Breaking the Muslim Tradition & Celebrating Transformation

Anita was brought up in Malaysia as a Sunni Muslim, where women have some freedom of choice about whether to cover their heads and faces.

As a young person her parents brought her to London and throughout her 20s she chose a conventional path; marriage, university, career in a bank and the birth of her daughter. At 30 she felt the need to reassess her circumstance; she knew she wasn’t happy and wanted to address who she really is to find her true happiness. Divorce and a desire to celebrate her body with tattoos and piercings followed, as well as taking a step towards one of her dreams – she joined an amatuer theatre company. When she took on the role of director there a couple of years ago, she chose the play ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’. Anita felt strongly about pushing boundaries and didn’t skimp on the nudity, indeed she took on the part of the courtesan who appears naked, herself.

She met her partner Steve at the drama group, and a mutual friend Julian invited them both to take part in Spirited Bodies. They each individually decided to try it, and feel glad that their interest in this activity is naturally matched in the other. It will be something to share.

Steve has been through quite a physical and indeed internal transformation in the last few years. He used to be a large man but lost a quarter of his body weight in a fairly short time, though this he explains is a minor matter compared to the real shift that took place within him. He had become very tired of being an underdog who lacked confidence in the extreme, and decided to do something about it. He wanted to come out of the shadows, and once he held this vision of certainty and strength in his mind, the rest followed easily. Anita thinks taking part in Spirited Bodies will allow him to acknowledge this powerful transformation in his life and share it with her. For herself, Anita wants to embrace expressions of independence and liberation. Her next ambition following Spirited Bodies, is to perform burlesque.

I ask how it is to be a Muslim woman with a Western lifestyle and what it’s like going home to Malaysia, seeing her female family and friends. She says she likes to have a chance to talk to them on their own, because then she gets hints of their independent aspirations, which are starting to show themselves more in the younger generation. Anita doesn’t think they may truly assert their womanhood in all its fullness whilst in Malaysia as the dominant culture is deeply embedded and restricting. She is grateful to live in England and bring up her daughter here. Anita still considers herself a Muslim, and appreciates that women gain a great deal from covering themselves and communing in single sex groups. It is the choice afforded her by living here that gives her the best insight, however. She is in the enviable position of experiencing the best of both worlds! While she cannot be truly open with her own Mother about her lifestyle now, she endeavours to foster a relationship with her daughter that nourishes truth and speaking freely.

Published by esther bunting

Performer, artist, writer

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