Quiet Radicals: Sofia Karim
What is a Quiet Radical?
Every single day, there are people all across the globe who inspire and motivate, initiating change through acts, whether big or small, to make the world a better place. Leading by example and going against the status quo by simply asking, “Why not?” With those words, a path of change is created.
These are who we, at Five Dot Botanics, call Quiet Radicals; they need not be loud or even be seen at the forefront to make changes around them, they just need to do, and that is the push required to start radical change.
Who is Sofia Karim?
“Being with [Shahidul] almost takes being alive to a different level. You’re lifted to somewhere higher than the ground plane of the earth. And from that place, you dare to break and unlearn everything you thought you understood, rebuild it, and break it again.” - Sofia Karim
A phone call on August 5th 2018 saw artist and architect Sofia Karim’s world fracture upon the discovery that her beloved uncle, Shahidul Alam had been arrested in Bangladesh for ‘tarnishing the image of the nation’ when he made ‘provocative comments’ in an interview. Sofia was heartbroken, even more so when she saw him on TV limping while he was being taken to court. Artist, architect and on that day, activist, Sofia asked herself, “What can I do to bring awareness to these forms of injustices?”
What has she done?
“One act of protest leads to another and generosity breeds opportunity.” - Sofia Karim
Sofia went on to create Turbine Bagh, a movement against facism and authoritarianism, getting its name from where a sit-in protest was going to occur (Turbine Hall of Tate Modern) and the 2019 women-led protests in Shaheen Bagh, a peaceful sit-in that lasted 101 days in Delhi, in response to the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act - an extremely Islamophobic act that excluded Muslims from gaining amensty.
Combining activism and art in order to raise awareness, Sofia created movements, such as when she asked participants of the Turbine Bagh to come together and design art for samosa packets (known as the Samosa Packet Movement) to show solidarity and support for the Shaheen Bagh protests and to call for the search of Kajol, a Bangladeshi photojournalist.
She has also founded books4jail, a project that sends prisoners books from artists, writers and cultural institutions.
What does the future hold?
“The amount of work that artists keep sending me has been constantly increasing, and I think that’s a testimony to the urgency of the situation.” - Sofia Karim
Turbine Bagh’s online presence has only grown as time goes on, having to adjust due to the pandemic but Sofia has easily adapted to this. The future is certainly bright for Sofia and the projects she adores, with the love of family and friends, her activism is not as lonely as many others. Having campaigned over the case of a Dalit woman gang raped, murdered and forcibly cremated by police in Hathras and the plight of women in Afghanistan.
Sofia is the embodiment of using one’s talents to fight for causes one believes in, and shows all it takes is one event to ignite an awakening.