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Amna MalikClick here to Print this Page
Alia Syed
The use of spoken Urdu and written English that are made to overlap in Fatima's Letter resemble Territories in which two voices: male and female echo and repeat a narrative of displacement and cultural relocation.

This idea of giving voice to the subaltern in Syed's work, has many sources including Salman Rushdie's playful use of a vernacular Hindi but written in English in his epic postcolonial narratives.

In Fatima's Letter the voice speaking in Urdu significantly alters the semantics between the spoken and written words, they exist in a relationship of untranslatable difference to one another. Yet for those who are bi-lingual, there is a time-lapse between the written English and spoken Urdu that doesn't offer clarity, the in-between offers no solace.

In Spoken Diary the notion of translation is replaced with the act of inscription shot in colour, the surface of the screen, the glass of a car window and the pages of a diary coalesce. The disruption of meaning in the use of spoken Urdu in Fatima's Letter offers seductive rhythms of a female voice that in Spoken Diary this body is evident through song and dance.

The journey is tracked through different shots: the interior of a car driving through the rain, the sounds and sights of a dark London street, late at night, lit by shop windows, the headlights and noise of passing traffic with music blaring and the neon glare of lamp-posts.

Yet this is more personal than historical and shifts between overtly musical sounds not the implied rhythms of the train in the earlier film. The subject position of the migrant woman is now being given voice in all its complexities without having to bear the burden of representation.

Amna Malik
Dr Amna Malik is a lecturer at the Slade School of Art. Her interests have centred on contemporary art and its engagement with debates over gendered identity and cultural differences.
Still from Fatimas Letter by Alia Syed, 1992
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