The Identity Series
SEASON 1, EPISODE 4: ALMASS BADATT
In our fourth episode, Inaya Hussain is joined by Almass Badat - a director, DJ and strategist from London who uses art to inspire introspection, embrace fearlessness and to unlock multi-potentialism. Almass shares her journey with her identity - from Lusaka to London to India - and her acceptance of self through spirituality and connection with her heritage.
ON UPBRINGING AND IDENTITY
Almass was born in London but grew up in Lusaka, Zambia, and attributes her curious nature to her exposure to different communities and cultures from a young age. She shares how her mother always encouraged her to embrace difference, explore and ask questions.
“Being exposed to lots of different kinds of people from a young age meant that it’s not unfamiliar to me now to be the only person that maybe looks like me or has the same identifiers in the same space. It’s really cultivated a love and an appreciation for other cultures. In fact, it probably makes me more curious.”
Holding both Indian and Muslim identities, Almass shares how learning about other religions and cultures allows her to understand the world from a multi-faceted perspective.
“All of the experiences of the world are ways to further understand the world, the people and, in turn, myself too...“I would say my early formative years definitely played a big part in how I process information and how I am eager to learn about other people and their stories and where they come from.”
On finding stability within identity, Almass shares how being the third generation of her family to be living in London has given her both the space to embrace her South Asian-ness, but also created distance between her South Asian identity and her cultural roots, especially having grown up in Lusaka.
“Growing up in Lusaka meant that my experience of being a South Asian Woman or young girl at the time, just had this other sort of puzzle piece added on to it. So what I have been working on to feel comfortable with in the past three or four years is to step into and embracing not knowing. That has been really beautiful, and a nice gateway and a starting point."
Almass feels that her identity is constantly changing and that she will never feel completely happy with herself. She discusses that there is no pressure in finding that piece with oneself.
LIVING IN INDIA & CULTURE
At the end of 2019, Almass spent two months in various places in India, where she interacted with lots of young creatives and native Indians.
“There was this closeness to their roots that I was experiencing in those two months.”
Almass got to embrace that she had a gap in knowledge about her culture and didn’t feel any judgement when learning and questioning the people in India she met.
When it comes to culture, Almass is overwhelmed with the amount of culture around us - whether it's getting on the train or going to someone's house - there's culture everywhere. Almass goes onto discuss what culture means to her, highlighting that it is personal and different for everyone, and, that she is constantly learning and open to others' depictions and perspectives.
“Culture is one of those words like love, it's hard to describe. When I talk about culture I usually say that culture is language, food, dress and more. These are the things I want to explore.”
BEING A QUEER MUSLIM WOMAN
Almass recalls ‘coming out’ to her mum and immediate family at the age of 21. At the time, Almass also posted a photo on Facebook,. embracing her queerness, and being extremely open about her identity. With the gift of hindsight, Almass shares that this public sharing of her identity was a signal for community, which she ended up finding in part through volunteer-led charity Hidayah, which offers support and welfare to LGBTQIA+ Muslims across the UK.
“I am really blessed to have a community around me, be that my family or friends that are really accepting of who I am.”
Almass discusses that her journey was made easier with the help of her community and her accepting herself as part of the queer comminity. She discusses that in the Western world its easier to be a queer woman than being in other spaces around the world and the liberation it gives her/ the people in the LGBTQ+ community.
“I always knew I was free as a person, I always knew I was accepting of other people and myself and if anything, I was more curious than afraid or punished myself.”
“We are going to experience a lot of creativity at first and we are going to experience a lot of learning, and what the undercurrent is going to be a lot of pain as we have a lot of pain”
“Every few generations, we as humans reset ourselves cause things get lost, stories get lost and so we are talking about archiving and it's like okay what other things are you actually want to archive and why?”
“Hopefully we will be able to see more togetherness, I think this will be a challenge because the SOuth Asian community, by default is classist and casteist and colourist- and so I hope we are able to see past that especially the new Gens coming through”
“There's just so much to learn, and to me that is energising and I hope we get the opportunity to do that”
Thank you to the Podcast team who worked on this series, including Inaya Hussain, Tasha Mathur, Nishma Jethwa and Minnie Bhullar.
Music produced by Substeppers
Substeppers are British Asian bass music duo combining the precision of Sunny Banger, with the mastery of Vxks. After a long hiatus, they are back to capitalize on their early success and send ripples of their new sounds all around the world. With consistent support from the likes of BBC, MTV & Mixmag, their newest EP entitled Bollywood Trap led them to become the BBC Introducing's first British Asian production duo. The Substeppers project aims to take people to another world with their latest single & explore eastern themes combined with progressive ideas, through the lens of electronic world music.
Artwork produced by KakiKasi
KakiKasi is currently based in the Bay Area, California with roots in the American Midwest and Punjab. They are an artist, writer and overall community-centred creature. You can find some of their artwork @KakiKasi and some of the work they’ve curated of South Asian queer and feminist art @popadumart.