Roj Amedi joins us on the blog to talk about EWF this year, her work and her perspectives on diversity in the publishing and literary worlds—we have no doubt she’s one amazing babe and we can’t wait to see her performance tomorrow night with the rest of our babe line-up!
This year we’ll be seeing you in several events of the festival, Amazing Babes and What Right Do I Have. Are there any other events you are interested in at EWF this year?
I am excited about Late Night Lit: Poetry Slam and am particularly enamoured with Abe Nouk’s work, The Early Words: Public Writers, Private Lives because who doesn’t want insight into the experiences and reflections of today’s writers? Songs and Stories of Home because discussions of belonging and where we find home resonate with me and my experiences, I think The Early Words: Who Tells Our Stories? Would a great follow up to What Right Do I Have and will bring some powerful alternate perspectives into the dialogue and of course don’t forget about the closing party hosted by Plaything magazine.
The topic of one of your events, What Right Do I Have, is about how one can write outside of experience. Can you tell us a bit about how you might approach this conversation?
After centuries of minoritised voices espousing the virtues of diversity in literature and media—pointing to their right to communicate and be heard—we seem to have arrived at a juncture where we are collectively finally acknowledging these sentiments. However, if we are not critical and self-reflective we will fall into a trap of superficial tokenism. I think the topic of What Right Do I Have will not only be a discussion of these developments but also the act of extrapolating these stories from a white cis hetero male universality, that often permeates in every manifestation of literature and media. How do we make diversity universal? How do we create characters and tell stories and report on events with a sense of multiplicity in mind? And why do we value and empower some voices whilst discarding others? And how are voices outside of the particular mainstream perceived as niche?
2015 saw the rise of #WeNeedDiverseBooks (#WNDB), and it was glorious. A lot of really great books were released and publicised. But the challenge for authors and publishers to be more reflective of real life is not over. What would you like to see in 2016?
Don’t expect people of particular backgrounds to only talk about their own lived experience. A writer from diverse background has to have the opportunity to discuss, comment and write on a diverse range of topics, as well as taking positions in seemingly mainstream dialogues. Their insight brings often ignored perspectives to myriad narratives and that’s what is important and what we should strive for.
That being said, we have to extrapolate ourselves from the dominant narratives and tropes. We have to expect and pay respect to our readers and want to collectively affirm the importance of diversity. This is a celebration more than anything, and why wouldn’t we want to strengthen our abilities to understand such varied experiences and views?
You write and present on a range of issues, including international relations and politics. You speak about how ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions…’ and how people must, ‘show humility’ and ‘pay respect’ and not ‘speak for others’. Does this perspective inform your own approach to writing and creating art?
I know what it is liked to be displaced, stateless, voiceless, disregarded and to embody a dual identity that is seamless and often contradictory. I can apply these experiences to other forms of disempowerment but also understand the importance of listening to voices and experiences that are not my own. I also recognise how often society and culture regresses and weakens when we don’t make an effort to identify incredible talent, tenacity, courage and creativity from individuals who are not bestowed with privilege or do not express themselves within mainstream standards and frameworks.
Ultimately though, I am more than one experience. If we are to really create an environment and platforms for diverse voices, we need to allow them to have and express the full spectrum of their personhood. A privilege afforded to a dominant culture but often lacking when we understand narratives outside of that discourse.
Have you got anything in the works for Amazing Babes that you can tease us with?
I am playing with two main ideas in my head; one is an ode to an individual whilst another is an ode to a characteristic. How far can I push the brief? You’ll have to attend to find out!
Are you working on anything creatively or as the editor of Neue Luxury in the lead up to the festival that we can look out for?
As always my work puts me in contact with the iconoclasts of our time. I’m looking forward to launching our September ‘identity’ issue with a few exciting partnerships as well as enhancing and expanding our digital platforms.
Roj Amedi is an editor, writer and communications strategist. She writes and speaks on a range of issues including the arts, literature, design, public policy, international relations and politics. Roj is the current editor of Neue Luxury, a broadsheet newspaper that presents a global dialogue on luxury in the 21st Century.
You can see Roj perform at Amazing Babes is on Monday 20 June, 7pm at The Toff in Town. Tickets are still available!
You can also see Roj at What Right Do I Have, Thursday, 23 June at 12.30pm at The Unknown Union.