Culture Writer Frankie Rhodes attends her first book launch and finds herself mesmerised by the tales of the author and artist Osman Yousefzada
Within the white walls of the Ikon Gallery, we gathered for the book launch of an artist who had exhibited there just a few years before. Osman Yousefzada’s life has spanned fashion designing, art installation and journalism, but his memoir The Go-Between focuses on his childhood in Birmingham in the 80s and 90s, living as part of a close-knit Pakistani/Afghan Pashtun community. It is a book of stories, and the launch event was no different. Hosted by Sarah Wajid MBE, the audience was able to hear snippets of mesmerising tales.
Yousefzada spoke with contempt about ‘the iron lady’s bright new horizons,’ with the dawn of Thatcher transforming the male migrants from dapper young men to paranoid devout Muslims. Living in a house where a curtain divided the men from the women, Yousefzada was quite literally a ‘Go-Between,’ enchanted by his mother’s realm of rich fabrics and intricate embroidery.
The conversation ranged from vigilante riots to role models like Mohammed Ali and Malcolm X, who both visited Birmingham in the 80s. Yousefzada described his work as a ‘piece of documentation’, with some memories involving trauma and grief, and others recounting trivial, everyday details. It was clear that many Brummies in the audience felt personally grateful for his work, and one person commented that for South Asian people growing up in the city, ‘each decade it’s meant to get easier.’
When asked for the secret of his international success, he modestly commented that ‘I still don’t think I’ve made it,’ and advocated using his platform to give others a voice. ‘We’re always stronger together,’ he concluded, which encapsulated the feeling of solidarity in the room.
‘The Go-Between’ was published on the 28th of January and is now available to purchase from the Ikon gift shop.
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