In the past months we got in touch with several artists, long-time collaborators and young creatives to talk about their work, how they see self-expression and what the future holds. Let’s inspire each other, be our true selves and do what we love.
On a Wednesday afternoon we meet Shahrnaz Javid, a Dutch-American content creator with a background in journalism, event and analog photography. Shahrnaz talks us through her latest projects, what the city of Antwerp means to her and her view on jewellery.
What are you working on lately?
I’ve been writing a lot. I mostly do documentation with photography but lately also with writing, following artists on tour. I’ve been focussing on editorial work for the past few months, finding some kind of balance between research and commentary. I’m always aiming to find new angles.
Did you recently move to Antwerp?
My partner and I moved here in December 2019. I was pregnant at the time and gave birth in February 2020. Then everything closed in March. And by everything, I mean, the whole world. It was an interesting year to move to a new city, to say the least.
Originally, we were considering going to Rotterdam because we really love the city and with my Dutch passport we just thought it made the most sense. Instead, I came to Bergen op Zoom – my partner was still traveling for work, so it was just me for a while. I took day trips to Antwerp during that time. I don’t know what it is but it feels like someone put some kind of fairy dust on Antwerp. It is small but international and, if you have particular interests, a great place to be. I love the relaxed atmosphere and vibrant culture. When it starts feeling too small you simply jump on a train somewhere. Antwerp is so central.
Do you feel like living in Antwerp also has an influence on your work?
Yes, since moving here my writing and storytelling have blossomed in new ways. I’ve been drawn to finding the commonality between people and the environment. It seems to me that everybody here, regardless of their background, is almost inherently interested in people. The most captivating conversations just open up so naturally. It almost feels like I’m always catching someone on a good day.
Are there other things that have a big impact on your writing?
It’s difficult to tell new stories. But I think the really valuable thing you can offer as a storyteller is your own perspective. In the last 5 to 7 years there’s been a big emphasis on representation and diversity and the challenge is to accurately portray different communities. My goal is to do justice to the extraordinary people I write about, but I also want to form a connection, not just reporting the facts but really weaving myself into what I’m working on or writing about.
What has been your favorite thing to do lately?
I really enjoyed a recent project by MoMu (ModeMuseum; fashion museum, red). Sachli Gholamalizad, a theater maker here in Belgium, curated three Friday evenings with three artists each night at MoMu. There was no obvious connection between any of the featured artists. But there was depth to the curation, and she did really well to include artists from different backgrounds. The exhibitions allowed for a personal encounter with each artist’s work. I enjoyed photographing this because it was about exchanging energies with people and their art.
You wear a lot of jewellery. What role does jewellery play in your life?
I think wearing your favorite piece every day is maybe the best form of self-love. Your accessories or anything that has come to you on your path, or as you developed as a person, play an important role in your life. So yes, I love to accessorize and I confess I’m biased towards gold. My favorite piece is an old ring from my grandma.
Do your accessories carry meaning?
es, definitely. For me, accessories can be a cultural signifier and a connection to distant people and places – I keep my family close to me even now that I’m living far away from them. So for me, accessories have to do with expression but also heritage and personal interest. I am very hesitant to buy new things, unless it makes sense or is practical – I rather look for items with a story and a history.