Dressed appropriately for British weather, Babak sat in the backroom of EJDER. This was an interview mad overdue, so much so that we spoke for just under an hour. Babak explained that his background is in music and has since evolved into adopting and championing a culture, “the culture of people that never had a chance to be heard: immigrants, immigrant children, trans people, Muslim women,” truly this was like music to my ears coming from a man.
While we spoke his friend and artist Sherihan, widely known as Cherrie, was being styled by her closest friend and collaborator Wasima for a few shots in-store before Cherrie’s first headline London show.
Babak’s ideals are reflected in the company he keeps and the people he manages. Managing several women that act as vessels for feminist movements in Sweden, Silvana Imam and Cherrie, it’s certain that Babak is in the habit of following his words through with actions.
Although working in music for twelve years, it took him a long time to discover his mission of championing cultures overlooked by the mainstream. “I was experimenting,” he says, explaining that before his endeavours grew in popularity, and even before he begun in business, that he tested many identities before finding his calling, his mission, "you never know the mission until you just put it into gear and just do it, and then the mission just comes to you as you build energy and vibes around you.”
Testing and experimenting seems like the best approach one could take when growing up in a country that isn’t necessarily equipped with the cultural lens to understand difference in identity.
"We're gonna build some identity,” Babak tells me. He speaks of identity as a fluid rather than fixed phenomenon, something you can find out about and discover. “Because I feel like the biggest problem within the communities that are on the outskirts of town or, like, in economically bad situations, I think the biggest issue is identity: when you find out your identity, your self esteem is going to grow, you're going to find out that you don't need to be involved in that group but you can evolve in your own group and with your people."
It’s amazing how this man had such a willingness to share what he’s learned throughout his life with as many as possible, "We did a tour all around the hoods in Sweden," explained Babak. It was following the rise in success TRANS94 had, and the access that success allowed them. “Small places, big places, and [we] talked about identity. I've never been a lecture type of dude, but with that I felt a mission."
Speaking to the TRANS94 founder, the benefits of identity and self-knowledge became clear. Understanding that others have been displaced and grown up in cultures that aren’t their family’s own was the perfect foundation to bring people together with. Third Culture Kids being an identity allowed TRANS94 to start a movement.
It’s no surprise then that the 3rd Culture Kid commemorated a rise in identity capital by collating it and forming a book, a “manifesto of identity.” Designed and put together by Babak and his partner in a little under a month, “Third Culture Kids” is comprised of 149 pages—the entire earnings from sales of that book are being used as support for the Third Culture Kids scholarship, “That scholarship is basically going to be for young creative people,” Babak tells me. “to give them a network, to make them work on their identity, to give them funds so they can actually do what they're gonna do, and give them space so they can actually do what they wanna do. And hopefully that's going to grow into missionaries by their own. And they're gonna speak it on their own. So that's the goal.”
Babak noted his plans to meet with educators in Sweden, with the intention of getting "Third Culture Kids" involved in the national curriculum, “You’re gonna see leaders and superheroes that you’ve never seen before: trans people, people talking about body positivity, people talking about their identity as a Somalian, as an Iraqi… it’s like, we never had that book.”
Knowing that I didn’t have that book growing up, and that when we were younger it wasn’t cool to be African, there was nothing that could stop me from supporting their movements. “––and I wanna put out a cookbook!”
This made us laugh, and to explain why Babak concludes, “Yeah, because I was thinking the real Third Culture Kids are the parents.”
Words, Instax and film photography by Jamel Duane Alatise. Polaroid taken by Hiten Ashra.