GATHERING - Extracts by Maya Chowdhry and Dr Sofia Rehman

GATHERING - Extracts by Maya Chowdhry and Dr Sofia Rehman

Gathering: Women of Colour on Nature (404Ink) is a new book featuring a series of essays by women of colour across the UK that explore their relationship with the natural world, connecting to issues ofclimate justice, neurodiversity, mental health, academia, inherited histories, colonialism, whiteness, music, hiking and so much more. Redressing the imbalance of a genre long-dominated by male, white, middle-class writers, Gathering broadens both conversations and horizons about our living world, encouraging readers to consider their own experience with nature and their place within it.

On Thursday, May 16th, contributing authors Maya Chowdhry and Dr Sofia Rehman join us for an event at Liverpool's iconic Sefton Park Palm House, delving into this topic in the company of local artist, beekeeper and gardener Andrea Ku, and Liverpool Biennial curator Marie-Anne McQuay. 

Find out more about the event and purchase a ticket here.

Purchase a copy of 'Gathering' (£10.99) here

Below are extracts from the essays 'In a Relationship with Sugar' by Maya Chowdhry and 'From God We Come and To God We Return' by Dr Sofia Rehman.



In a Relationship

with Sugar



This is an interactive extract.

To take part, get your phone, and a piece of any sweet

substance you have to hand; jelly babies, chocolate, a

sugar cube, ready.


Not ready? Then let your eyes flick over the black ink on

white paper and imagine you are participating.




Scan this QR code.


As the first part of the track plays, please taste your sweet

substance, slowly savouring how it awakens your tastebuds.


Then, as the second track plays, continue to relish your sweet

something. In your mind, note any differences between your

eating experience during track one and track two.


Now the theory.


Babies respond to sweetness

by sticking their tongue out,

and to bitterness by retracting it.


Brown or white?


I mean sugar. But I could mean babies, it’s part of the same

story. Sugar is one of those foodstuffs that illustrate our human

relationship to food and food justice in a way that few other

substances do. The history of its production and consumption

has not only changed the biology of humans but epitomises

human cultural changes over 500 years, as the trading of sugar

resulted in transatlantic slavery and capitalism.


Sugar—or rather, the great commodity market which arose

demanding it—has been one of the massive demographic

forces in world history. Because of it, literally millions of

enslaved Africans reached the New World, particularly

the American South, the Caribbean and its littorals, the

Guianas and Brazil


In recent years, my interdisciplinary creative practice has

focused on live art – in particular live art where the participant

and their interactions are the focus of the art. I became

interested in this type of practice as I feel it breaks down the

boundaries of what art is, and how art is situated in the world,

i.e. no separation between art and life, life and art. This essay

asks you to both participate beyond reading and thinking, and

to blur the boundaries between essay, story and art.


From God We Come and

To God We Return



Muslims are encouraged when they find themselves in

any kind of loss or difficulty to recite the words;


إِنَّا لِِّلّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ

‘Indeed, from God we come and to God it is that we return.’


These are words I recited fervently and almost continually in

the summer of 2021 when my father suddenly passed away.

The words became a way of grounding myself, a sort of

proverbial anchor when I could feel myself unmooring, setting

adrift in the turmoil of grief and the unforeseeable ruptures

that emerged from the loss of my dad. My dad, the man I

looked upon as a mountain. I always thought him invincible

and fearless, undefeatable, not even by death. The Qur’an

describes mountains as pegs that stabilise the earth and that

is what I realised my dad had been in my life; a stabilising force

in his quiet but monumental way.


My first love of the great outdoors was instilled in me by him.

He wasn’t by any means a particularly involved father, but in

the times that he was fully present with his children, he shaped

us with and connected and rooted us to the things he loved,

foremost amongst them his love of nature and the wild. So as

we lowered him into the ground, the July rain gently falling as

a mercy from the sky, the leaves of the tree under which he

was being buried rustling a soothing chorus of hushes like a

mother settling her child to bed, the moment didn’t overwhelm

me as I had thought it would. Instead, I could see the physical

lowering of my father into the ground was only corporeal, on a

metaphysical level the soul was ascending into another space of

serenity. Again, I uttered the words, from God we come and to

God we return. It struck me then that when we come into this

world from God, it is through the womb and when we return to

God, it is through the earth: women and the earth, both portals

to and from the Divine and yet both so utterly exploited and

subjugated by the greed and tyranny of men.


In the days that followed my dad’s passing, comfort came in

many forms; the cup of tea my best friend made when we got

home from the hospital that evening, my children’s embrace,

and our neighbours’ pots of food to name a few. But an

unexpected comfort were the birds from my dad’s devotionally

tended garden. Many times, I would step outside to find a

little bird land on my shoulder, follow me around the garden,

and chirp at me until I sat down on the grass from where it

would proceed to jump onto my knee and then onto my head.

Sometimes there would be the fearless bird who would hop

right over the threshold of the French doors of my parents’

home and stride right into the living room.

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