I grew up around a-lot of violence, but learned the value of grounded optimism and personal storytelling, crafting my own narrative as a way of life. Years later I would discover the word ‘hei’ or the ‘sunflower’ philosophy, the Korean concept of turning towards the sun. After graduating, I spent 5 years in the humanitarian field (so all the way until earlier this year). I felt the need not just to spread awareness, but express what I saw happening in the world and how we are all connected through universal, hope, love and grief, in part because of pain I was experiencing and had experienced as a result of fear, prejudice, loneliness and the complexities of living life in our current world. I could not understand why certain groups of people were viewed as ‘outside’ of this universality. In particular, I felt strongly about the scapegoating of Muslims around the world and the alienation of minorities, be they black or gay or women or anything else. Being a non-binary, mixed race agnostic, has meant the right to be different is something that is of the utmost importance to me. So I searched for a way to speak for all those who have been deprived of voice or humanity, the way I had been and my passion for storytelling as an artform seemed like the best way to move people’s hearts. So I created Asem.
I then became co-founder of a young creative start-up Hei Studios (also known as Hei Stories), which brings together artists, scholars and activists from around the world, including the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North and Latin America. We love and utilise art across mediums, from paintings to comics, to prose to poetry and animation. We aim to create unique, visual stories in speculative and genre fiction to push the imaginations of our audiences and inspire empathy, tolerance, inclusion and hope.
From paintings, animations and comics of Asem, a superheroine learning to love again in a city of spirits and wonder, to stories of a man who plants a flower made of fire on the moon to inspire people to change; we are aiming to offer something new to the world of art, activism and fiction. The basic principle is that through the medium of fantasy and by harnessing the imagination, we can push our moral and empathetic capacity. This year, our animatic Seeking Scarlet was released in two London theatres, we are now adapting Seeking Scarlet into an animated series.
Seeking Scarlet is an intimate love story about a young woman learning to live and love again in a divided world that hurt her. She was born with the ability to draw power from the thoughts and wishes of others, so her terrible defeat not only deprived her displaced people of their homeland, but also meant that the world had rejected her hope and her dreams. It falls on Petra, a warm yet powerless cafe worker, to open Asem’s heart, their relationship, their love possibly being the last hope for this world where difference is feared, in a city where all cultures blend and the gods, spirits and wonders which haunt it, are analogous to the unknowable mystery of the human heart, love and hope. Love is universal, morality is creativity and it is our dreams that will save us.