Persian Poetics (2017-Present)
During my university studies, I noticed that many of my South Asian friends were interested in Persian poetry. Though they did not know Persian, their ancestors did, so the cultural resonances were passed down, even if the language was not. Furthermore, the degrees of similarity between Persian and South Asian languages like Urdu was another point of connection. I began to translate poems I liked here and there, hoping it would benefit my friends.
As I translate more poetry, I began to explore the existing translations of Persian poetry. I was shocked to find that many translations had taken too many liberties with the original text. I would later learn that the most famous translations of Persian poets are (very) liberal renderings at best or outright fabrications at worst, not translations in the literal sense.
I began to address this issue on various online platforms, but a thread I posted on my twitter feed caused this observation to go viral and spark a public conversation. An outpouring of support came to my previously obscure page, right as I graduated from university during the Covid lock-down. It felt like everything had fallen into place, so I decided to pursue the translation project full-time. My first book is forthcoming.
I always strive to strike a balance between preserving the literal meaning of a poem and producing a poetic translation, unlike popular translators who care neither for standards of poetry (rhyme or meter) nor the literal meaning of the original texts.
In an effort to resist the whitewashing of Rumi’s poetry by Western translators, I founded the #rumiwasmuslim campaign to raising awareness about the erasure of Islam from Rumi's poetry and encourage the reading and writing of new translations that are true to the original text.
Find #rumiwasmuslim on rumiwasmuslim.com.
Word on the Street (2015-2016)
Detroit was devastated by the 2008 financial crisis. The ‘big three’ automobile manufacturers were in freefall, leading to the loss of what few automotive jobs remained in Detroit, further weakening the tax base. The subprime mortgage crisis contributed to this crisis, leaving tens of thousands of homes and buildings abounded throughout the city.
Graffiti writers saw the abundance of abandoned buildings as a new canvas to paint while the underfunded police were occupied with more serious crimes. For the next few years, graffiti writers in Detroit enjoyed unprecedented freedom, which attracted painters from all over the country and even the world.
The period of relative freedom came to an abrupt end in 2013 with the election of former prosecutor Mike Duggan as mayor. Duggan had been an enemy of the city’s graffiti writers since he was a prosecutor and increased efforts to arrest graffiti writers and paint over their work.
In 2015, I began filming ‘Word on the Street’ to document the rapidly changing graffiti scene in Detroit. You can see the four released segments below. Unfortunately, many segments remain unreleased due to legal concerns.