Traverse Breakthrough Writer, Fatima Jawara, gives us insight into her writing practice and a taste of what's to come from the reading of her piece Black Pudding as part of our 10 Questions interview.
1. What compels you as a writer?
Growing up as an actor and creative, I was always inspired by the work of those who created their own art, especially within theatre. I love understanding the world through so many different perspectives, as well as creating new worlds altogether. It’s also a way for me to try and understand both the world around me as well as myself. It’s something that I started to do as a hobby as a result from the pandemic, and I’m glad I stuck at it!
2. What made you write Black Pudding and what are the themes of the play?
Black Pudding as an idea stemmed from the Black Lived Matter movement and the protests that came with it. I was equally frustrated and confused how to respond both publicly and on social media. It felt like everything you did was either not enough or too much, especially as a POC. Discussing the idea of how people should respond as activist, or indeed what makes an activist is something I was intrigued by and has become a big question in this play.
I also wanted to focus the play in Scotland as I think we as a nation tend to ignore that we’re not a racism free society.
But essentially, it’s a play about two siblings and we see how they both respond to the movement in their own manner despite growing up in the same mixed-raced background. To the characters, it’s a play about identity, self-discovery, and how “black” or “white” they feel in a society where they’re both and neither.
3. What was your starting point for writing the play and what sort of references and research did you draw upon?
I was fortunate enough to be able to bring this idea to life through the Traverse: Launchpad scheme back in February 2022. A 10 week zoom course led by Stef Smith, guiding you through various writing techniques to go from initial idea to draft one. The course was phenomenal as there was a wide range of exercises and you could use as many or as little as you needed to, depending on what worked best for yourself and your play.
On top of that, there was of course a lot of research into the BLM movement, both here and in the US. I was also very inspired by the sibling relationship. It’s a dynamic I feel like you don’t see enough in media, and I wanted to play with the idea of how two people could grow up in the same background but can be influenced in very different ways.
4. How do you want audiences to feel having watched the show?
I want the audience to leave feeling like neither sibling is in the wrong. Sade and Tobey have very opposing matters of how they respond to the BLM movement but I want there to be an awareness that neither are wrong or right, they’re just expressive in their own manner. I want the audience to also leave not feeling scared to discuss topics of race and prejudice, as I think it’s really important that it’s an ongoing conversation to not tread over.
5. What has the development process for Black Pudding been like?
Developing the play is a very new experience to me, but I’ve learned so much throughout it. I feel like I’m discovering my voice as a new playwriter and I feel like I can really fine tune this work to how I really visualise it. There’s been a few steps that have been difficult of course, but I’m really glad that I’ve got a good network of people from the Traverse to help me along the way.
6. How have you found your experience within the Traverse Breakthrough Writers programme?
Very rewarding! Working alongside Shilpa has been very useful and being able to have other actors read my work aloud has given me a different insight into my work. The Traverse has always been a place that nurtures new writing and allows you to have the space for your work, and being able to work collaboratively on it has shown me new and exciting things about my play I wouldn’t have realised on my own. That in itself is something I am extremely grateful for.
7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?
To just allow yourself to be adventurous in the early writing process. Before this, I always found the idea of writing petrifying as the perfectionist in me wanted to have the final product first draft. But actually allowing yourself to have a brain dump and chuck any ideas you have on paper, and spending later drafts fine tuning these ideas has taken a lot of the pressure off in starting the work.
8. There is a strong soundtrack of music featured throughout the play, what key influences inspired these song choices and the way they interact with the story?
To me, music is something I have always had a strong love for, and I’ve created some of the strongest bonds through music. I wanted to incorporate some of that into the show. For both characters, they don’t only use music as a form of helping them with their identity struggles, but they use it as a way to connect as siblings. The music is theirs to share and they know they have that for each other.
9. What are your hopes for the future of your play Black Pudding, beyond its development within Traverse Breakthrough Writers?
I guess the simple answer is to hopefully see it produced and on stage! I know it’s still a while away before that can happen and it’s still early doors. I tend to focus on things as and when so I’ll probably have a proper plan once BW is over, but I would love to see it have at least a Scottish tour for the time being. Here’s hoping!
10. And finally… What’s your favourite part of a full Scottish breakfast – aside from Black Pudding!
Easy. As an Aberdonian, my heart will always lie with the Rowie. (It’s like a flat, round, salty croissant. Delicious.)