Photography by Gina Nero

what it's like to be a boxer when you're young, female and muslim

Short film 'Solibet' sees 16-year-old schoolgirl and boxer Rahma define her own identity.

by Julie Fenwick
22 August 2018, 6:54am

Photography by Gina Nero

As a young Muslim woman Rhama is used to having outsiders try and define her identity. "Media has influenced this idea that Muslim women don’t have a say in what they do but that is completely incorrect." As the subject of Melbourne-based filmmaker Tig Terera’s new short film Solibet, the 16-year-old schoolgirl and boxer gets the chance to define herself.

"The main goal for Solibet was to explore aggression, construct something confronting and make it beautiful," says Tig, who partnered with cinematographer Jessie Lane. Drawn to Rahma after seeing a short video of her boxing on Instagram, Tig describes her as the perfect subject — one that would work to empower Muslim women and defy expectations. Rahma explains that she was attracted for the same reasons, "While discussing it I thought, if I’m in it that means I’m representing this very 'strong' sport where in society I am not represented as strong at all. I am belittled and, in general, Muslims are abhorred."

Rahma, born and raised in Australia from Egyptian-Muslim descent, says that identity is an important issue for her having grown up with both Western and Middle Eastern influences. At times, however, navigating the grey spaces can be confusing, "I feel as though I am Egyptian and Australian, but it’s almost as though I am compelled to hide my profound Egyptian-ness because either no one will understand it or relate to it. It’s also difficult because when in Egypt I’m still not completely like the native Egyptians because I live elsewhere and have very distinguishable opinions and views on things due to my upbringing."

Filmmaker Tig’s own interest in negotiating identity, having been born in Zimbabwe and raised in Australia, meant the duo shared some common ground. "My own experience with racial identity in Australia heavily influences who I cast in my films and therefore decide to empower."

As the subject of the film Rahma allows us to explore new aspects of our multicultural society and is an example of how our identity can empower rather than disadvantage us, "My identity is sort of hard but at the end of the day, I am Egyptian and Australian. I’m quite blessed to have been able to grow up in an area where the people allowed me to embrace my culture, rather than have me grow up thinking I was an alien, and while yes I have still experienced discrimination, in no way has that affected me and in no way will it affect me."

Check out the short film below: