Fatima Ijaz, is currently teaching English and Speech Communication at Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. She is an English graduate from Hartwick College, N.Y and York University, Toronto. She also holds a Master in English Linguistics from Eastern Michigan University. She won first prize at the Mclaughlin Poetry Contest in Toronto, 2007. Her work was featured in a poetry and art collaboration for #NomeansNo at the Music Mela, Islamabad’18 and at Art Baithak, Karachi University in March 2019. Her work has been published in Zau, Red Fez, Rigorous, The Write Launch, Abramelin, Della Donna, Whirlwind, These Fragile Lilacs, Writer’s Asylum and Praxis magazine.
His books transport one to a past — a time where under the green creepers on a softly moving river, a boat sails and take one into a unique world of what has been. You discover how much the world has changed and how Singapore has evolved, you meet people who intrigue and bring to the fore the roots that created the little red dot. And yet some of his books look forward to a future – a world of harmony where technology and spiritual peace co-exist… Meet the author, winner of numerous awards and a voice to be reckoned with — Isa Kamari.
Isa Kamari was born in 1960 and lives in Singapore with his wife and two children. He is currently Deputy Director in the Architecture Division with the Land Transport Authority of Singapore, leading a team that manages the design and construction of transport infrastructures. While his profession is an architect, his passion lies in writing, though his architectural background has also found a way into some of his novels.
In all, he has written 9 novels, 3 collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, a book of essays on Singapore Malay poetry, a collection of theatre scripts and lyrics of 2 song albums — all in Malay. His novels have been translated into English, Turkish, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, Indonesian and Mandarin. His collections of essays and selected poems have been translated into English. His first novel in English, Tweet was published in 2016. Isa was conferred the Southeast Asia Write Award from Thailand in 2006, the Singapore Cultural Medallion in 2007, the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang from the Singapore Malay Language Council in 2009, and the Mastera Literary Award from Brunei Darussalam in 2018.
In this exclusive, he talks about his book Kiswah, whose translated version is being launched on 8thNovember in the Singapore Writer’s Festival; the dramatisation of his novel, 1819 and much more…
You will soon be launching Kiswah. It shuttles between various locales. Can you tell us the intent of this book? What led you to write it?
Isa: In the late 1990s, I was disturbed by the rampant spread of pornographic materials in in Singapore. Vendors openly sold X-rated VCDs near MRT stations, bus interchanges and bazaars illegally. There were also reports in the newspapers about the addiction to pornography amongst professionals and the young. At the same time, I knew from my wife, who was doing voluntary service at a welfare home, that there were many family breakups arising from sexual abuses. All these compelled me to ponder on the topic of manifestation of sexual life in relation to spirituality or the lack of it. The various locales — like Delhi, Agra, Kashmir, Kathmandu and finally Mecca — becomes the background for me to explore, confront, interrogate and somewhat find a resolution on the topic.
There’s a force inside me that compels me to write. I feel unwell if I don’t write for a while. I think I write simply because it’s part of my be-ing in the world. I need to communicate. Not just with others; but essentially, I need to express and explore what I am not sure yet what I know or don’t know. I need to ask questions.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
If you are referring to the most recently published book, then it would be sinuous, a long poem, published by Turnstone Press in October 2013. But Pulse (Ethos Books, 2014) is the most recently released edition of a novel that was first published in Canada by Key Porter Books in 2010 (just months before it shut down). So, if I may choose to focus on Pulse:
I’d grown up in Singapore and left for Canada in 1980 to begin my studies in psychology at University of Toronto. Even though I’ve spent most of the past 35 years away from Singapore, I am very much connected deeply to the country of my childhood. Pulse is a novel that explores the experience of a queer woman living in Toronto who re-visits her past and engages with the disorienting landscapes of the present. I wanted to explore the various levels of trauma—collective and personal—that mark us, and how we creatively seek to transform those wounds. The book is a work of fiction. But I have certainly borrowed from my knowledge and memories.