5 (and a bit) Questions with… Hajera and Medeia
Meet Hajera Memon and Medeia Cohan and their delightful book, Hats of Faith. Described in their own words, Hats of Faith is “a beautifully illustrated introduction to the shared custom of head covering for young children and their parents”. It’s a mainstream, interfaith, board book offering stunning imagery, accurate terminology, phonetic pronunciations and clear information. The book encourages an early and open dialogue between children and parents and prepares young people for our culturally diverse modern world.
Over to them!
1. Who are you and what do you do?
Medeia (M) – I’m a very lucky woman! I also happen to be a Jewish American and British, mother, wife, freelance diversity and inclusion consultant, entrepreneur and imposter children’s book author. Phew…
Hajera (H) – I’m an ex finance lawyer turned children’s publisher entrepreneur! I’m a Muslim born and brought up in London and love bringing meaningful, faith inspired interactive children’s books to the world for everyone to enjoy!
2. What inspired you to work on this project?
M – I lived in Tooting Broadway, a very diverse area of London and I’d see all these amazing head coverings. I wanted to buy a well-illustrated, factual book for my son about the shared custom of head covering but I couldn’t find one.
This was around the time of Brexit and just before Trump was elected and I realised that I had a responsibility to do whatever I could to counter the growing intolerance and fear around me. So even though I’d never done anything like this before I decided to write the book that I wanted to buy myself. Hajera encouraged me to really go for it and make it happen.
I believe that early diversity education is essential to raising kind humans and changing the world. I also believe that many small acts of kindness can add up to a powerful movement and can create much needed positive change.
H – In a time of increasing misunderstanding, confusion, fear and ignorance, Medeia proposed the idea and vision for Hats of Faith. As a faith based publisher I felt that we have a responsibility to do what we can to educate our communities and wider society.
Islam has a history of tolerance, respect and living amongst many different faith-based communities peacefully and successfully. We have a duty to understand our neighbours and show kindness to them. This book is our way of highlighting that we have more in common and I hope that it will be used as a positive tool for unity and bringing a little hope of peace to our world.
3. “What’s art got to do with it?”
M – The visuals are everything! Without Sarah’s Walsh’s stunning images the book wouldn’t have come to life and wouldn’t have the appeal that it does. We worked with experts to get everything right from skin tones to facial expressions. Sarah was amazingly patient because she understood the importance of the project and cared as much as we did about creating accurate depictions and capturing warmth within the characters’ eyes. She is an incredibly skilled artist and we were very lucky to work with her.
H – Good artwork for me is about creating a thing of beauty and is essential to any children’s book. It has to appeal to both parents and children and it’s a great skill to achieve that balance. We want our book to become a childhood favourite and one that everyone will reach for time and time again. I think we have it spot on with our illustrator Sarah!
4. Does identity play a role in your creative craft, and if so how?
M – I think it does, but it’s not just about me. I feel it’s more to do with who I am because of the influences of my mother, husband, son and people like Hajera and Sarah. And even the other people in my life who influence and empower me and make me who I am, allowing me to to realise great things because of their love, support, energy and encouragement.
As a woman, a mother and an American living in the UK and watching the world at the moment I’m trying hard not to be frozen with fear for my son’s future. But instead to be proactive and do my part to create the world I want him to live in, where we are all just humans, together and safe.
H – Absolutely! As a female, Muslim creative entrepreneur, identity and my contribution to society is a huge part of why I set up Shade 7 Publishing. My faith and having good friends from other faiths, makes me increasingly aware of all the values that connect us. I am so inspired watching Medeia’s love, passion, generosity and the energy she is putting into raising her beautiful son to become a kind and loving boy. I find that I learn so much from her – it is such a privilege to share this journey with her and her young family.
I believe our identities develop and grow as we learn more about each other and come together in order to unite against hate and intolerance.
5. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given over the course of your career?
M – I was once told that everyone has brilliant ideas, but it’s those who realise great ideas who achieve something. And I think that’s very true. It’s not easy to be a ‘do-er’ but it is incredibly fulfilling to bring an idea to life.
H – Be grateful. Develop an attitude of humbleness and gratitude because it brings perspective. We have so many blessings to be thankful for and even when things don’t work out, we need to stay positive and hopeful that things always do work out for the best.
A bit more… Where’s your favourite place to see art?
M – I see art everywhere. It’s the beauty of life. As a former curator, I’ve been to some of the most amazing museums and art festivals in the world, and I certainly couldn’t say which of those was my favourite. At the moment my refrigerator, which is covered in masterpieces by my 2 year old son is probably my favourite place to see art.
H – Outside, in nature – from my front garden to the various parks in London. Divine beauty in the intricacies of the veins in a leaf, to how petals are perfectly formed. I especially love spring and all the cherry blossoms blooming – pink trees just blow me away, they’re a work of God’s art and perfection!
Find the book at www.hatsoffaith.com