Hannah Robathan and Isabella Pearce are the co-founders of shado, a multimedia platform driving change at the intersection of arts, activism and academia which launched in January 2019.
What is the story behind your friendship and where did the idea for shado come from?
Our friendship predates shado in a big way – we’ve been friends since secondary school – but it also definitely informed the creation of shado and how we work together now.
We came up with the idea of shado when we were studying our Masters degrees (Izzy in International Conflict Studies at KCL, and Hannah in Music in Development at SOAS). We were becoming increasingly frustrated at the fact that academic research seemed to exist in a vacuum; and more than this, there seemed to be a massive disconnect between researchers and artists and activists on-the-ground – despite the fact that each of these seemingly disparate groups seemed to be working towards the same end goal. So, we decided to create shado as a space to unite these fields; to tangibly bring them together within a physical publication. Of course, since then it has grown into much more than the magazine itself, but the idea started there.
Shado Stands for See Hear Act Do. Essentially, it’s all about uniting and celebrating the ways people are using their voices and skills to create change – and, most importantly, is a platform for self-representation. We truly believe that those with lived experience of an issue or injustice are best placed to discuss and advocate for meaningful change in that space. shado is a platform for such people.
Could you tell us a little bit more about the magazine's second edition "Global Womxnhood? What do you hope to achieve with this edition?
For us, the issue is about creating a direct challenge to current discourses surrounding feminism and in particular white western feminism. It’s about broadening definitions of what it means to identify as a woman – which is both shaped and constantly renegotiated by a number of factors (social, political, familial, environmental..) – around the world. We were thrilled to include stories from womxn from 38 countries globally, meaning that we got to feature a real range of perspectives which all add into a more holistic understanding.
Have you always had a passion for change?
Yes, we’d definitely say that. We’ve always been very involved in volunteering, most actively within advocacy for refugee and asylum-seeking communities (having been out to Calais and Dunkirk multiple times together, and also working with communities in London). A passion for changing the narrative around migration is, in fact, one of the main ideas which sparked shado into existence – and what made us start thinking about other topics which are massively warped by, or misrepresented in, mainstream media.
As creatives, we are also involved with creating our own projects on the grounds, as our own attempt to visually and physically contribute to movements we’re talking about. You can see examples of this with a body positivity photography project we led over a period of 7 months with women in London called The Female Curve.
Has there been a favourite personal story that shado has shared?
That’s a difficult one – we feel very privileged that so many people share their stories with us, and that we’re able to platform these not only within the online and print publication but also tangibly – in the real world! One of our favourite personal stories has to be from the first issue – a young Syrian photographer called Abdulazez Dukhan. He took up photography while stuck in a refugee camp in Greece with his family, creating a social media page called ‘Through Refugee Eyes’, which documented visual stories of the people living in the camps with him. His aim was to change the narrative around people forced to flee their homes, against the hateful rhetoric permeating mainstream media. So, his work utterly aligned with our ethos! Through the help of some lawyers and a LOT of time spent on paperwork, we managed to secure Abdulazez (who now lives in Belgium) a visa to the UK, so he could attend our launch event – which was, in part, a photo exhibition of his work. With this visa, he was also able to tour the UK with Safe Passage and shado, giving talks about his journey and how he uses photography to change perspectives as part of SP’s Our Turn campaign. We also took some of Abdulazez’s work on our 3-city exhibition in May/June this year, where we collaborated with a grassroots arts collective Perspectives to tour the work of 11 artists who had recently migrated to Europe. We exhibited in galleries in Athens, London and Amsterdam. Taking relationships beyond the pages of shado is so important for us.
What do you hope the viewer gains from the shado: Global Womxnhood edition?
A broad and holistic understanding of the current global women’s movements and the individuals at the centre of them. Essentially, the aim of the issue is to broaden definitions of what it means to identify as a woman – which differs from person to person, place to place. We’d also definitely hope that these stories inspire readers, and give a feeling of empowerment to create change.
How do you choose which women to feature in your magazine?
We feel very lucky, because we had already built up an amazing global network since launching in January with our first issue, themed Changing Perspectives: Stories of Migration to Europe. So, we already had a lot of women we knew we’d want to feature, such as the incredible Sudanese artist Alaa Satir (who we’d been in contact with since covering the revolts in Sudan in December).
Given the theme was ‘global’ womnxhood, we then sat down to think about what voices were missing from the issue. It was great, actually, as we were able to dive into a bit of research and get to know some incredible people doing amazing work around the world.
The community have embraced shado whole-heartedly. What has been the highlight of your journey so far?
Definitely the network aspect; meeting and engaging with those working at the frontline of change. It has been amazing to connect with so many inspiring people. It constantly reinforces our own energy and passion for the reasons why we started shado in the first place. It really renews your sense of positivity and optimism about the current changes and movements we’re seeing which is being driven by actions on the ground – a sort of ‘trickle-up’ effect – across communities.
What’s next for the magazine?
We’ve got a programme of exciting events to celebrate this issue, including a free exhibition on Wednesday which celebrates the work of 18 photographers from around the world. As part of our second issue we commissioned a project with photographers to response to the sentence: I AM A WOMAN. All of the contributions are incredible, and we’ll also have a live DJ set from LUMA (a great musician who is featured in the second issue). Information and tickets can be found here.
We also have Issue 03, which is themed climate justice. As ever, with this upcoming issue, we are trying to amplify unheard voices and take a really global viewpoint of the topic, moving away from the current white western narrative and instead gathering stories from people and movements around the world. Moreover, we are keen to look at the climate crisis through its disproportionate affect on people of colour; women; indigenous communities … we’re really excited by the content we’ve gathered already!
Who are some of your favourite female role models at the moment?
Good question! There are some incredible young people doing very inspiring things at the moment. Jess Brough recently curated Fringe of Colour up in Edinburgh, her incredible response to the whiteness of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which focused on accessibility to shows for BAME festival-goers and spotlighting black and brown performers. And there are people we’ve had in print – of course, Alaa Satir, mentioned above, a woman at the frontline of artistic resistance in Sudan. There’s Eliza Hatch and her photojournalism platform Cheer Up Luv, which documents women’s experiences of sexual harassment through visual storytelling. Angela Camacho (the ‘Bonita Chola’) is also doing amazing work recovering silenced histories of indigenous womxn through her project Mujerxs of my Abya Yala.
What advice would you give to girls and young women who are feeling uncertain about the future?
I feel like we probably need this advice ourselves … but something we’ve certainly felt is that you need to be bold in your actions - try not to be afraid of failure, and remember to ASK for what you want. The worst that can happen is that someone says no! If things don’t quite work out, you will have definitely learn things along the way.
Search for allies; for people who share your opinions or are doing things that you’re interested in. Go to panel discussions; consume new content – even following people, movements, magazines on social media can be an amazing place to start! It’s also really important to learn about other people’s experiences in order to gain perspectives – so read, listen, and participate where you feel comfortable.