Steve's F

Steve's F

Friday, 20 November 2015

Flowers. Everywhere.

Flowers for Freedom, liberating Flora
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Flowers for Freedom at the

Lightbox Gallery Art and Craft Fair

Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd November 2016

         "now with added va-va-voom flower power!"
                                  -the Ethical Hedonist

Every day in captivity, Ai Wei Wei, the Chinese artist sent the  Government a bunch of flowers. Thus the concept of flowers for freedom was born.  Although a person can be deprived of their liberty, their relationships, the ties that bind, their captors  cannot  strip them of their capacity to create and to appreciate beauty, even in the most evil of places and through the dark night of the soul. 
Using colour and light to break out of the monochrome, barred and gated  world of an institution, painting flowers became a way to cling on to my sanity and defy feeling “locked in.”
The proceeds of the sales from Flowers for Freedom help to fund art classes and workshops  for women only, at drop in centres, refuges and enterprise hubs.  The response has been really positive, with outcomes in increased confidence, communication and group working.

I am deeply grateful to Peter Blake, the art teacher at HMP Bronzefield for his encouragement and to the Lightbox gallery in Sutton for taking my first attempts at art seriously.  Also thanks to Piyush Suri of Handmade in Britain who took a punt and let me exhibit at Handmade  at Kew, a learning curve for all. These new watercolours depict the freshness and sensuality of women and flowers - they'd make a great Christmas present and come framed by Accession CiC
 in West Ealing.

I look forward to seeing you this weekend!
Farah Damji

Lightbox Gallery, Chobham Rd
Woking, Surrey, GU21 4AA
Flora Notecards
£2.50 each
£10 for 5
Buy Now
Paintings from £85.00
Prints £10.00
Buy Now
Boudoir Notecards and Watercolours 
Cards £10 for 5
Buy Now
If you would like a painting of a particular flower it can be painted especially for you, to whatever size you would like.  Farah also undertakes commissions for designers, architects and publishers.

Please contact us to arrange a visit or to have a chat about your requirements on: 07512 320 700  or email
Copyright © Flowers for Freedom  2015
Epic List , All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Flowers for Freedom
Regency Street
LondonLnd SW1P 4AE
United Kingdom

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Sunday, 15 November 2015

St Yasmin - The Patron Saint of All Sorrows

My Father – Amir the Terrible and his sister St Yasmin of the Vale of All Sorrows

Yasmin, once the darling of the Islington dinner party, curry queen, respected commentator on multiculturalism has built up a lucrative platform for herself as the voice of Muslim womanhood, feminist, leftist, vox populist of anger and outrage. Show her a bandwagon and she’ll eagerly mount it.  

She specialises in specialism and over the years, alarmingly, aunty has become Aunty’s favourite – what better pantomime than a spewing, uninformed colonial banshee for TV screen fodder to play to the masses.  Human flypaper makes for great voyeurism. Over the years she has passed herself off as the go-to  Muslim controversialist , an untouchable -  more  Chicago than  Slumdog . 

I am Yasmin Alibhai Brown’s niece.  I was recently sent an article she wrote for the Daily Mail  last August about how she single-handedly looked after her elderly mother, Jena,  at the end of her life because my father, her older brother Amir,  “abandoned“  them.  She states she finds it hard to forgive him; he  left the burden of responsibility with -  the ever pleasing and compliant St Yasmin of All Sorrows. This is the same mother she described as a prostitute in her whinging immigrant tome, No Place like Home,  in which she described me as too beautiful and troubled for my own good. Yasmin is a fantasist.  

My grandma Jena was complicated.  Yasmin never forgave her for that.  She never forgave my father for being his mother’s son.  Jena was a hypochondriac, mentally unstable, prone to depression and a religious fruitcake – subscribing to the belief that the Aga Khan is the living descendant of the Prophet. She spent hours cross legged on her sofa watching daytime TV , rosary in hand, praying for her children and her grandchildren - in between doctor’s appointments.  She popped Mogadons like M &Ms.

My father was sent to boarding school in Stroud in Gloucestershire, from Kampala Uganda, by his father but he had to go back to Africa aged 14 to become a petrol pump attendant.    Amir, still a child himself, took on the responsibility for his entire family – Yasmin and Zarina, another sister who disappeared into the abyss of mental illness. He cared for them and he provided for them in every way, but he didn’t have a role model or a father figure to learn from – he did the very best he could. 

Controversy as currency is the fodder of many a column here and elsewhere. Rarely in my experience are  lies like hers so close to home the coinage. Years of her lies and abuse of my father have passed, she describes  me as  bi-polar;   she does what she must in order to fill a weekly column   to  stir up hatred and validate the vacuous existence.

  She might as well spread her legs wide and allow whatever passing populist cock to ram itself inside her and  fill her up  so she can  then ejaculate the passing  rubbish deposited in her. This column of weekly spunk. That is what she has become, a media whore, ready for the rape of Mamon and to be pimped by polemic.  

My father would have been 75 this year, however he died 5 years ago this month, I still miss him and think about him daily.

Because he always knew what was right and no matter what far flung mess I had managed to get myself into, he unfailingly helped me to sort it out.   There was a kind of cruelty about him too, he was quick tempered  and often violent, he hit Yasmin, which is not unusual in South Asian families.  I felt the back of his hand on several occasions until I finally stood up to him. He never laid a finger on me again. He hated duplicity and weakness. More about that later.

She alleges that Jena was ignored by my father when he went to live in South Africa in the early 90s. He had to go,  at the height of the recession, to keep his property empire in London from going under, he needed to find new income streams .   He wanted to build something new, he always had itchy feet for the next adventure.  My parents’ marriage was not a happy one and perhaps he felt he could start over in Africa where his life began. Africa is like malaria  - it never leaves you.  

 What she forgets to mention is that Yasmin forced Jena, who raised me and who I called Maa and was living with our family in a comfortable house in Northwood,  to move  and live with her in a flat on Ealing Common to look after her first born, Ari.

Who put down the sizeable deposit on the flat in which she still lives on Gunnesbury Road for Yasmin? My father.

  Yasmin also forgets to mention in her spiteful and inaccurate piece for the Daily Mail that a few years later she threw her own mother out of that flat  when she decided she no longer needed her services as unpaid housekeeper and child-minder. Jena was left homeless but for the kindness of Ealing council and social workers. What was Amir supposed to do from South Africa? He asked Jena to come and live with him but her doctors, her social networks and her life were in London.

The reason Yasmin hates my father and tells so many lies about him is quite different. The truth lies in a random glimpse of her first husband and childhood sweetheart, her beloved “Sky” Alibhai a zoologist on the platform at Baker Street. My father was on the train on the way home and saw him kissing a much younger, blonde woman. That Sunday, Sky and Yassi ,  as she was known before she joined the ranks of the white middle class she so despises – this  double barreled doyenne we know today -  were at our house for lunch. 

My father asked, in his usual direct fashion why Sky was kissing a stranger and why Yassi was tolerating it. Her world came crashing down. Her fantasy life, the safety and security she always craved and thought she had built  were just  an edifice. They hurriedly left.  Sky tried to make his marriage work for the sake  of their child, Ari , but he left soon after and has built a new life with Zoe, the student he was snogging. My father shamed and mocked her for not realising sooner that the weekend zoological trips, the expeditions were forays into quite a different type of undergrowth and  to capture  a particularly  enticing  young specimen..

I stopped loving Yasmin a very long time ago. I was sexually abused   from the age of 9 by older cousins. She knew about it, but did nothing to stop it .  Years later, she was regaled nationally as being the woman who brought down convicted paedophile Stuart Hall. It is easy to live a life in the limelight and do the right thing with the public behind you   and where  plaudits are plenty. It is a lot harder to do the right thing when no one but the family is watching. I blame her for a lot of the subsequent dysfunction I lived in, until I could come to terms with being sexually violated by my own family, and for this to pass unspoken by an aunt I thought loved me and cared about me.

Leave my father’s memory alone Yasmin.  Next time you sit down to write some pathetic victim gurning nonsense,  know that I'll come for you legally. You can't defame the dead but you will learn to respect my right to privacy and to quietly enjoy my family life.

My children grew up with him and they  love him and they knew him. While he may not have been the best father to me, I will never forget the image of him in his boxers and shirtsleeves engrossed in a Lego construction with my son Imran, aged 4  sprawled on the floor in his mansion in Cape Town. Or Imran asking me if we can share fathers because his was a bit lousy, or my daughter’s smile, even when she was a baby, when he came into the room.

He left a legacy of greatness and strength, of charitable deeds that go unmentioned and always will because he didn’t need plaudits or crave publicity. You are one of a kind.  I don’t know many Muslim women who drink, eat pork and are married to a white middle class man – the type she wishes will soon be made extinct. 

Yasmin's dedication to her then fiancee Sky Alibhai

They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

 1443 words

© Farah Damji 2015

Friday, 6 November 2015

Not Bladerunner but London 2015

Watched the police get ready to kettle a bunch of kids at Trafalgar Square this evening. Really sad to see the erosion of freedoms we're all sleepwalking into. I walked home from Soho Theatre through Westminster to Pimlico tonight and I didn't see an act of violence or destruction of property. Loads of cops stacking up on overtime and riling the peaceful protestors.

Saddest moment of my whole life in London was seeing police propoganda projected onto the walls of the National Gallery.

RIP democracy UK.

And here's a picture you won't see on MSM.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Amazing Grace

It's been a year of ups and downs, highs and depths.
Above all it's been a year of holding my mettle and not losing my nerve.
The usual cocktail party of Death Stars and Voldemortes doing the Dracula rounds but more than that. A real test of what matters and what to discard.

Some friends have been anchors and guiding stars,  constant and leading in the right direction.  Others brought havoc into my life and people I would never have chosen to be around. The words "due diligence" took on extra dimensions.

Encounters I thought would be fleeting became life changing,  ones I thought would be significant turned to nothing, like chasing the  tail of a shooting star.

What's become evidently clear is the heap of love, courage, wings, support and compassion delivered daily to my door and the invincible knowledge and belief that plans are unfolding and right does prevail, justice can triumph corruption and unholy alliances,   that truth, like a plant growing towards sunlight, like creativity, is unstoppable.

It's been a year of shedding people and things that don't matter so that things and people who do can take pride of place.

To the friends who stuck by, through sick and sin, thick and think, my gratitude and my love.

To those who choose negativity and try to cut down people,  use and take advantage,  undermine so you can feel better about your own pathetic life, I wish you sunlight because it is the best disinfectant.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The view from here

When I'm ready to give it up,  kick it in,  throw up the towel, 3 things happen.

I get an FOI decision overturned about the Ministry of Justice and Michael Spurr's refusal to hand over details of correspondence between Ministry of Justice officials and G4S.  Part of that disclosure is the panic and fear surrounding the inquiry and in spite of being ordered by the Information Commissioner to give me the data requested,  they give a hundred reasons why not.  Watch this space. I'm winning.

Then a lovely message confirming a meeting with a changemaker, not another Hungry Ghost or Voldemorte come to suck up my air. I tell him I'm struggling and keep finding the wrong people with the wrong values to help me build my field of dreams.

How hollow I feel,  having had my faith in humans excavated by a man I thought I knew like I knew me, but who's just a 2D cut out of a person. Mind the papercuts.

The email from the person who has done social enterprise and built things of value on a global scale helps to or things back into perspective. Of course it's hard.  Of course it's going to attract people who want to be part of something big and worthwhile,  it's like blotting paper for all the sordid things they're doing in other parts of their lives. Your vision and values become their lifeboat.  But drowning men make dangerous bedfellows and I don't like pleasure boats or the view from the deck of the Titanic,  even first class.

Finally, I see an old friend for a drink.  My old life is resuming its patterns and people and the old inner safety which I'd completely lost is creeping back. People tell me how creepy they thought D was, how invasive and inappropriate and clumsy socially.  I wonder why they didn't tell me before.  Louder.

"Jesus fucking Christ, you're crazy,"  my eyes grow larger in disbelief . I tell my friend he's mad and a ghost of a pre Christmas conversation echoes on my mind.

I recall one of our last conversations, In December when I knew I was ending it and I didn't really care anymore.  He was telling me about his children all blessed with idiotic biblical names and how the second youngest had moved out again, aged 8.

We'd bought fish and chips from Fish in Borough Market and were standing by the river. It was one of those London in the sunshine days that makes sin city look beautiful.  The river was like molten mercury, a patch of water had caught the light on the opposite side and appeared to be galloping towards us and staying still. It was hypnotic. It was also one of those perfectly observed moments when you realise that your lover isn't perfect, that the shape of his world, messy, deceitful and selfish is like a dust cloth, covering up all kinds of inefficiencies. I've said something and he reacts.

" You know Farah, you say Jesus a lot."

You're not serious.  My heart sighs. How did I get here again with Mr Churchwarden? The Talking Heads song plays in my head.

"Does it offend your Christian sensibilities, my love?  I swear a lot too."

These subtle manoeuvres designed to gently deflate, make me question, feel a little insecure,  these sleight of hand attempts to try and reign me in,  make me fit the shape of his world feel like shackles.  But he's a smooth predator.

Back to my real world,  into the now. My friend is trying to set me up with a friend of his while I'm extolling the blood bath of my last relationship massacre. I'm not ready.  I don't think I might ever be ready again.

I'm aghast.  I've tried comfort and rebound sex, which usually works, a couple of times since Dan, but I craved the intimacy we shared and both times I've ended up crying. I was grieving.  It was far too soon. I feel like a tap has been turned off at its source and sex is not appealing. I just needed to be held.

"He's sharp as a tack. Had a successful IT business and its now on an alternative lifestyle pathway," my earnest friend begins, trying to sell his friend.

"No no and no.  Tell him to follow me on Twitter. Or become a Facebook friend.  It's all happening there." I still feel damaged and although I'm rapidly forgetting his presence,  love and sadness linger.

"He doesn't want to be your Facebook friend. You met him in Paris... do you remember,  the restaurant in the Bois de Boulougne, I think we went on the Thursday... He was with the Swedish blonde. "

I do remember.  Big smiling man,  I remember his smile and his blue eyes and how tall he was and that his calming presence filled the room. I remember thinking how beautiful the woman was and how she shone every time he looked at her or spoke to her. They were perfect together.

"What happened to Scarlet Johanssen,"  I ask,  curiosity piqued. The man had started to tell me about his life style change from capitalist carnivore to shaman and healer but the restaurant was loud and there were a dozen other people at our table. We lost the thread of our conversation.  I got drunk.

"They're finished," my friend says coolly. "He asked for your number. "

I sit still with my discomfort and try and understand the feeling.  I'm scared.

"I just don't feel ready.  Maybe in a few months." I wonder if the healer can hold my fragile heart  which appears to have gone cold, in his gentle hands and bring it back to life.

"In a few months he'll have met someone else and you'll still be self destructing with these awful men you find. " He retorts angrily,  as if I go out and search for them like truffles or unicorns. Since Jeremy Clarke, it's been a succession of assorted frogs. And blood curdling vampire bats.

"Oh for fuck's sake. I don't want to meet anyone
. Anyway I'm busy," this is true. I don't have a free evening until March 18.  I've started pilates
,  art classes and joined a book club. I'm seeing friends and I have filled my diary and blocked out time for myself.

I don't have a man shape hole in my life.

"Farah he wants to meet you.  Not take over your life or marry you or fix you.  I've said we'll meet him for a coffee on Thursday.  He's a healer,  he's pretty good."

So that's that then. Out of the wreckage curiosity rises, phoenix like. I'm meeting the Shaman, chaperoned of course.

I have no expectations.  Life is suffering.  The Buddha said so.  But being held in the generous heart space of a shaman has great appeal.

We spoke last night.  I inelegantly blurted out everything, all the current mess and hurt. He has a lovely voice and made me laugh. Maybe all humans want is kindness and to love each other.  I tell him I feel disconnected from my sexuality.  He says we'll find it together.

I'm glad we are having tea first.

I'm looking forward to seeing him  I've ditched my chaperone. I have a reading to get to after,  so it feels safe and there's an exit.

Green roots of recovery?

PS I missed the reading.

Thursday, 16 January 2014


" I want you disgraced. I want history to erase your every achievement. I want you to feel the disgust in your children's eyes when they look on you in shame."

God I loved Patty Hewes...cold hard and brutal. "When I'm done with you there won't be anything left,"

Poor Constance and Vicky. Hilary has the right idea. Clever women don't take it personally,  they accept liability and that rage is complex and needs military strategy to manage. There's light in destruction too.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Though much is taken...

"Though much is taken, much abides; and though
 We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Someone read this to me a month ago. Heroes as facsimiles. Then I read it in Inside Out, the prison magazine. I meet women who galvanise me and make my life real and worthwhile again.

How easily I forget and how careless I've been with my freedom and my free will.