A Painful Show About Her Life Performed In Front Of The People Responsible For That Pain

Rollie Williams

Nadia Manzoor knows what it's like to be a child of two worlds. Also, she's sick of "old goats getting the willies from looking at [her] feet," which may be the funniest sentence I've heard in a long time.

:Nadia: Peter, you look very beautiful when you are all covered up.

There is inherent social pressure in the culture and community that I grew up in to not be honest about who you are. And as a result, there are so many people who have either run away from their families, or they live in fear of their families their whole life, and then end up conforming to the status quo and not happy. I'm Nadia Manzoor and I grew up in North London in a Pakistani Muslim community. My father enforced how important it was to maintain one's sense of Muslim and Pakistani identity, being in a world of sinners. Anything that breaks that is considered a threat.

Burq Off is an autobiographical one-woman show where I play all the characters.

Janu, one day you'll make a man very, very happy.

If you don't cover your hair now when you die it will strangle you in your grave, and you will die.

Even if so old goat was getting the willies from looking at my feet why would I be sent to hell? Don't ask stupid questions. This shit would not be happening to me if I were English. You will never be accepted as British. Honey, those people don't understand you. They don't understand us.

My peers are shocked that I am actually talking about these kind of things openly in public because there is risk of losing friends and losing people in the community. But I think, ultimately, you have to ask yourself the question, "What is most important to you?"

I want to be able to engage with young Muslims, engage with young non-Muslims about having the courage to challenge the people that we care about and that we love. I have a twin brother and growing up we were very, very close. And then, we went to university and we met different groups of friends. His belief system became quite dogmatic.

Brothers, the westernization is the cause of our doom, yeah. No lies.

He started to see me as somebody who was betraying our roots because I had started to embrace white friends, basically, in a deeper way and he hadn't. So when we would come home, it started to feel like I was with a stranger.

You don't even know who you are anymore. I mean look at you. My sisters's dead.

After one performance my director came behind me and whispered in my ear, "Horam's [SP] here. Your brother's here," and I just burst out crying. I ran into the room backstage and I sobbed my eyes out for a good five minutes. He came backstage and we just held each other. The fact that he came to me was big sign of his love and his support.

I've really questioned and challenged my dad to think about the things that he followed. I felt like every time I performed the show our relationship got a bit stronger because he was able to step back and really be proud of me having accomplished and achieved something on my own in spite of the messaging that he had given me throughout my life.

It's much easier to stay silent and not have to question and say anything because if we do then people are going to notice and people are going to point fingers and it's a scary place to be, but I've gotten a deep sense of confidence around using my creativity for change.

My name is Nadia and I am moral courage.

You will wake up and it will strangle you again, and you will die and it will keep strangling you again, and again, and there will be no end.

This is why we do not look at white people. Otherwise, you will turn into a grapefruit like Cinderella.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

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