CRAFTING CHARACTERS OF INTEGRITY
Zeneefa Zaneer is celebrated as ARTRA’s Emerging Artist Best of 2019 for her intrepid skill in embarking on the literary journey dexterously and fluently, selfpublishing and authoring many books that explore sensitive subjects such as abortion and disabilities. To embark on these deafeningly silent subjects requires courage, hence, we commend Zeneefa as she boldly tackles depictions of Muslim women and endeavouring the perilous task of shedding light on defying religious rubrics. Being shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize 2018, Zeneefa unveils her manuscript ‘They Failed to Kill Her’, a riveting plot involving and surrounding fragile stories based on true experiences. Having studied at Badi-UdDin Mahmud Girls’ College, Kandy, Zeneefa eventually followed a path into writing articles for local newspapers preceding her career as an author of several novels, written in both English and Sinhalese. From ‘Poodinna Idadenna (Let me Bloom)’ to ‘They Failed to Kill Her’, Zeneefa has shown great skill in constructing salient plots and confronting ethical and social issues fervently.
While representing the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, who are often misinterpreted ‘They Failed to Kill Her’ takes on a narrative inspired by true stories influenced by real-life events. The novel revolves around Arzoo, a 15-year-old girl who did not die after attempts to abort her. Arzoo thereafter, was adopted by Jezeema, a labour nurse and a lower middle class housewife with an older son, who is affected by cerebral palsy. Zeneefa navigates the literary waters with robust confidence and utmost belief and shares insightful perspectives in order to enlighten and educate society on misread assumptions and unjustified judgements on abortion and muslim communities. Zeneefa pens her story and builds her plot from the creative depths of her imagination, as a means of providing society an inside glimpse into a world of what’s hardly, and rarely depicted in the local English literary community.
Inspired by Jodi Picoult, Zeneefa attempts to bridge the gap between entertainment and activism, using both streams to contribute to each other. Through her writing, a reader is able to identify her writing in ways that she uses words and stories to voice deciphering intricate nuances. She builds a sense of intimacy with her readers and responds to their questions and assumptions through the careful crafting of her storyline, exploring a wide range of themes including deformities, abortion and adoption through her perspectives. We pay homage to Zeneefa as she discovers through her literary career moral ambiguity in this rapidly changing and increasingly complex world. “I was against abortion, but eventually, upon writing this novel, I understood the other side of the situation,” she explains.
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