Introducing Poli Begum and a tingly realisation
Poli Begum who was born in Sylhet, Bangladesh came to England at the age of nine with her family, where she still lives and now works.
Her mother is her inspiration; an educated woman, independent thinking, with an open mind who accepts changes. She encouraged her children into education, emphasising that they should learn to fend for themselves and not rely on others, as traditionally this has been the case for women on many occasions. She supported her children to explore and grow, which developed a relationship of respect and trust, even as they adopted a western lifestyle. Unlike her mother, education was never an option for her father, who struggled to support his family, which is why he has a slightly different outlook on life.
Nonetheless, growing up in this household must have been fun. Music was apart of everyday life and was culturally accepted, hence they had musical instruments such as the harmonica at home and were encouraged to learn and play them.
Poli now works as a Chartered Psychiatrist, running a department in the West Midlands. She says, “the job allows me to see people as individuals, to be none judgemental and to provide psychological support…” she goes on to say, “It was a lonely experience studying, as I was the only Bangladeshi Muslim female on the course.”
However, it was during this time, she came across Ulfah Arts, an arts and faith based organisation that works with Muslim women. Initially, Poli was volunteering to support an event. However, within a short space of time she became an active member, engaging creatively.
Through Ulfah Arts, Poli began radio presenting on a local station, which allowed her to meet artists and experience different art forms. Her first public performance was with Ulfah Collective, ‘Poem of the Cloak’ showcased at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. This was followed by the Divine Aubergines performance with jazz musicians at the Midlands Art Centre, engaging new audiences to experience music and faith as one.
In the recent years through self exploration, seeking, reading and understanding, Poli has chosen to practise Islam in a truer form, and says, “Art is complimenting my exploration, it’s an avenue to finding my sense of Islam and Allah”.
In March 2008, Danger! Gulaam Fatima is premiered. This is a major leap forward and has been an amazing experience for Poli ‘who is transforming into an artist’ as she’s been working with a writer, a director and two other performing artists to develop a series of poems for this spoken word performance. For her, it was a process and an opportunity to reflect and connect with her faith using the arts as a tool and means of expression. Here is a poem called Blurred Vision:
Oh my God….
what’s going on?
At times I feel like an unnamed form, struggling to mature.
I am alone . . .
My folds enmeshed, in a gooey confinement.
I cannot recall my beginning,
But I feel like an insulated caterpillar in an auburn cocoon.
My God cocoon, please,
Don’t expose me to the tragedy,
The slaving entity that is life and exposure,
To lie, deceit, and hypocrisy.
Oh my God,
whats going on?
I know it…
I feel the tingly realization,
I know it’s a time of change…. and for growth.
I can’t believe in my life what’s going on.
Must I spread my limbs?
How to realise the potential, I have within,
Do I keep reflecting, to really let you lead,
To the day I’ll really know that it means to be free.
Oh my God,
what’s going on?
Stars of navy blue and silver splattered across,
I feel like the day is coming, when I am going to break through,
I am unraveling my hope filled wings.
I want to arrive as butterflies do.
I can’t believe in my life whats going on…
Purposeful in faith, forced awake,
Leaving my comfort,
I can make a difference, that’s the only way,
Drifting across the sky,
Into the light,
Oh, what a beautiful sight.
To learn more about Ulfah Arts and Danger! Gulaam Fatima please go to the website: www.ulfaharts.co.uk, and more importantly make time to attend the performances and support this budding artist and student of Islam.
Performance date: 4 March Bantock House at 7.30pm/ 6 March Arean Theatre at 1pm/ 13 March mac at 8pm (suitable for 11+)