Gen Z has been cited the “queerest” generation yet with only half of Gen Z exclusively attracted to members of the opposite sex. There are now a record number of LGBTQ+ characters represented in media, but there are still so many stories untold and so much more to be done to improve positive representation of our LGBTQ+ community – especially intersectional and regional voices.
Instagram has brought together emerging queer voices to celebrate and recognise the breadth and influence of intersectional LGBTQ+ creators in the UK for its latest spotlight series This is Me: Gen Queer. The creators featured by are founder of Newcastle-based Queer Canny Collective Ella Willis @_ellawillis, intersex activist Dani Coyle @inter_sexy and Scottish art director and photographer Furmaan Ahmed @furmaan.ahmed.
Furmaan Ahmed (they/them)
Furmaan Ahmed is a multi-disciplinary artist from Glasgow who creates images, set designs and live installations that span across the worlds of fine art, fashion and film.
Ahmed creates sites that act as “emotional knowledge exchanges” for queer POC and trans bodies. Referencing ancient places, sci fi nature and hybrid futurism – they create experiences that feel like glitches in reality. Furmaan is interested in world building through the lens of a brown and trans person.
In their collaborative practise, Furmaan has envisioned worlds and campaigns with WeTransfer, Willow Smith, Tate Modern, Sadler Wells, Jupiter Artland, Hermès, Shygirl, SOPHIE, Sasha Velour and David Lachapelle.
Furmaan is a recent graduate of Fine Art from Central Saint Martins. In 2017 Ahmed was the recipient of the Robertsons Scholarship and was awarded the British Fashion Council New Waves Creatives Award 2021.
Who is Furmaan Ahmed and how do you identify?
I’m a non-binary South Asian artist from Glasgow.
What shall we expect to see in Instagram’s LGBTQ spotlight series “This Is Me: Gen Queer”?
For the series I wanted to highlight the collaborative nature of my work and showcase the handwork behind the smoke and mirrors. I want to shed some light and transparency on how I am making my work and how intrinsically linked this is to queerness and need to tell our stories.
What will your role be in this project? How would you describe the Gen Queer?
Resilient, autonomous and in survival mode.
How do you manage to create “emotional knowledge exchanges” for queer POC and trans bodies?
Emotional knowledge isn’t about learning from a book or academia, it isn’t an exchange from reading or understanding a gallery text. It’s a knowledge found within our bodies and souls. It’s an archival kind of knowledge that we share with each other. I think creating these environments that appear on screen or on stage, it creates a temple…or a trigger for us to be able to connect with those emotions and our bodies. Taking you out of the everyday and giving space for you to have those more ephemeral moments of connection and healing.
Is there enough trans representation in your field?
Absolutely not, especially working in film. Sometimes I forget how polarised I actually am because of the pace and stress of my job but its kind of surreal that I work as a head of department on so many productions and everyone else is a cis white man who only have experience working with other cis white men. Being a trans person of colour with a voice that is listened to in these environments is seldom come by and it shouldn’t be – I just think about how different these projects would be if there were more queer people with queer ethics involved. Everyone is constantly trying “reinvent” so why not invite in the people who can really have the experiences to do that!
What are your inspirations and your interests?
The romance of historic and religious sites… Theres something so ancient but futuristic about these places and the way they have been inhabited by people really fascinates me. Pre islamic and pre monotheistic belief systems have always been of wonder to me – I guess its a fetishisation of a world that once venerated the land and sky rather than one man. In a world full of so much destruction these ideas almost feel so futuristic and full of hope.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?
When I was 18 I made the decision to leave my family and the south asian community behind and start a new life. In south asian families kids moving out is unheard of – you get married off and then you leave home. It’s tradition. I had the choice to remain living a double life as a queer person who wanted to be an artist, or continue to lie to myself and live inside a cage. Choosing to run away, start a new life and fight everyday for what I knew was right was terrifying. Looking back on that time, I am shocked I made it through – Ive never felt so lost and didn’t have any kind of grounding. This is why I find This is Me: Gen Queer so powerful, when I was that lost young person without the love and care of a family or community – having someone like me to look up to would have given me so much spirit. TBH I think M.I.A was this for me. At 18 I was relearning so much about the world as I was previously sheltered inside a religious community and that was also terrifying, I was experiencing many kinds of displacement. I had nothing but
the belief in my art and the new queer family I was creating. I don’t know many people that have had to make those decisions at such a young age and they shouldn’t have to! I just remember telling myself everyday that I had to make this life worth it.
You have collaborated with many big brands? Which collaboration is the closest to your heart?
I loved working with Raveena, we are both south asian and share this same dream of futuristic landscapes that are interwoven with our beautiful heritage. She is a true poet and has brought so much lightness to my craft and life!
What are your future plans?
Im working on a book right now, its still in beginning stages but Im looking for funding to support the project right now. The project will take me back to Scotland for the good part of a year and will bring together an incredible community of activists, writers and queer siblings – I’m rewriting folk history of Scotland and creating a new kind of archive of forgotten tales and hidden faces. It will all shot and set in the Scottish mainland and islands.