by Jennifer Langer

These are challenging times for Muslims, Jews and Black people with these groups on the front line confronting racism. Exiled Writers Ink has a key role to play in bringing together a diverse range of writers of Jewish, Muslim and Black backgrounds in the creative process. In the face of increasing hostility, Muslim, Black and Jewish cultural communities can draw strength and solidarity from one another. Fundamentally, the project is dedicated to building bridges and to creating a space for understanding and empathy.

So far there has been a launch event which took place in March 2023 and was also part of the Alternative Arts East London Women’s History Festival. It featured women poets who provided surprising insights into the complexity of identity. The poets were Yvonne Green, Sana Nassari and Hamdi Khalif.

Four workshops then took place in spring 2023 in a beautiful seventeenth century house in Great Ormond Street.. These were developed and delivered by the established poets and tutors Dr Aviva Dautch, Nick Makoha and Shazea Quraishi and were very well-attended by developing writers from a range of Black, Muslim and Jewish backgrounds.

We will now expand the conversation to involve communities in London. We aim to form a collective of exiled writers to perform and engage with local London communities in a roadshow to be spread over at least a year. We hope creative alliances will be formed to work together against intolerance.

Our first roadshow activity was a workshop with the Afghan women’s group of the Afghan Association of London based in Harrow. Ziba Karbassi and Jennifer Langer were the facilitators. We began by discussing the concept of poetry, including landays, a traditional Afghan poetic form, and then the women participated in the repeated lines of one of my poems and listened to a poem by Ziba. We followed this by showing the women our identity objects in relation to the senses, including gazing at Ziba’s beautiful Iranian tiles and tasting Jewish ceremonial bread. There was a lot of interactive discussion to draw out similes around the women’s meaningful objects. Finally, they chose 2 lines from their poem and we ended by creating a collaborative poem.

Poem by Maliha Kabir

Oh those roses of my childhood in our large qala
Pink as a baby’s cheeks
The petals soft as velvet
And the fragrance
Reminds me of the early morning
When the sun rises.
My grandmother grew them with love
With love I feel her soul
She was a powerful, strong women
Still, she protects us
Still, she gives us strength when times are hard.

The blushing roses in my dear friend’s garden
Her strong personality, her appearance
Take me back to my grandmother’s time.

We are in the process of organising events and workshops for a range of organisations including West Greenwich Library, Tsitsit Fringe Festival and NNLS. There will be many more to follow over the next year or two.

Our next Exiled Lit Cafe in August 2023 ‘Beyond the Identity Stereotypes’ forms part of the project. Exiled Writers Ink will present a literary focus on the complexity of identity in relation to Jews and Muslims, two of the groups on the front line confronting racism. Participants will include Ariel Kahn, Shahaduz Zaman, Nada Menzalji, Gabriel Spiers and Selim Jahan.

If you know of an organisation or group that would be interested in hosting a reading and/or workshop, please contact