An empath with an otherworldly spirit and the kindest, most mysterious heart. Shani is a closet artist who is gifted in music, writing and painting. As the winner of the English literature Essay Competition 2017 at Kingston University , Shani tends to mainly identify with the art of writing. Influenced by Trudi Canavan, JK Rowling and Darren Shan, the creatress slowly progressed from fan fiction to fantasy writing. The world of her creations is engulfing; her fiction takes you on a journey where blue haired, intuitive wizards paint the future instead of foretelling it and her essays deal with questions of home, subjectivity and identity.
“Whenever I write realism it’s insincere” she says “I used to write about American characters who lead a life I have never experienced myself. Writing about real life seems ridiculous to me; so I decided to experiment with the notion of possibility and with the limits of my imagination. This motivated me to always strive to express a new way of looking at the world. Fantasy was the genre that fulfilled my constant sense of wonder and this is what I want my audience to experience as well. Without wonder, I feel less like I’m living and more like I’m just existing.”
While coping with past traumas and current struggles, she is always attaching a spiritual or divine element to her stories. Hence, to Shani, writing is a big component of personal growth.
In her essay ‘Writing (a metamorphosing) home’, Shani plays with the idea of home. She associates home with a feeling rather than a location. Many immigrants and travellers can possibly relate to this. The writer questions and explores different aspects of heritage, of migration, of memory and how the reminiscence of one’s “original home” can be misleading and at times romanticised.
“My heritage is Jamaican and my nationality is Black British, but I struggle to identify with either. I identify as a Londoner, for now at least … The way that London operates is something that I truly understand, even though it can be jarring to live as an introvert in one of the busiest cities of the world.”
Because of her heritage, Shani is very much aware of the collective trauma that is still present within the black community. While trying to express the issues of racism and gender inequality in her writing, she finds it difficult to find relief in the act of merely putting those into words. Too many people avoid the topic of race nowadays, especially because it is seen as “less of a problem” than it was a generation ago. The Afro-Carribean community is still subjected to issues that are unaddressed. Today’s social conditioning has changed in many ways and we are dealing with issues of race on a whole different level.
“The subjugation of black people is present in almost every industry and every sphere of modern life. Sometimes it’s so deeply engrained into our society that we grow up not even noticing it is there.”
Besides the crucial topic of race, Shani is willing to break the taboos surrounding the topic of mental health. Shani openly shares the story of her own mental struggles and her condition as well as how it has influenced her life and her writing. “I feel that it’s something anyone in my presence should know sooner rather than later, if they intend to stick around.”
When asked how her craft had been affected by her mental illness, Shani’s response is eye-opening and more than accurate. As someone who has been struggling with chronic depression, I feel like my own struggles have been put into words:
“My mental health, more than race, I think, affected my writing a LOT. I can’t say whether the outcome was good or bad. My writing became very jumbled and dreamlike. It became impossible to write anything coherent, or follow any kind of plot. In the middle of doing something, I would be seized by a concept or a feeling, and would quickly write it all down until it no longer possessed me. But I didn’t feel happy. I was so concerned with using the right words because these feelings were extremely difficult to capture in language.”
In the future this magical woman wants to empower people with her own stories whether in forms of fiction, film or any other form of art
“I kind of hope to find others who are journeying through the same painful place I’m in right now. I want to create music that will let people feel uplifted and enlightened – I want to share art that one person or another will come into contact with and think ‘I feel exactly like that.’ or ‘this has inspired me to try something really awesome’, or even ‘I can’t put into words what I’m feeling right now, but hearing this/seeing this/reading this, I am at peace.’”
With a mind of a mystic and a fascinating drive to work on her self and on her being, Shani believes that many incredible women tend to be too cautious with their beliefs and their own expressions. She encourages women to go out there fearlessly and release all the pain and strong feelings that are holding us back. Check out Shani’s blog if you want to read some of her work: http://ashanalian.blogspot.com/