Malisha: On Authenticity, Self-Care, Social Work, Dogs, Somaliland, Feminism, Foucault + Advice for all
We had a family friend, mom’s dear friend, Jane,
who lived on the beach.
She was an artist.
She had this amazing big dog, Daisy.
Mom would always let me paint there,
play with the dog, be with Jane.
Jane passed a few years ago.
She was very modern.
I was very curious of her,
because she would have short hair,
wear very long black dresses, like a witch.
Actually I haven’t thought about her until just now...
it’s important to be authentic to yourself.
So from [the movie] Inside/Out
Joy was supposed to be the hero, right?
That comes from the perception of happiness,
that happiness is a right for everybody.
Really, sadness is really with you as well,
and she turned out to be the hero as well.
A lot of people suffer from depression.
It’s like a roller coaster:
you come from the darkness,
but you learn to be content with that.
It’s about resilience. Scan your body,
and scan your feelings, and that’s okay.
With depression , you slum into a hole,
and you don’t really want to get out of it.
A lot of my friends have severe manic depression
[that they] couldn't get out of it for days.
[One] has given up completely. It’s very triggering.
Don’t let that category define who you are.
It was really a concern for me to work for Refuge,
surrounding myself with all these bad stuff.
It made me very resilient,
because I would draw resilience from their experience.
It’s a very powerful journey.
When people write up their CV,
they write: “I’m a really results-oriented person.”
Really, you can’t get attached to the outcome.
When you work at the Refuge,
you want a good outcome.
You have to stay present,
and just be there for her
[any woman that seeks help at the Refuge],
and as long as she knows you’re there,
at that present moment, you’re ok.
My second ever phone call as a volunteer: a woman rang:
“He’s trying to get through the door!”
She rang us instead of the police.
When I asked for her phone number,
the phone just cut [off].
I wish I asked for her name.
“It’s ok,” my supervisor said,
“she rang you to hear your voice, and that'll help her.”
And that sense of connection is so vital.
We become so hollow and lonely when we don’t talk to people.
What is compassion?
[It’s] very tied in with empathy.
I see it in gestures as well.
The look in the eye. Hand movements.
If you’re open, you’re letting yourself be vulnerable,
you’re letting people in,
and you’re not blocking yourself from people.
[It’s also] tied in with active listening.
There’s where you really practice your active listening skills.
Just simply observing the other person and,
not talking over them.
[Compassion is like] that song
♩Lean On Me♪,
I think it’s completely contextual.
There have to be messages conveyed to you from that other person.
There shouldn't be judgment passed.
Even just simple generous gestures,
that’s very compassionate.
In Somaliland, the woman would just kiss my hand -
I’d kiss her hand, and she’d take [mine] and kiss [it].
The men wouldn’t shake your hand.
That’s why I was very lucky being a woman researcher.
I wasn’t interested in men [as my subjects]
I met a few who really just tarnished my view about patriarchy there:
A man invited his friends over to his house right after his wife just delivered her baby -
[he] did not have compassion for his wife,
[nor was he] mindful that 'my wife just gave birth.' The men were [there] chewing kat.
Even when we had our radical picnic at our university -
We organised a picnic, the uni I worked at.
Some students were allowed to go,
Boys would mingle with girls.
There were 3 principles that students wanted to voice about:
caring for environment; loving your family;
and respecting how much work your mother does
(they all cook, and it’s a lot of work);
recognising family as FMU [Fundamental Moral Unit]
and bringing everyone together at the same space.
Yet, [the] grownup males, the Islamic teacher, the vice president,
they grouped themselves off,
they didn’t contribute to anything,
threw their rubbish on the ground,
expected the girls to pick them up.
I said [to them],
“No, being together is important.”
[So] they came [and joined us],
but they were on their own mats.
They were ridiculed by the students.
It’s good for the boys to see what you’re not supposed to do.
The boys helped out with cooking -
for boys to flip the fish over, and wash the dishes,
that was radical.
It’s nothing but something,
it means a whole [lot].
This whole division of labor,
it’s not doing them justice.
Do you love dogs or cats?
I’m a dog lover. That’s just always it.
I think it comes from my mother.
My mom was very horrible to cats when I was younger.
Cats don’t like me and I don't like cats.
Cats are too independent for my liking.
Dogs - lots of companionship there.
They pick up the same behavior as family.
Mom sleeps a lot,
so you’ll always find [my dog] Milo in bed.
Milo is like a sacred symbol - everyone surrounds him,
and that brings us together.
And Milo would always want the family to be together.
There was once we went shopping.
I said to go get something that way,
and mom needed to get something the other direction.
We didn’t have Milo on a leash,
so he just [sat] in the middle, and looked each side.
[In Somaliland,] dogs were imported by the British.
They were treated badly. They looked sick.
Homeless. Quite dangerous.
In Islam, you’re not supposed to touch dogs.
So people throw stones at them,
even if they’re sleeping.
My colleague called me the Dog Whisperer.
[One day,] I finished work.
There’d be this open alley way
and dogs would just sleep on it.
Little shits would just over and throw stones at them like sport.
The dogs were getting really wired up,
and they just barked and barked.
I said to them,
“Mya! (Stop it!) Stop doing that! That's really bad. That's awful.”
To prove a point,
I walked through them,
and they were just shouting,
“Mya, mya. Don't, they’re dangerous, they’re evil.”
“No, you’re making them evil. You’re making them mad.”
So I walked down this alley way,
and every dog I walked past just quieted down.
I was scared, and the boys
just [watched with their jaws dropped].
What do you think you would do if you were to move to Somaliland?
I would teach English.
I’d be very engaged with the community.
You have to be.
Everyone just knows who you are.
So you really need to put a good name out there for who you are.
And surround yourself with people
I’d love to open up a woman’s skateboard organisation.
So girls could skate and play basketball.
There’s a private gym where windows are closed off.
But for them to run around or play sports,
there’s nothing offered for them.
[In Somaliland,] they know Saudi Arabia is crazy in [terms of] Islam.
But, have some self reflection.
You don't want to be like that, right?
People have very negative views about Muslim
- Don't prove them right.
I’ve a lot of friends who think Christianity is [tended to be]
really imposing a particular view.
It’s like with transvestites -
they wear a hell of a lot of makeup.
Whatever makes them feel good,
they have the choice.
On sex workers:
I went to Vietnam with Jacob,
[it] must have been a few years [back].
We went from Ho Chi Minh to Huong,
which is my favorite, and then Hanoi.
The only thing that upset me was the Westerners.
The disgusting old men that picked up that 12 year old girl.
They were holding hands.
Sex is the old job huh?
For sex workers, why does it have to mean something?
[Society] breaks it down to [how] sex doesn’t mean anything,
[that] sex is just a service.
[But] sex workers [are the ones] doing it,
men are not.
Unless [there’s] a pimp,
[it becomes] male organised thing.
These women are in control of their sex,
they’re not doing it for babies,
they just overturns that whole system around.
There’s a sense of peace when it comes to it.
I love and encourage women to be themselves and goddesses,
because that power has been taken away from them for so long.
I really like the philosophy of the Mother Earth,
we’re more attached to earth than fit soldiers who create war.
I read this book on goddesses, and,
they did this old rituals and bathe,
and drink apple cider vinegar tea -
it’d be a ritual of purification.
It comes down to companionship.
They found women who had similar ideals,
learn about nature, worship nature,
because it’s close to their anatomy.
And maybe they don’t associate themselves with the male-dominated world,
so they find peace in this philosophy.
What is Beauty?
Beauty is subject to constant change.
It’s influenced by time.
Depends on the individual.
I see beauty everywhere,
Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
For indigenous people,
I consider them beautiful,
they got a story to them.
It sounds horrible to say but I think
it’s more beautiful than the colonial Europeans.
Like the Native Americans,
That’s really unique in NZ coz we hold on [to Maori culture].
In Fiji they’re really dismissive of indigenous culture,
they condemn indigenous practitioners
If it’s got a story behind it,
if it’s got pure intentions, it’s beautiful.
[At the same time,]
I’m really sceptical of the purity discourses.
The underlying meaning [is],
they [men] fear her reproductive power,
coz it’s different from their own.
you always have to be sceptical when people say something.
You have to be critical in this world.
Stripping all those discourses,
it’s a form of resistance.
In Religious Studies,
we seriously neglect the issue of race.
Jesus woulda been brown or black, not white.
Even in indigenous studies,
it’s white studies -
It’s white scholars imposing their view based on their experience on indigenous people.
And when scholarship is donated by white,
it’s just another form [of] superiority.
When foreigners go to their countries, they’re called expats.
I call them foreigners.
Other NGO workers call themselves] expats.
Dont disrespect Somalians by calling yourselves expats.
I’m not comfortable with the term expats.
When I did that internship with Tearfund,
it's a Christian social group.
I watched a campaign about human trafficking.
We were supposed to write an essay about
what we’re gonna do with sex trafficking,
how to combat with the issue.
I said: Join up the sex workers!
Get the community to join up with the sex workers.
Collaborate instead of imposing on [these sex workers] their views [on sex work] as sinful.
This [is a] completely different agenda.
Tearfund has the strand I’m not comfortable with.
NZ is a target country.
They say that sex workers are going to expand this [industry] from human trafficking.
I’m not comfortable with that at all.
Prostitution law makes things more transparent,
and protect the sex workers.
It’s not going to boom this industry.
I didn’t support that stance at all.
The pastorship didn’t want Tearfund to talk about prostitution.
First, call them sex workers,
coz [the pastorship] will hate that.
Jesus was a radical equalist.
It’s all about interpretation.
It’s very [Darwinian] -
For your health to improve,
you need to lean on other people.
A lot of my friends are gay.
Living in the culture we live in,
I do find that intolerable [when Christians talk against homosexuality].
With Christians, they see death as evil,
so they think suicides is a form of evil.
[Going against Christian ways of thinking is] the whole euthanasia debate
- that’s the situation where you’re healthy
There is this Somalian saying:
"Even when there is not a family around to support her,
the woman can dance with her child on her back."
Self-care is very important.
It’s sort of an effective mechanism
to not carry the burden of others,
to scan your bodies, scan your emotions, scan your feelings,
what’s today going to be like. We forget to.
[Now], I value my family more,
I really missed my mother when I was away.
Not for different food, not for cool climate,
not to wear pants or shorts,
but for my mother’s hands, they tell a lot.
Having mother’s arms around me was the most thing I missed.
So when I’m back in Wellington now,
I always go straight to mom for hugs.
I believe it’s a great strand of energy,
one that’s pure. It’s very fulfilling.
That’s part of the finding for my research [in Somaliland].
I was very interested in my mother-daughter relationship for my report.
Social support from mothers really help with reproductive success,
& she is most strongest when she has a daughter.
Boys are taught to detach.
I’m really interested in the FMU.
It’s a matriarchal practice.
Once daughter has it, she stays confined in the home.
It’s the mother’s investment in the daughter to make sure she’s married.
It’s quite special and unique.
[I also think] it’s our time to protect our mothers.
In Chinese, there is a saying,
"The filial duty of feeding one's parents is carried even by the crows."
[You know] the awful sound that crows make,
it’s a signal to the other crows, they’re not individualistic.
If you were to be an animal, which would you pick?
We had this discussion in Somaliland,
I really like to be a dog,
but I got given peacock.
I’ve always been obsessed with female eagles.
Because they [would] fly through twisters, in order to get to their babies.
I find that very powerful.
I want to have that ability.
Do you ever wanna be a mother one day?
I don't know yet.
A lot of women these days are unable to find a partner
because of commitment issues,
but these women are ready to have babies.
Any future plans to travel?
I definitely want to go to Ireland.
I made some good friends who are from Ireland.
I can always see myself living in France,
learning the language.
I find Germans are quite hard to talk with.
There’s this horrible joke:
You know Jewish people are most funniest people in the world,
that’s apparently why Germans are not funny.
What do you like about Foucault?
subjectivity that encapsulates philosophy of the subject,
power discourse and what that means to the subject.
And where there is resistance, there’s power.
Very brilliant man.
Feminists are really conflicted about Foucault.
Some say he’s anti-Feminist.
Some say he’s completely revolutionized feminism.
He’s been implicit.
He completely stripped away homogeneous identities,
constructed identities, that for repression and oppression.
His ideal world would be for women to sleep with women and men.
He believes multiple discourses need to be proliferated to break down a powerful discourse.
And I believe in he’s a feminist,
a very post-modern one.
Very brilliant guy, radical socialist.
He’s very political.
There’s a famous photo of him protesting against condition of prisoners.
His efforts for people marginalised by society.
He’s a great guy, I’d love to have dinner with him.
Who else would you like to have dinner with?
I’d love to have dinner with Valerie Solanas:
she was a crazy one, who shot Andy Warhol.
He stole her arts.
You should read
Scum: Manifesto for Cutting Up Men.
It’s very short, very ridiculous.
It’s a famous piece of literature.
She didn’t do feminism any justice,
but she’s an interesting character.
I wouldn't show my students this.
They would find radical feminism funny.
They really like post-modern feminism,
they don’t think western feminism will speak to African, Muslim issues.
Who else - Helen clark. David Lange.
What would you like to say to men who are mistreating women?
Take a look at yourself.
I hope someone treats you the way you treat other people.
Just so you can learn.
I wish [for] you what you do to others.
At Refuge, we design a safety package.
We get the police involved.
All the girls should learn self-defence.
You don't have to be as big of a person:
you can kick their shin, he’s going to release you,
and you’re going to run away.
It's always a blaming game as well.
“I do this because I love you.”
They mix love with violence.
And it’s the same with parents.
The child knows the mother/father loves them.
If they hit their child,
they confuse love with violence.
And that becomes an ongoing cycle.
So in our programme, we break that cycle.
We teach children not to express their anger,
but teach them to override it,
the breathing technique,
talk to their mom, not to social workers,
talk to their schools.
[Some social workers have] done a lot of injustice to the mothers.
We’re not child-advocates,
we’re women advocates.
Putting them in homes does them no good.
Advice to the future generations:
To leave a lot of space for innovation & creativity.
That’s closely tied up with green technology.
NZ government I believe is a very state-driven sort of dictators for scientific research.
There’s no money in it for NZ.
There's no room for it.
Whereas Germany puts in a lot of money for scientific research.
NZ is not like that:
even when they talk about free market,
it's very state driven. It’s awful.
So I believe creativity is very important.
Keep researching and being innovative.
Explore all options.
Even if you come across road blocks of barriers.
Step outside your comfort zone
even though it might be risky or you’re scared of it.
The experience attracts you.
Coz without experience, something inside us sleeps.
You’ve got to awaken yourself,
and that sends out the messages to other people as well.
It’s not affecting you [alone],
it’s an electromagnetic field.
You’re going out there,
you’re inspiring other people.
You shouldn’t be influenced by someone,
you should be inspired.
[For example, be inspired] by artwork.
Students in Somaliland are not encouraged to do artwork.
University creates a space for art where inspiration happens.
If you have troubles at home,
you can go to that space to be inspired.
You draw an inspiration from everything, everyone.