Many Lumens is brought to you by Open Society Foundations.
Produced by BlackStar Projects in partnership with Rowhome Productions.
Executive Producer and Host — Maori Karmael Holmes
Producer — Kayla Lattimore
Associate Producers — Irit Reinheimer & Zoë Greggs
Managing Producer — Alex Lewis
Executive Editor — John Myers
Final mix and mastering engineer – Justin Berger
Music Supervisor — David “Lil Dave” Adams
Theme song composed by Vijay Mohan and remixed by Lil’ Dave.
This episode features music by Kayla Childs aka Black Buttafly.
How to Cure a Ghost (written by Fariha Roísín, 2019)
Like A Bird (written by Fariha Roísín, 2020)
Paulo Freire (1921-1997)
John Steinbeck (1902- 1968)
Chicken Soup for the Soul series
Conversations with God (Neale Donald Walsch, 1995)
Who is Wellness For? An Examination of Wellness Culture and Who It Leaves Behind (written by Fariha Roísín, 2022)
Girls (created by Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow, 2012)
Virginia Wolf (1882-1941)
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
Harry Potter series (written by J. K. Rowling, 1997-2007)
Twilight (written by Stephenie Meyer, 2005)
Survival Takes a Wild Imagination (written by Fariha Roísín, 2023)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Directed by Michel Gondry, 2004)
Howl’s Moving Castle (directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2004)
In the Mood for Love (directed by Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
Biutiful (directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010)
Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016)
The Royal Tenenbaums (directed by Wes Anderson, 2001)
Amélie (directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Eartha Kitt (1927-2008)
Susan Sontag (1933-2004)
Etel Adnan (1925-2021)
Ryuichi Sakamoto (1952-2023)
Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002)
[00:00:00] Maori Karmael Holmes: As part of their enduring commitment to justice, equity and expression, the Open Society Foundations are proud to sponsor Many Lumens.
A content warning to listeners, this episode mentions childhood sexual abuse and trauma.
You’re listening to Many Lumens where we talk about and find meaning in the intersections of art, social change, and popular culture. I’m your host, Maori Karmael Holmes. In this episode, I had the opportunity to talk to the multidisciplinary artist Fariha Róisín:. Being Muslim, queer and Bangladeshi, Fariha focuses her poetry and prose on otherness, sexuality, and the nuance of contemporary Islam. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, al Jazeera, the Guardian, Vice and The Village Voice. Fariha was born to Bangladeshi immigrants who moved to Sydney, Australia. Growing up, being one of the few brown faces in her community, she channeled her experiences of otherness into a love for writing. In 2019, Fariha published her first book, How to Cure a Ghost, followed by Being in Your Body and Like a Bird, which was lauded by NPR, Globe and Harper’s Bazaar. In 2022, she published her first work of nonfiction Who Is Wellness For? An Examination of Wellness Culture and Who It Leaves Behind. Her second book of poetry, Survival Takes a Wild Imagination is out this fall. And now my conversation with Fariha Róisín.
[00:01:34] Maori Karmael Holmes: Thank you so much for being on the show. Fariha. Welcome to Many Lumens.
[00:01:48] Fariha Róisín: Thank you for having me.
[00:01:49] Maori Karmael Holmes: I want to ask you, what does Fariha mean and how did your parents settle on your name?
[00:01:54 Fariha Róisín: It means joy in Arabic. In Arabic, it’s Fariha. So my full name is Fariha Dusya Roisin Hassan. So my last name is Hassan and my entire name I think is Joy in the Spring Garden, the Little Rose is Noble. I don’t know why my parents chose my name, but it’s interesting. I have a lot of darkness and depression, but I am a very joyful person and that has always been a resource that I’ve had so much of. Love and just happiness, it’s never been far from me, even if it’s I’m going through a darkness. So it’s weird that names do become portals.
[00:02:41] Maori Karmael Holmes: I read that you did introduce yourself by more acceptable white names as a child, which I imagine was desiring an acceptance. And I was wondering when did you begin to connect with your given name?
[00:02:56] Fariha Róisín: Yeah, I have a poem in How to Cure a Ghost, my first book and book of poems, and it’s about this one neighbor we had when I was seven in Brisbane in Australia, which is where I was raised, Brisbane and then Sydney. We had a next door neighbor, this older white man who had this beautiful granddaughter named Imogen and she would come and hang out with her grandfather every now and again. And I really, in my early life, felt shadowed and ashamed by not being white, in a way that felt like a burden. And I felt a lot of shame around it particularly. And that was, I think also through the name, the name was representational of my otherness and my abstractness. And growing up in Australia it was very, and especially in the 90s, it’s, I think, a lot more diverse now, but it has its own white supremacist past. And I told her that my name was Felicity. Upon the first time we met, I told her my name is Felicity and I don’t even remember where that came from, where I’d seen that name. And it’s because I couldn’t fathom her saying my name, my actual name. And then throughout my life I’ve always said, “Oh, my name is Faria, like Maria with an F.” And then four years ago, a teacher I was working with at the time who is this Indian woman, she was like, “Why don’t you say the H in your name? You’re not saying your name correctly.” And I was like, “What do you mean?” She was like, “Well, is your name Faria? How do your parents say it?” And I was like, “Well, my parents say Fariha, but in Arabic it’s Fariha”. And she was like, “Well, why aren’t you saying that the ha?” And that was the first time I think, as an adult, I understood and saw how much sadness I had wrapped around my own origins.
[00:05:29] Maori Karmael Holmes: You moved around quite a bit and ended up in Australia I guess, before coming to the States. And do you know how your family arrived in Brisbane?
[00:05:43] Fariha Róisín: My dad did his PhD in urban planning at the University of Waterloo in Canada, which is where I was born. And then my dad is very radical in the liberatory sense and has Marxist and socialist values, and wanted to go back to Bangladesh and I guess, put into action all of the things that he had learned. And there was a slow radicalization happening to Bangladesh. It was very dangerous for my father. There was murder of lectures and professors happening, especially those that were more leftists and Marxists, so it just became impossible. So we immigrated to Australia when I was four and a half.
[00:06:41] Maori Karmael Holmes: So you talked about wanting to be white and so I’m curious if there… Or not wanting necessarily consciously to be white but being ashamed a bit. And I was just wondering, was there a large South Asian community where you grew up or were you the only ones?
[00:07:02] Fariha Róisín: No, there it was, it wasn’t like we were the only ones. But the trickiness about, I guess my situation that the older I get I understand, is my mom is mentally ill and so we were actually quite isolated from society. We weren’t going out that much and when we did, it was very restricted. I very much grew up under surveillance because of my mother’s sickness and I didn’t have a lot of freedom. And so we were definitely engaging with other Bangladeshis for example, but a rapport or a sense of true friendship couldn’t be built because my mother…I couldn’t bring people back to my house. I wasn’t allowed out of the house. It was a very strange childhood and I think that part that made me more isolated and made all of us very isolated in what we were experiencing. And my dad is quite leftist and strange, so I think I didn’t have a very community oriented upbringing. Not that wasn’t the cornerstone of how my parents wanted to be, they wanted to be social, but I think both of them are very odd as well, and we were just an oddball family, not really fitting in anywhere.
[00:08:30] Maori Karmael Holmes: Did art start showing up for you? With your imagination, did you begin seeing that as an artistic practice as a child?
[00:08:38] Fariha Róisín: Yeah. My mom’s an artist. She’s a painter, so I think I was always around that. I had her Art Australia paint books and my parents are both very good cooks, so it’s strange. I grew up around so much violence, but I had this very formative education in socialism and liberatory practice. My dad was an academic and he wanted us to learn. My dad is who taught me about Paolo Freire and Vandana Shiva and all of these, like Noam Chomsky. I was reading Noam Chomsky as an 11 year old. And my mom on the other hand was really engaged in painting and understanding painting and teaching herself and that was really cool to witness. And I think because I wasn’t allowed out and because of the dynamics of how I was raised with so much violence around me, I’m a child sexual abuse survivor and that’s something that was very much… I’m trying to understand as an adult how of those things kept me in my little world and a part of that world was books and film and music and those were the ways that I escaped it. It’s really odd to me sometimes to believe that I’ve come so far.
[00:10:12] Maori Karmael Holmes: What were the first disciplines that you identified with? Was it writing first? Did you paint like your mother, did you dance? What were…
[00:10:23] Fariha Róisín: It was writing. I started writing Like a Bird, my first novel when I was 12 years old. And it came to me in a dream and I just started writing and there were teachers in school that I was telling about, friends knew. It was very much something that I was discussing. And then I think I finished it around 15. It was a really, really shitty draft obviously. And then I held onto it for years and I was initially going to… I really wanted to be a human rights lawyer. That’s what I was planning on being and law school was so painful for me and the bureaucracy of university life really was quite challenging for my mental health. And I dropped out of school and just pursued writing without… I have no degree. I have no formal education in that sense, and I just completely just did it my way. I had a boldness to me that I think really was created under the pressure of my life and I had to learn very young who I was and what I stood for and what I wanted to be. I had to have dreams otherwise I think I would’ve died.
[00:11:52] Maori Karmael Holmes: I know that you have an older sister and that she introduced you to astrology and I’m curious, what are some of the other things she introduced you to?
[00:12:01] Fariha Róisín: She was the first person to tell me about reiki. She was into a guy who was Japanese and was learning it from a Japanese reiki master. I think I was 14 and I was like, that’s so cool. And now I’m getting my apprenticeship and it’s really, really wild to be like, wow. I had no idea when I was 14 that I would do this. She’s the first person to tell me about crystals. The first person to introduce me to Martha Beck and Marianne Williamson and John Steinbeck and we would read all of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. We were so corny.
[00:13:00] Maori Karmael Holmes: I remember those.
[00:13:03] Fariha Róisín: Those books and Conversation with God and I read so many self-help spiritual books when I was a kid because I think that was her way of coping with what we were surviving.
[00:13:17] Maori Karmael Holmes: What’s your relationship with your sister now?
[00:13:21] Fariha Róisín: She’s very in the wellness world. She’s unvaccinated and she really [does] not believe in vaccines. And I think it’s hard to watch someone live their life as they want to. And so we have a contentious but loving relationship. To me, Who is Wellness For?, my last book is dedicated to her. And it’s also, I worry about wellness people a lot as well because of the quackery sometimes.
[00:14:09] Maori Karmael Holmes: I wanted to just ask one question. You mentioned that your father is a Marxist socialist and lecturer, and I read that you come from four generations of Marxists. So I was wondering, growing up in these capitalist countries, in Australia and in the US and Canada, how did being in a Marxist household shape your understanding of capitalism and state oppression? But outside wasn’t that. What was that like? If you feel comfortable sharing, where do you sit today?
[00:14:52] Fariha Róisín: I love my dad. I have a very good relationship with my dad, so I’m really grateful that he taught us the way that he did. But in a way it was very militant, growing up around someone who was very principled. And that I think is one of the most beautiful and ardent experiences that I’ve taken away from my upbringing with my father in particular, just how moral he is. And that I think comes from this deep desire he has for the world to be liberated, for freedom, for the end of oppression, and that means all forms of oppression. And I talk to him about patriarchy and misogyny all the time, and I call him out and he listens and he’s a very good man. And I think that that’s something that I’ve really admired as I’ve grown up and I’ve understood that he taught me to be better than other people, in the sense that I should always be kinder and give more if I can. Because as much as I was falling into the trappings of whiteness, I never bought fully into capitalism and I was always critical of it. And I think that there’s been times in my life for sure where I’ve been like, “Fuck you, dad. I’m going to buy this thing.” He lives in Australia now, and when he came to visit me just before the pandemic, I was embarrassed. I was like, “Oh my God, he’s going to complain that I have too many things.” And he called me a capitalist hippie when I was 16 and I will never forget that. That hurt so bad. It scarred me and I think that I’m really trying to impress him and make him proud. And I think that I also, I admire my father. My father is a man of such brilliance, but he’s really lived a very humble and modest life and I think that that’s rooted in ancestral and karmic trauma. But I also, in a way, really admire that — it comes from also the value of I don’t need to shine up more than other people. I think there’s something sadistically beautiful about that as well.
[00:17:31] Maori Karmael Holmes: I want to switch gears a little bit. I want to talk about your early days of blogging. I know that you interned for StyleLikeu in 2010, and then from 2012 to 2016, you co-hosted the podcast Two Brown Girls with the writer Zeba Blay. And I was wondering how did you and Zeba meet and what was the initial connection between you?
[00:17:55] Fariha Róisín: Zeba and I met in the most romantic way. She’s my best friend. It feels weird to say that in my 30s I stopped saying it, but I feel like if anyone could be a best friend, it would be her. She’s one of the loves of my life. I’m very grateful for her and I met her at StyleLikeu. I was freshly in New York and looking for writing work and anywhere that I could build at this craft that I wanted to do and participate in and Style Like You came to me somehow, I can’t even remember. And I walked into the offices at the time and I remember turning to my right and seeing Zeba and just being like, “Oh my God.” I don’t know how, I just felt she was so beautiful and I just felt this pull toward her and we’ve been friends ever since. And we started the podcast Two Brown Girls in 2012 as a reaction to Girls, the TV show that came out that same year. And Zeba and I are both alt kids. We had very similar tastes and we were just oddballs and intrigued, I think by film. Both of us are huge film buffs. Both of us worked as film critics and yeah, I think it was just this love of culture. There’s a romance to that, not everyone’s like that. Not everybody has the same participation in culture and the same desire to be in it and experience it.
[00:19:45] Maori Karmael Holmes: Oh, I love that. Can you talk about writing and being concerned with public opinion and also becoming comfortable with failing? And I ask that because I’ve read you talking about at an early age that you weren’t particularly good at writing, but you kept going and a lot of people abandoned pursuits when they don’t display talent initially. So just curious for you, how did you get comfortable with not considering yourself talented and then how do you continue to write now with people paying attention to you because of Two Brown Girls and just other things and not being concerned with their opinion?
[00:20:29] Fariha Róisín: So it’s multifaceted because I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel satiated by my own writing. I hope so. That’s actually not true. Sometimes I read myself and I’m like, “Yeah, you did it. I’m proud of you.” And it’s more just, do I feel worthy of this platform. That’s something that I have a hard time with. The act of being seen and then being put on a pedestal for one reason or another. Because at a certain point, if you’re enough in the public eye, people, people can envy you and I’ve experienced that a lot. It’s something that I’m really interested in, other people’s envy, and that’s really hard for me at times because I have this thing that I was saying about my dad. I have that in my veins. I don’t want to outshine anyone. I just want to be of the people, but I also have something to say and I know that no one else is saying it like I am. And I also know that this is why I’m here. That’s always been very clear to me that I had something to say and that I was put on this earth for a reason, and I think those are the most powerful parts of my identity. It’s not so much that I’ve moved past the fear of it. Because I think after releasing Who Was Wellness For? into the world and being immensely embarrassed by the fact that everyone now knew about my life, it was so shocking that for months and months and months, I feel like I’ve been hiding under a rock and I’ve just started to pull myself out of it again. And I think that I don’t know if I’m ever going to be one of those people that’s like “It doesn’t matter what people think.” Because of course it doesn’t. Whether or not I think that’s true is another thing because I think I suffer from the fear of being unlikable, even though I know I’m not. There’s unlikable parts of me, and that’s part of me. I’m thorny at times and I’m blunt. I’m a Capricorn. I have earth signs, we have our intensities, and that sharpness, that Mars and Sagittarius has a sharpness. And I fear that I show too much of myself and that’s why I will never be lovable. But I think the thing that keeps me going, even though that makes me feel worried and embarrassed and want to hide, the thing that pushes me back into the work is God really. That’s the truth. I, for a very long time, have felt only in relationship to God because that was the only relationship that I could rely on. That I think has been the thing that’s kept me going.
[00:24:16] Maori Karmael Holmes: So your debut book of poetry, How to Cure a Ghost was released in 2019, and I was wondering if poetry, which is often an abstract form, is an easier way to describe and process for yourself what are often really intimate stories of deep trauma? Is that why you chose that form?
[00:24:39] Fariha Róisín: Yeah, I chose poetry so I could say whatever I wanted, and it’s so freeing because it is in that abstraction and sometimes that vagueness. But I actually used poetry, I think, to be very precise and it’s actually really worked and helped me in my more narrative work or journalistic work. I feel like even with writing Who Is Wellness For?, all of the poetic work that I had done, it helped me layer the story even though it was nonfiction with more grace. Writing How to Cure a Ghost, even the title How to Cure a Ghost, it’s like, who’s the ghost? The ghost is white supremacy, the ghost is my mother, the ghost is my depression. The ghost is ancestral. Ghost, literally and I think it truly is this journey of how to cure it, how to learn how to cure it.
[00:25:46] Maori Karmael Holmes: You shared with us that you began writing Like a Bird when you were about 12, and then you eventually published the novel in 2020 when you were 30. And just wondering how your writing and even the tone of the book shifted in those 18 years.
[00:36:06] Fariha Róisín: I am a very earnest learner, and so much of my learning has been on my own through reading. And it’s all of that early life of being trapped in home and not having access to other things. Where I was just reading Virginia Wolfe and reading Rabindranath Tagore and just random ass… also reading the Harry Potter novels, Twilight. I read everything and Like A Bird was really… It’s really cool to be like, wow, I have a documentation of where I was as a 12 year old that’s accessible to so many people. And the story itself, everything is almost, I would say, what it was foundationally, all of the characters I came up with as a 12 year old and all of their names are the same, which is wild. But it was originally set in Australia, and then when I moved to New York… So I think I started revisiting Like a Bird at 20, 21. So that was almost five years after I finished it around 15. And I think that’s when I redrafted it and it was in New York and a lot of the passages of Taylia walking around New York, that’s the main character, that was my true experience of really observing New York and observing what it would feel like to be from here and be mixed race and experience. Both of her parents really hate themselves. Her mother is Jewish American and her father is Hindu Bengali Indian, and both of them really hated themselves. And I think I wanted to create a character because that’s really, I think myself, both of my parents don’t like who they are and what happens when you create a child like that.
[00:28:34] Maori Karmael Holmes: Your most recent work, which you’ve mentioned before, Who is Wellness For? An Examination of Wellness Culture and Who It Leaves Behind was published in 2022. And I’d love to know what was the inspiration for writing this?
[00:28:49] Fariha Róisín: It was seeing the vast mythologies that the wellness industry is telling us. And that’s I think really alongside the mythology of capitalism and the mythology of whiteness and the mythology of patriarchy and masculinity. And it’s this idea that you can colonize people, you can completely eradicate them, and then you can take their resources, hundreds of years later and sell it back to white people and not give any of that money back to the cultures that you first ruined and destroyed and demolished and then stole from. And I think public knowledge and this understanding of intellectual property, which is an American invention, is a dangerous way that we interact with everything that’s not Western. And I felt rage, just deep rage thinking about this more and more. And in 2014, I pivoted away from film criticism and started to look at myself, and that’s when a lot of my essayistic writing was born out of this time and this feeling of I really have things that I need to figure out and look at and I want to write about them and see what happens. As I started this self-care journey in 2014/2015, I started to think more about wellness for the first time and it was also booming as an industry. That was really the beginning of what we see, what it is now, the beast that it is now. And I also think wellness has provided so much for so many people, and I love that. And I don’t mean to sound snarky. I do think that it’s important that there’s true education and compassion around this, but I think it was out of rage that I wrote this book and I didn’t come from a compassionate place when I started writing it. I was really just trying to be like, “Are you fucking kidding me? This is ridiculous.” And it was so dire doing the whole research for the book. And I was just doing a lot of work on myself and I started to see that as much as I need to point the finger, and I’m not going to make that easy, I’m going to say all of the facts. And Who Is Wellness For? is very, very well researched. And I knew that so many people would come for me otherwise, and I had to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s and do the work to really put out what is wrong. And really start with a look at meditation for example. What is meditation? Where does it come from? Let’s talk just about that for a second. It comes from India. Why does it come from India? Because almost, possibly 15,000 years ago, Indian men, Rishis and Vedic scholars decided to think and contemplate more about the mind. And through that contemplation, meditation was born. And when you erase that, these Indian men in caves, you erase the potency of the work and you negate the history of it, which is what white supremacy has done. But yeah, the book is a reflection of all of my thoughts over the last couple of years.
[00:32:55] Maori Karmael Holmes: Your next book, Survival Takes a Wild Imagination, which feels like such an apt title just given everything you’ve laid out. We’re going to have to imagine things to survive. What is this collection about?
[00:33:09] Fariha Róisín: I think I am at a stage in my life where I’m going to stop writing about my mom. I’m shifting and I’m moving outside of this early… All of the pain that was hanging over me. I want to move towards something else. And Survival, I think is the first book that… My mom is still very present and thematically, I think she’ll always be. It’s this immensely intense love story where it’s unrequited and I will always write about her and she’ll always be this theme. But I’m trying to move towards joy, and the book is embarking on that and embarking on something more playful and lacing and interweaving pain and trauma alongside happiness and bliss and eroticism and truly spiritual and sexual awakenings and what does it mean to coexist with all of that energy? I think that that’s been my journey over the last couple of years, really trying to heal something quite ugly and brutal being an incest survivor. I think that anyone that I’ve met that’s a child sexual abuse survivor are some of the most human and feeling people I’ve ever met. And there’s a rawness that I really love and I want that to be present in my work and that to be something that is a portal to something different for anyone who has experienced what I’ve experienced. And the beauty of possibility is really ripe for me these days. So I think that that’s what the book is really trying to encapsulate.
[00:35:20] Maori Karmael Holmes: And you’ve been talking about God a bit, and I know that you strongly identify as Muslim and practicing Islam as a way of life versus as a religion. And I would love if you could talk a bit about that approach. I don’t feel like we get often, at least not in the US, an understanding of, for lack of a better term, I’d say more of an esoteric Islam. I think people often hear from people who are very rigorous in their adherence. And what is it like for you, as I’m imagining you are using this as maybe as a language or as a channel, but not necessarily as a completely strict life path. So what is it about Islam that is, it works for you?
[00:36:15] Fariha Róisín: Because we’ve all been, and Muslims are included in this, been fed this idea of the rigidity of Islam, which I think is what fundamentalization has created. It’s created this ideology that is so far from the essence and the truth of Islam, in my perspective. And I think that it’s so tricky because we can’t talk about that without talking about imperialism, for example, and the reactions of these nations that were ravaged through imperialism through British and American imperialism and Russian imperialism for Afghanistan as well. And then the reaction happens is that these countries become extremely fearful and they become more religious in a very puritanical way. And I have a lot of ideas of why it’s happened, but it’s not the Islam that I was raised with, and it’s not a modern Islam either. I think that that’s something that I really want to say to people, everyone, anyone who’s listening to this. Islam, the Islam that I experience and value and practice is the Islam of the eighth century to the 15th century. Islam that was extremely queer and documented so and very… I mean astrology, I write this in Who Was Wellness For, but astrology was very important in Islam and Muslim nations. Some of the leading astrologers of that time were Arabic Muslim astrologers. And so I look back to this time of poetry like Rumi and Kabir and all of these poets that still have lasted all this time and their entire relationship is to God. But there’s also deep discussion of whether or not Rumi was gay and the possibilities of that. And that’s something that I’ve heard since I was a child. It’s not a new understanding. And I think that that fundamentalization is a reaction to all of that. And it’s the core truth of what I believe Islam is, has not been lost because it still exists, but the power of what it used to be, has been dismissed.
[00:38:54] Maori Karmael Holmes: And its in addition to being a writer, an artist, an activist, and a model. You’ve also mentioned that you’ve spent time as a film critic, and I know that you have a deep love for movies and grew up watching a wide variety of stories. I was just wondering what are some of your favorite films?
[00:39:10] Fariha Róisín: I think my favorite film of all time is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it’s somehow still managed to be my fave. But my other faves are Monsoon Wedding, which I think is a perfect film, and I think that it’s a perfect film. Howl’s Moving Castle, In the Mood for Love, Biutiful, The Iñárritu film. My favorite filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami and Hayao Miyazaki. When I was a kid, my sister and I were obsessed with Royal Tannenbaums. It’s still probably one of my favorite films. Soundtracks really stayed with me. That soundtrack really still really stays with me. I cut my hair like Amalie when I was 14 because she was one of my favorites. It was one of my favorite films. Film is probably the most affecting medium for me. I love film so much.
[00:40:27] Maori Karmael Holmes: You also have this life in fashion and style and you’ve talked a little bit about this with your father calling you a capitalist hippie and maybe being at odds with luxury or things like that, but there’s many different ways of experiencing beauty that isn’t necessarily about buying things. So I’m just curious, how do you define beauty for yourself?
[00:40:51] Fariha Róisín: Oh, I love that. So much that is beautiful is free. Just walking around LA and looking at the architecture of everything, that’s one of my favorite things to do. Just the houses have so much character and so much aliveness. And obviously, even before that, it’s the nature, like the hummingbird that’s outside of my window or the white lilies or the smell of the Meyer lemons or the lavender. There’s so much beauty everywhere and that’s what blows my mind. Capitalism makes you think that there’s nothing and that you should always want more beauty. But the beauty of just every day of our bodies, our lovers, our friends, our pets, the earth, that beauty is undefinable. And I think that that is beauty that I try and focus on, the beauty that is free and the beauty that is abundant. And I think that is the most anti-capitalist thing that anyone can do. And I struggle with it, but I want to do it more. Just reminding myself that I don’t have to fill anything with some object and I can find a beauty that will satiate me in even a piece of fruit, like eating a naval orange or eating a perfectly ripe mango, eating a dosa from a dosa truck. It’s the small things I feel are really the most resonant. It’s true.
[00:42:57] Maori Karmael Holmes: I’ve also read that you’ve described clothing as an armor, and I was wondering what colors or silhouettes make you feel powerful?
[00:43:06] Fariha Róisín: Green. Green is my favorite color, but I have a penchant for blue. I love blues, baby blues. Powerful? I don’t know if colors make me powerful but anything that makes me feel poised, which is different. It has to be something that sits well on my body and it can look like anything, but it just has to sit right. And I think once I get that sit, that’s it. It’s clicked into place. It’s the armor now. And fashion is so cool because you get to choose each day what it is that you want to position yourself as and that’s the sense of playfulness that I think is really important. And fashion to me, I think, is that for me, it’s a space of deep exploration and a place where I can try anything.
[00:44:15] Maori Karmael Holmes: My last question, who are your North Stars or artistic ancestors?
[00:44:22] Fariha Róisín: My North Stars, James Baldwin is probably right up there, Eartha Kitt, Susan Sontag, Etel Adnan who just died last year. Ryuichi Sakamoto who just also died a couple months ago. Niki De Saint Phalle, I love her work on the tarot, her tarot work is really cool though. I’ll leave those ones.
[00:44:53] Maori Karmael Holmes: Yeah, those are really great ones. Thank you so much again, I really appreciate you taking the time to be on our show.
[00:45:02] Fariha Róisín: Thank you so much.
[00:45:13] Maori Karmael Holmes: To keep up with more of Fariha Róisín’s work, you can follow her on Instagram at fariha_roisin. This season of Many Lumens is brought to you by Open Society Foundations. It is produced by BlackStar Projects in partnership with Rowhome Productions. The host and executive producer of Many Lumens is me, Maori Karmael Holmes. This episode was produced by Kayla Latimore. Associate producers are Irit Reinheimer and Zoe Greggs. Managing producer is Alex Lewis, executive editor is John Meyers. Justin Berger is our final mix and mastering engineer. Our music supervisor is David “Lil’ Dave” Adams. Our theme song was composed by Vijay Mohan and remixed by Lil’ Dave. This episode features music by Kayla Childs aka Black Buttafly.