The powerful zine reclaiming the diversity of femininity

Meet the mind behind AZEEMA.

[F]emininity has long been a restrictive concept: determining who is allowed to be feminine based on sex seems Victorian in our age, instead it should be defined by something more personal. Reclaiming the Female Gaze, finding identity in creative expression, there is a movement of redefining what both femininity and masculinity mean. In the next four weeks HUNGER will meet four women who are working to rework our conceptions, zines exploring an alternate femininity.

Having met Jameela Elfaki back in July, with issue #2 hot off the press we decided it was time for a catch up. Editor and founder of AZEEMA, Jameela’s work is renowned for exploring the diversity of beauty and femininity: the focus of her zine is to confront the lack of representation in the fashion industry and provides stunning alternatives. As she explained, the aim was to create something “inclusive of Women of Colour and knowledgeable of Islamic faith, African and Arab culture”. The next issue will undeniably be as empowering, innovative and, ultimately, needed as the first: with it featuring a powerful image of a cool model driving in her burka, the debut issue is groundbreaking in its uniqueness, and exemplifies the resistance yet to come. Issue #2 is out today so what better time to catch up with Jameela Elfaki and hear all about what’s in store.

What inspired you to launch AZEEMA earlier this year?

To summarise, it was the lack of representation of women from MENA and Women of Colour in publications and the Media. I don’t think there are many outlets that have understanding of these different cultures! I think it was pure frustration.

Was there a moment when you first realised a gap in the arts for your aim? 

Yes, definitely. I realised that although there are more multicultural independent publications for women being created and triumphing, there still wasn’t a fashion and culture magazine that specifically featured women from the Middle East/North Africa and Women of Colour.

How has your creation evolved since you first envisioned the idea?

 I think it has become so much broader. The first issue was only just scratching the surface! AZEEMA now has even more women from different cultures involved and even more incredible stories and features. We have evolved to talk about more issues like mental health, sexuality and identity. 

How does it feel creating art in the current political climate?

It is so liberating. I think there is something really special about being an independent mag and being in control of our own art and voices. There is no one to censor us or to tell us our art isn’t right or valid. 

How do you feel social media is affecting artistic outlets like zines?

It’s giving zines a platform to reach more women internationally! It helps us shout about our art.

 What can we expect from you next?

AZEEMA #2 is out today and launches tonight at The Gallery. We are so excited to share our next issue with everyone.

Follow Azeema on Instagram here and stay tuned for issue #2.