So far, we’ve been featuring contributors who have written short stories and essays for AFTERMATH, but the book also has some wonderful visual pieces. One of them is by Aneeta Mitha, a photographer and visual artist. We sat down with them to talk about their portrait of a transgender woman named Shaibu and the larger project to which it belongs.
Can you introduce yourself as well as your contribution to AFTERMATH?
I’m Aneeta, a queer muslim photographer and visual artist, currently living in New York. A portrait of Shaibu was my contribution to AFTERMATH. Shaibu is someone I met while in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania working on my project Embodied, a collaborative photo project with Queer and Trans people of color embodying their lived experience. She is a member of Community Health Education Services and Advocacy (CHESA), a sex worker-led organization that aims to empower sex workers and provide public services and education for sexual health.
In all of her playfulness and candor wearing her favorite dress, Shaibu shared with me how deeply unsafe she has felt as a transwoman when occupying public space. As she told her story, she oscillated between vulnerability and joy, trauma and hope, compassion and resistance. At the end of our time together, Shaibu shared what often people, and in particular trans and queer people, feel when we find belonging: “When I feel understood, I feel happy.”
What attracted you to the theme of the book?
The underpinning of Embodied is the centralization of vulnerability and its power for Queer and Trans People of Color, many of whom have had their truthtelling distorted, victimized, or silenced. Each collaborator moved through and spoke of their experience with trauma, loss, belonging, and resilience.
When I came across Radix’s call for contributors for AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief, I knew that the work of Embodied would be heard and at home.
What are you hoping to convey to readers with your piece?
In a time when so many of us are saturated by imagery for so much of our days, when scrolling is a pacifier of sorts, I hope that people spend time with the piece and with Shaibu. Today, I find such tenderness in this photo but the subjectivity of any piece changes with the viewer and with time. Just like with other mediums of art, I hope that people come back to it, sensing again how she feels and how they feel when feeling her.
Talk about some of your favorite projects you’ve been involved with.
Intimately connecting with so many intergenerational QTPOC from diverse places in Embodied was definitely a favorite. Another project that I’ve been working on for some time that brings me a lot of poetry and joy is HomeMovings, a collection of films that reconceptualizes the home movies of our past and selfie-documentation of our present.
What’s next on the horizon?
I’m currently working on a project that integrates climate change with self-portraiture that I feel super excited by right now.
You can learn more about Aneeta and see more of their work at their website. The photograph of Shaibu is included in our debut book, AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief, available for purchase now in our online store. Get your copy today!