The Art Garden Rohingya Interview
With the artist Ishrat Bibi
April 11, 2022
The Art Garden Rohingya is the first Rohingya community poetry and art platform. We publish poetry and other forms of artworks in print, online website, and on social media and hence, encouraging Rohingya writers and artists as well as promoting our Rohingya literature, culture, tradition and art. We, therefore conduct some interviews with poet and artist in order to learn how and why he or she believes in the art of literature and creation of art.
The opinions and views in the following interview are solely those of the poet and artist and do not necessarily reflect the Art Garden Rohingya.
AG: Can you please introduce yourself?
IB: “My name is Ishrat Bibi. I was born and brought up in Boli Bazar (Kyein Chaung), Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State, Myanmar. During the violence in August 2017, my parents and I fled to Bangladesh. Currently I am studying at Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh.”
AG: Can you share us one of the best memories of your childhood in Myanmar?
IB: “During the summer school holidays, there was a Rohingya youth-led private education section run in Noyapara Masjid in our village. I was in class 5 and the one and only female student in the section. The young Rohingya teachers such as Saya Rohangking, Saya Maung Maung Soe, Saya Anuwar and others taught us Burmese school curriculum in Rohingya language and I enjoyed the classes so much. All teachers are dedicated, passionate and supportive, and they taught us not only school lessons but also morals, good personality and behavior. I participated in drawing and essay writing contests in the section. I was more than blessed to be a student of those wonderful teachers, and I still miss those moments. Perhaps, it was one of the fondest memories in my life.”
AG: What is your educational background?
IB: “In Myanmar, I passed matriculation examination in 2017 just before the violence was started in Rakhine State. Currently, I am pursuing my Bachelor Degree at Asian University for Women in Bangladesh.”
AG: What inspires you to write poetry and draw arts?
IB: “Being a Rohingya is my first and foremost inspiration. In my heart lies thousands of untold words and stories. I try to convey those heartbeats into words so that people can understand about my Rohingya people and me. Drawing has been one of my childhood hobbies. I love drawing, and what I couldn’t convey in words and I draw it. Drawing is awesome and it gives me courage and inner peace. I find myself whenever I draw and it satisfies me in many ways.”
AG: Do you have any favorite writer or artist?
IB: “I have read many books so far; however, I did not pick a special writer or artist because all writers are special and all artists are unique to me. Everyone is the best in their own way. In addition, I have huge respect and admiration to every writer and artist whom I come across.”
AG: How many poems and drawings have you published so far?
IB: “There are around seven poems in Rohingya and English and a couple of drawings of mine have been published in the Art Garden Rohingya. Some other poems have also been featured in other outlets and the University clubs.”
AG: What is your first published poem or drawing? How did you feel when you saw your work is published?
IB: “My first published poem in the Art Garden Rohingya was “God Bless Myanmar”. In my poem, I depicted what my homeland means to me and how much I love and miss it though I faced injustice and inhumanities there for decades. My first drawing was “A mother holding a baby child” published in the Rohingya Poetry Book. I felt so empowered when I saw my works have been published online. I find myself worthy and started to hold a feeling that Rohingya girls can also write and draw. People were reading my works and talking about them, and it was the most precious feeling ever I had.”
AG: Is there a particular theme you prefer in writing or drawing?
IB: “When something hits my nerves and I capture and hold it into my fist and then I let the ink of my pen flow the way my mind navigates. With regard to drawings, I am desperately fond of nature, landscape, animals, and sometimes the beauty of ugliness.”
AG: What do you want to be in your future?
IB: “If I am going to say what I want to be in the future, I have thousands of responses because I want to taste every individual dream of my life. I anticipate to fulfill everything in my future. On the other hand, as a young person, sometimes my mind changes and so do the goals. It is weird but true. However, my family want me to be a doctor and I want to be a writer. That is a real battle. Meanwhile, I am trying my best to be someone who hurts or hates no one.”
AG: Who is your hero?
IB: “My father was my hero. I can never ever choose someone else as the hero of my life except my father. A hero doesn’t mean to be handsome but should be nice by heart, and that is my father. My father unclipped my wings to fly whichever sky I chose. He was my supporter, mentor and friend. I have never seen such a truthful and good human being like him. He passed away last year and I miss him so much.”
AG: What message do you want to send for your fellow Rohingya new generation?
IB: “Try to make as many good deeds as you can for both worldly lives and hereafter. Try your best to stay on the right path whatever you encounter on the way. Always be kind and respectful. And be grateful of who you are and wherever you are.”
AG: What is your message for your Rohingya community?
IB: “Never give up. There is always hope. Just hold on.”
AG: According to you, how much art and literature are important for a community? What kind of role can you take in preserving Rohingya art and culture?
IB: “Without literature, a community can’t exist longer. Literature represents identity of a community. Creation of art is a powerful tool to raise voice and bring attention of the international community. Being a Rohingya myself, preserving my art and culture is as important as maintaining my identity. As long as I am alive, I will preserve my own language and culture.”
AG: Do you have a special piece of your work that is close to your heart?
IB: “Yes, the following poem of me is always close to my heart.”
Red is a strong color,
So as the blood
I have phobia of the red blood
As it reminds me of _ the killing field
The ocean of blood
That’s in 2017 in my country, Myanmar;
I had to flee from.
Fire too is red
But I have phobia of it
It reminds me of _ the burning field
And now the burning refugee camps.
I must be as brave as the red
To fight for my country like a soldier
Red is so strong
So am I.