special place in Sudanese culture, which has a special place in both our hearts.
What inspired you to start kandaka.blog? If you had to distill your main mission statement down, what would it be?
BOTH: On our year abroad we discovered that we could combine both our talents to create something meaningful. Our whole friendship is based on projects, art, and traveling, so at some point we thought it'd be a shame if no one ever saw what we create. The process of creating means a lot to us, especially because we have been feeling very lost lately; Amuna sometimes drowns in her studies and Hannah in her life as a freelancer. Having a platform where we can publish any content we like brings both balance to our lives and gives us a voice in this paradoxical world in which the individual seems to have no significant impact while at the same time being the focus of (Western) society. Our main mission statement would be to give feminism a new, positive reputation through art and poetry and also to offer the empathy and advice that we wish we could have had when we were young and struggling to be comfortable in our identities.
What do you hope that visitors experience when they read your blog?
BOTH: It depends on the visitor really, however, generally they are supposed to experience the diversity that comes with feminism due to it being a concept that can be applied to absolutely anything in life. Our blog covers a wide range of topics with open-mindedness and tolerance being the only conditions we insist on. While exploring Kandaka, we hope everyone experiences what it feels like to be in a supportive and accepting space and therefore to be comfortable enough to admit insecurities and flaws and consequently be willing to learn and critically question one's own views of the world.
Is there an upcoming project that you're particularly excited about starting? What is it, and why is it important to you?
BOTH: In 2018, we want to do a short film about a belly dancer in Egypt who stopped dancing due to all the harassment she had to endure and the stigma that comes with being a belly dancer (even though belly dancing is part of the Arabic culture). Now, she gives self-defence workshops for Egyptian women to empower them and encourage them to stand up for themselves. This film is important to us, because it will be our first big project in which we collaborate with other creatives and are not the only ones writing and filming, but rather focusing on directing and producing.
Could you tell us a little bit about your "I Don't Care" series? How did you come up with the idea for that, and what's the main message behind the subject matter?
BOTH: Bavaria is a very conservative place where people like to comment on things that are none of their business in a sly and fake complimentary way. Originally, "I don't care" was an answer to people constantly stating their unwanted opinion on Amuna's braids. The video was, as per usual, a spontaneous idea that seemed to fit with the topic. Once we started talking about how little we care if people like our hair, we wrote another I Don't Care if you Don't Like My Face and another I Don't Care if you Don't Like My Clothes and another... Basically, we want to tell people that if they don't have something nice to say, they should just keep their mouths shut. 'Cause we don't care. Hopefully the commentators will watch the series and spot themselves.
Your blog includes some incredible pieces about the dangers of "color-blindness," and the intricacies of living as women of color. Could you elaborate on the relevance of those pieces, especially in today's political climate?
A: Being a woman of color who grew up in a predominantly white space, color-blindness has had a strong impact on my life that I only fully understood recently. What is more shocking is that even after I wrote the article and spent hours explaining it in depth to those who were offended by it, some people still didn't understand that being "color-blind" is a fallacy. This mirrors modern Western societies in which people care more about not being called racist or sexist than about actually not harming people of color. To me, these pieces are the most important part of our work as they spark debates that people would avoid if I didn’t address them directly with my own personal experiences. Considering recent elections in Germany (the right wing party got 12.6%) and Brexit and the increase of racist activity all over Europe, it is important for us to work against these movements, educate and empower people, and make our voices heard. Too often, ignorance is rooted in lack of education and inter-cultural relationships, so Kandaka is a platform that provides both.
(FOR HANNAH) - What's the biggest talent that Amuna has? What do you admire most about her?
H: I guess the most obvious answer to this question would be "Amuna's biggest talent is writing." But I think this answer is not quite adequate. It's more about how she gets to write her essays and poems. Amuna has an incredible hunger for education and is the most outspoken person I have ever come across. She will always be honest even if the truth hurts, and is fine with some people not liking her for that or not supporting her opinion because she knows that she puts a lot of thought into her view and is therefore confident enough to stand by it (even if she gets harsh criticism for it). She knows what she wants in life and when she finds people with similar interests or mindsets she will build amazing relationships with them. Even though she will always stand up for her opinion she will also listen to others. Amuna is here to make a difference; I think everybody who meets her will notice that within a minute. So all of these attributes combined will eventually make her an amazing writer.
(FOR AMUNA) - What's the biggest talent that Hannah has? What do you admire most about her?
A: The way Hannah manages life never seizes to amaze me. No one can laugh at themselves like she can (except for me, I probably laugh at her as much as she does). Her ability to just "live," to never despair in situations when I use up all my energy with being dramatic and leave her to find a solution. People always think that Hannah's life is more eventful than theirs. This is partly true for the fact that she's always open to try everything, but really it is more the way she deals with everything life throws at her – through laughing and sometimes crying about the world – which makes her and her stories so extraordinary and remarkable. Her talent for capturing these stories is why people admire her (and rightly so), but to me her photography and storytelling are merely a mirror of her beautiful character.
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