An-Nisaa (Women)

Directed by
No items found.

Three women in Western Cape, South Africa, use art, comedy, and social media to challenge stereotypes and confront taboo issues within their Muslim community.

A documentary by Thaakira Behardien about women challenging Muslim stereotypes in South Africa. Shakirah (29), entrepreneur and activist, a vivid presence on social media where she fights to preserve the heritage of her home district – Bo-Kaap, Cape Town – against rampant gentrification. 50 kilometres away in Strand, Western Cape, 27-year-old Rughshana builds a second career in comedy, using humour to explore the “forbidden” world of dating and her community’s obsession with marriage. The work of art student Rushda (32), in the university town of Stellenbosch, prominently features the hijab and ideas about female identity. Three unique women with a common heritage. “Cape Malay” Muslims trace their roots back to Indonesian forced labourers and slaves. In today’s South Africa, Shakirah, Rughshana and Rushda are equal under the law – but struggle against the confines of family and community expectations and pigeonholing by wider society. An-Nisaa (Women), a 30’ interview-led documentary, explores how they use their creative mediums to challenge taboos, widen the conversation and define their futures whilst remaining true to their faith.

Director Thaakira Behardien says: I remember being alarmed; not necessarily at the lack of Muslim female representation, but rather at how inaccurate it was. There always seems to be this obsession with the Hijab. It is problematic if a Muslim woman chooses to wear it, but liberating if she removes it or vice versa. When is it enough to just be? And not for your choices of dress to always have political implications? So, this film chooses not to address the hijab in any which way. It rather focuses on Muslim female creatives just being, how they choose to express themselves creatively - through art, social media and comedy. What is important here is that these women have choice, they have agency and they control their own narratives. We get to see the world from their unique and unfiltered perspectives. This is what it was like growing up in Cape Town, South Africa. Muslim women - and all women for that matter - have the freedom to choose who they are without consequence. I am not saying that I live in a perfect country with perfect solutions, but the women in An-Nisaa (Women) have their own voice. I was simply trying to amplify it though this film. Looking back at this film now, I realise what I was ultimately trying to do was humanise the Muslim female experience, which in many ways is problematic in itself. I do not the first thing about how to fix or address issues surrounding Islamophobia - particularly in today's current climate - but I know that film is a powerful tool that can offer some answers.


Additional Camera: Annie Nisenson & Abul Ajak

Additional Sound: Kay-Lee Simmers