Tell me about you, as an artist. How do you define art? What art do you make?
I am a digital artist, theatre maker and writer. For me, art is a new whole world that time has stopped, and you can talk about whatever you want or need to in any form. Writing poetry and theatre was the gateway for me to enter the creative world.
I did theatre from kindergarten to studying ‘Directing Theatre’ at Shiraz University. When I came to the UK, I studied an advance course in ‘Media, Moving Image Production’ and became a digital artist and film maker. I use videography, animation, live-art, motion graphic, documentary, social media and moving image as a tool to shape my work. I also came back to making theatre and live art in 2015 and I am passionate about mixing my digital skills in my performance to create new and innovative piece of works.
Beside my theatre and digital life, writing has always been a huge part of my work. I am Persian, and I come from Shiraz, which is the main city of poetry and culture in Iran. I think poetry is like a big arm that always embraces my art and has its touch in all works – even when I am writing a short story, a play or a screen play.
In 2017, you received a Jerwood Creative Fellowship from Manchester International Festival. What did you enjoy most about your time with MIF and what did you learn about yourself as an artist?
I enjoyed all aspects of my fellowship with all its challenges, from observing the whole festival and attending meetings with the key staff at MIF, to working with Nigel Barrett, Louise Mari with Abigail Conway at ‘Party Skills for The End of the World’ which was the commission that I was attached to. One of my most enjoyable times was sharing my journey and experience with 5 other fellows, who are professionals in different fields of art. It also helped me to have the opportunity to reflect on my own practice with the support of the management team in the MIF talent development department.
I learned one of the most valuable lessons in my career as an artist with MIF, which is the understanding of the process and development of the creative ideas. I learned that it’s absolutely fine not to have all the answer to the questions as an artist and it’s important to have a space to explore. I learned that I must focus on developing my ideas without the pressure of what would be the outcome, because by having the time to try and explore ideas, an artist has more focus on the process that will lead to the outcome naturally. By working with five other creatives, I also learned that in order to develop the process, it’s so important to communicate or collaborate with other artists to increase my knowledge which. My artistic journey itself as the Jerwood Creative Fellow with MIF was also that creative space for myself to have the opportunity to research, observe and practice.
Late last year, you were commissioned by Commonword to deliver a digital project exploring poetry and coding. How is the project progressing and what do you hope people take away from it once it is complete?
‘Bringing Poetry into Code Generation’ has the goal of making an accessible digital presence for writers to present their works. The project is about using different digital forms as a tool to access literature and writing. These forms include blogs, GIFs, Motion Graphic, short film and QR codes.
The project began with creating a digital platform for Deyika Nzeribe’s poems, who was an activist, writer, poet and former chair of Commonword’s board of trustees, whom we sadly lost on 1st of January 2017. This project will also create a platform for international writers, starting with Hiro Fokuda Peru – who is a Japanese writer and Visual Artist.
One of the big aims of this project is working directly with writers to see what sort of digital platforms will suit their work. Each writer has their own style and so it’s important to understand the nature of their work when creating a platform for them.
At the end of 2017, you started developing DIPACT, a project that focuses on platforming diverse artists. What inspired you to start this project and what does it hope to achieve this year?
The first inspiration to start DIPACT was the power of diversity in Manchester and the key role of diverse artists in bringing a global influence to work in the art sector in the United Kingdom. After travelling to Europe last year working with European Cultural Foundation in ‘TANDEM’ project and attending the ‘Migration and Health’ Webinar by the World Health Organisation at the United Nation city in Denmark, it became clearer to me that the UK achieved a very high level of engagement to work with diverse artists (especially refugees) compared to other European cities.
Even though the level of diversity engagement is higher in the UK, there are still barriers and gaps that are always in the way of diverse artists achieving their artistic goals and making it hard for them to present their arts. Some of these barriers are the categorisation and labelling by heritage, personal circumstances, sexuality etc. There is a huge difference between recognising artists by their background to make sure the opportunities are equal, when it comes to creating art. No artists should get defining in any form and be expected to produce art work just because they are from different backgrounds.
DIPACT is looking at taking these barriers off by creating a space and opportunities that diverse artists can come together and work as a team of creative global minds to work on new, unique, innovative ideas and methods to create works and tell untold stories from around the world.
We are a group of 8 artists at the moment and we are having a research and development process to create a performance based on ‘Kojiki’, the oldest chronicle of Japan which is full of amazing myths and never been introduced as a performance in the UK. We are working using co-creation method because I believe giving leadership to the team is one the main keys to success. We also have artists’ HUBs in main art centres in Manchester such as HOME to introduce the project, our method and also give other diverse artists opportunities to join us.
You’ve played a huge role in the creation of Platforma, an arts and refugees network that was launched with a conference last winter. How do you hope to further develop Platforma in the future?
Platforma is important because there is a huge need to recognise refugee artists and giving them the opportunity to continue their work. I don’t like to use the word ‘refugee’ because again we are defining an artist because of a life disaster that is out of their control.
Platforma creates a platform for the refugee artists to be recognised by their works and also allowing them to tell their stories, whether it’s their form of art and profession or a story that they would like to tell the whole world.
I believe artists themselves need to lead more on arts events and I would like to see more diverse artists leading in Platforma and I also believe there is a need to collaborate with more British artists because in that case we can say we are promoting a shared creation process.
You’ve been a writer at Commonword since 2015 and had work published in two of our anthologies. What have you enjoyed most about your time with us and how has it helped you grow as a writer?
One of the most enjoyable times was getting recognised for my writing even though I was thinking that my English was not good enough to get published. Attending the Identity workshops helped me to share my work and get feedback, it really improved my confidence and made me have faith in myself.
Also, I felt so safe in the group to share my work. It helped to create a bond with other members because I could feel they understood me as who I am and where I come from. A language barrier is always a stop sign against improving self-confidence when you are living in another country. Joining Commonword helped me to understand that my ideas have values and by getting support I can make them happen and, Commonword providing that support was a huge help for me.
If you could offer a piece of advice to your younger self about being in the arts industry, what would it be?
The advice that I would give my younger self would be never doubt your skills and what you can offer, so you should speak up and show what you can bring to the table and never underestimate yourself.
Where can we find your work?
You can find most of works in my website is: http://Mahboobeh.co.uk/
What does the future hold for you in your writing career?
I will definitely publish more of my work especially my poems, plays and a novel that I am still working on it.
Sum up your experience thus far in one word