Since 2019, Covid-19 has impacted us in so many ways. With the multiple lockdowns and working from home, we can see how our lives have changed and how we have had to adapt as a society during this pandemic.
On 28 November, Sibia Akhtar worked with the Ananna young girls’ group to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on their school life and their personal lives. To begin the workshop, she first asked the girls: how has Covid-19 affected you? Starting from this quite broad question, the girls picked out key themes about the impact of Covid-19; firstly, how it affected school life; secondly, how it affected people’s mental health (this was more notable with the discussion of lockdown); and finally, the impact of Covid-19 on personal interactions, as now we place more value on in-person relationships, which are seen as a privilege rather than an everyday occurrence.
As well as these conversations, the girls watched a short film made by commissioned artist Kooj Chuhan in partnership with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust and Anamika Cultural Group. This film highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on how the group reconnected on online platforms to continue performing, as well as how Covid-19 impacted their personal and family lives. This film was very powerful in depicting not only the similarities between their experiences across the generations, but also how much has been documented since the first case of coronavirus, and remembering the uncertainty around the spread of the virus before the creation of the vaccine.
On the day of the event, 4 December, we met with Anamika, a performing arts group in Manchester, at Deans Trust school. The event started with Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust’s Community Producer, Hafsah Aneela Bashir. introducing the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre, Anamika and the young girls from Ananna, after which Anamika shared their film with the audience. The film demonstrated raw authenticity as Anamika highlighted how the group were unable to perform during lockdown, which the audience appreciated seeing. It was truly heart-warming and impactful.
Later on, Sibia and the young girls from Ananna shared their experiences with Covid-19, particularly highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on young people. This discussion was structured based on the questions from the workshop. Here the girls shared how Covid-19 impacted their schooling and friendships, and talked about mentally coping as a young person during the pandemic. After the discussion, the audience had a chance to ask the girls some questions about their experiences which they were happy to answer.
We then had the privilege of seeing Anamika perform for the first time in person since the start of the pandemic. It was such a pleasure seeing them perform their songs for us in Bengali as well as hearing a selection of Bengali poems. This was such a nice experience in showcasing Bengali culture through music and literature, something which we do not see every day. It was also amazing seeing Anamika dressed up in traditional attire such as sarees and kurtas, which just made you feel so connected with the uniqueness of Bengali culture.
We also received some feedback from the girls, who said:
‘It was a surreal event! I really enjoyed finally meeting people in person, after lockdown. Talking to an audience with my friends was nerve-racking but exciting at the same time, I also loved exploring more about my own culture whilst listening to songs, poems and stories.’
Many thanks to Anamika for performing for us and the young girls from Ananna for sharing your experiences. It was such a great event!
If you would like to see more from Anamika, follow them on Twitter: @GroupAnamika
You can also follow Ananna on Twitter: @anannamcr