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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 January 2021

My UAE: More than words for the Emirati poet Afra Atiq

Born in Dubai to an Emirati father and a Japanese-American mother, Afra Atiq is one of an emerging group of Emirati spoken-word poets.
Afra Atiq has been practising spoken-word poetry since 2009. Alex Atack for The National
Afra Atiq has been practising spoken-word poetry since 2009. Alex Atack for The National

Afra Atiq knows a thing or two about being different. Born in Dubai to an Emirati father and a Japanese-­American mother, she’s one of an emerging group of Emirati spoken-word poets. Her day job is an events co-ordinator.

“Every Emirati has a responsibility to the country to be creative,” she says. “Where will the world be without the poets, writers, artists, painters and sculptors?”

Atiq, who performs in ­Arabic and English, believes that students should have access to more art programmes through schools or extracurricular activities. “I’d love to see poetry and performing arts programmes. The conventional career path is fine, but people should be exposed to other possibilities,” she says.

Atiq’s own path has been supported by her family. She posts on YouTube, and is a member of Untitled Chapters (www.untitledchapters.com), a group that offers workshops, book clubs and poetry readings. Atiq also performs at Rooftop Rhythms in Abu Dhabi and other venues. “I love everything about it,” she says. “I love being on the stage performing; I love the applause; I love making people laugh on stage.”

Atiq always tries to make her topics accessible to the audience. Her next goal is to take her poetry to the world stage. “I would love to go international. It is hard to take that leap, because the spoken-­word community is so big; there are so many amazing poets.”

Self-taught, Atiq learnt about slam poetry when she was in ­Boston with a friend at a conference. When one of her friends went up and “did the spoken ­word”, it immediately struck Atiq. She has been practising spoken word since 2009, and believes it’s the best way to express what she is feeling.

“I don’t consider myself a slam poet or a writer. I am more of a spoken- word poet. I don’t really like to see my work in print; I feel it doesn’t come across the way I want it to come across. So it needs to be performed. I always tell people that I am better in person than I am on paper.”

What’s your favourite language when hearing a poem?

Everything – poetry is universal.

Which artist do you most admire?

I really admire the founder of Untitled Chapters, Fatma Al Bannai. Poetry wise, Andrea Gibson is just amazing. She is so mesmerising.

What are your favourite travel destinations?

I love Manila, and Georgia in the US. I just love the country.

What are your favourite movies?

Classic musicals – Easter Parade; Clue with Tim Curry is my favourite, I know the script by heart.

What are the five things you can’t leave home without?

Wallet, great playlist, phone, watch and headphones.

What does your dream room look like?

It has giant French windows and looks really good on YouTube. There is also a really big bed, and I need a fridge.

If you had a time machine, whom would you like to meet?

My grandmother.

What’s your favourite meal?

My mother’s meatloaf, and pumpkin pie, which is the meal I always request for my birthday.

What are you most proud of?

My master’s degree with 4.0, and also meeting Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

malshamsi@thenational.ae

Published: October 8, 2015 04:00 AM

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