Navigating the maze of modern love | Fattima Mahdi

Hailing from London but settling into various subcultures in Malta for the past couple of years, author, hip-hop artist and professional roller-skater Fattima Mahdi speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about her recently-launched book, Love Don’t Come Easy: The Modern Struggle

“Love Don’t Come Easy is for the twenty-somethings, it is for my generation”
“Love Don’t Come Easy is for the twenty-somethings, it is for my generation”

How did you start drawing up a book on this particular subject, and why did you think it merited a book-length treatment?

The idea for my book first came to mind in 2013, I was 21 at the time and had just graduated with a degree in Psychology. Earlier that year I started a blog website (www.thoughtsfromthebalcony.wordpress.com) and used the platform to address socio-political issues and share my views on how technology is changing our society. I wanted to branch off from this and expand intosome of the topics I touched on in my blog. A lot of books that focus on relationships are often targeted at people who are married, but I wanted to write a book that I could relate to. I wanted to really delve into a topic which (at the time of conception) many of us weren’t talking about – how social media is impacting our relationships. Love Don’t Come Easy is for the twenty-somethings, it is for my generation.

What would you say are some of the most urgent issues afflicting contemporary relationships, and the factors that cause them? And how did you set out breaking them down in your book?

For me, it was important to address three matters: social media, relationship ideals and gameplay. Social media is an integral part of our lives, and in my opinion, it has had the greatest impact on the romantic relationships we form. Our increased dependence on technology has led to the increased use in dating apps, which is very popular among 18-24 year olds. The ease with which we can meet someone new has implications on how we perceive romantic relationships, as well as how we interact in them.

Secondly, I think the ideals portrayed in films often distort reality and make us believe in fairytale endings that create disillusionment. There is a lot of wish-fulfilment being propagated in television and on social media. This was something I really wanted to address as it really does seep into your subconscious. Gameplay is another big factor for me, as many people think there are rules that must be adhered to for a relationship to work perfectly. In essence, love is complicated, relationships are tricky and there is no right or wrong answer.

I used what I learned during my time at University to inform the way I broke down these issues. Psychology is a course that forces you to flesh out your ideas, to conduct substantial research and provide conclusions. So, this really helped me to organise my writing and to convey the message properly.

Could you speak a little bit about your other creative activities, and how you balance these out with your writing?

Sure. I am also a conscious rapper, mentor and professional roller-skater – conscious rapping being a sub-genre of rap that deals in creating awareness and spreading knowledge. I started writing my book, rapping, mentoring and roller-skating pretty much within the same month. So, I’ve always been juggling many different projects at once. But, there was a point when I realised that music was taking over. I had released two EPs within the space of five months, and hadn’t really made headway with my book. I made a decision to put the music on hold so that I could focus on my writing. Now that the book is finished, I’m working on my third EP, which will be released this summer. In fact, the title for my book came from a song I wrote called ‘Love Don’t Come Easy’ – this is when I started to see the overlaps in my creative pursuits. I have even written a few more songs about love and relationships and often perform these songs at my book events.

Roller-skating is something I really enjoy. It began as a form of meditation for me and allowed me to take a mental break from writing, rapping and so on. Then one day I was being paid professionally for shows and festival appearances. Last but not least, as a mentor I am often running workshops and giving talks in many different parts of the world. While working on my book, I flew to South Africa to volunteer in a primary school, then got offered a job in Panama as a Student Counselor and I also facilitated a six-week summer programme on cyber-bullying, social media, peer pressure and other related issues at Niumee in Mriehel, Malta. All of these different experiences have influenced my writing, helping me to formulate my ideas and allowing me to grow and develop as a person. I’m going to start working on my second book next year, and I know that my various experiences will really help with the new book.

What do you make of the cultural scene in Malta, and what would you change from it?

I’ve been in Malta for two years now, I think there is a lot happening, but it’s not always promoted online so unless you hear about it through word of mouth, you miss it. There were a lot of events that I missed in my first year here. This year, I have joined many communities on the island and have been networking a lot more, so I can pay more attention to what’s out there and stay up to date.

When it comes to the hip-hop scene, I think there is room for improvement. I recently curated a freestyle rap tournament with Underground Sound to help in this regard. The main aim here was to provide a platform for local and expat rappers on the island to showcase their talent. The event was a success and Maltese rappers such as Sam Walker, as well as Caro and Yannick from 215 Collective, all came to represent. That was really cool to see and to be honest I was shocked with how many rappers turned up. It only made us realise the need to create the spaces for people, especially the younger generation to show what they’re made of. I’ll be working alongside Underground Sound on future projects to solidify a platform where more artists can be heard. Though Malta is a small island, there is an abundance of talent here. So, I hope to help organise more events to celebrate that talent.

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