HUM by Shamshad Khan, poet in residence at The Aawaz Women’s Centre in Accrington

16th September 2016

HUM by Shamshad Khan, poet in residence at The Aawaz Women’s Centre in Accrington

In the English language HUM means to sing with closed lips or make a sound like a bee. In the Urdu language HUM means ‘we’ or ‘us.’

It has been a very special experience for me to be poet in residence at the Aawaz Centre, Accrington over the last few months. I’ve been working on an arts programme called HUM, a collaboration between The Aawaz Centre, Horse & Bamboo and Super Slow Way, with additional funding from Arts Council England.

The Aawaz Womens Centre provide a holistic support service, supporting women to feel a sense of belonging, raise their aspirations and feel confident in playing a part in creating equal and cohesive communities. HUM is all about inspiring and encouraging women to try new creative activities and develop skills which promote positive health and wellbeing.

I’ve worked very closely in collaboration with the participants and staff at the Aawaz centre who have been great to work with and have really embraced the creative process. Over the past few months I have been introducing participants to creative writing sessions and the themes of art, emotions and family. The writing sessions have been interspersed with art sessions run by paper cut artist Maryam Golubeva and visual artist Rahima Begum who have each played a key role in inspiring the participants.

It has been quite incredible and a real privilege to see how the women have developed and evolved through the sessions. I’ve used a range of techniques and enjoyed watching how the women have responded, at first tentatively and then with a growing ease and joy at their group efforts. I’ve encouraged the women to speak and write in their mother tongues (Polish, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil and Sinhalese) as well as in English. They have shared intimate and funny family stories, listening and speaking with increased concentration and respect for themselves and each other.

We are now working together with Horse & Bamboo and the Aawaz Centre to create an exhibition of the poems, stories, portraits and papercut artwork created by the women around the themes of family and feelings. At the start of the project many of the women were not very confident about their artistic abilities or being able to write a poem or story. The exhibition is a celebration of their journey, a chance to show off just how much they have been able to achieve through the Hum project at Aawaz. I hope you can join us at one of the venues.”

The exhibition will be launched at Accrington Market Hall on 19th of September (from 11am onwards) and will then move on to Accrington Library on 3rd October.


Mother is like an evergreen tree
Full of shade
Like cool water in summer
She is the heart of my family
Like a colourful lamp
Bringing shades of the rainbow
At night she is the moon
Bringing cool moonlight
Removing the darkness
Like a rose full of fragrance and perfume
She is my sunshine
Mother is the roots of the tree
She is what keeps me attached to my life.

Group poem by HUM participants


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