Nasimeh Bahrayni Easton and I met a few years ago through a shared community of individuals that support each other in unplugging from their devices in order to return to summer camp as adults. Since meeting her, I have always been struck by how spirited she is in everything that she does. Nasimeh deeply cares about herself and her fellow humans and it comes across in how she holds herself as well as how she interacts with others. It makes total sense to me that she is a multidisciplinary artist and performer who has a knack for storytelling, spoken word, illustration, and writing across a myriad of different platforms.
Nasimeh was born to an Iranian immigrant mother and a Caucasian father in Tallahassee, Florida. Because of her cultural background (among many other things), Nasimeh has been using the current political landscape as inspiration for her art. She notes, “[No one] creates in a vacuum. I’m always responding to something by making. I can be responding to something as simple as a date or I can be responding to something on a [more] global level: micro and macro.” Since the 2016 presidential election, Nasimeh has been doing the latter.
After Donald Trump became president, Nasimeh remembers calling her mother in devastation and fear. Her mom—a woman who grew up in Iran and had lived through a time when her entire country had shifted due to war and rule by a repressive government—responded calmly by saying, “You can’t stop progress. They’re trying, but it just won’t work.” Her mother’s assertion not only gave Nasimeh perspective, but it led to a fire rising up inside of her. She realized that she could no longer stay quiet or silence the Persian side of herself—it was too important to not have a voice. Recalling on the impetus for her to create, she is only now able to see that her heritage and background played such a significant role. She notes, “I started making art because I was pissed. I started making art because I heard people saying shit that I thought was stupid . . . It felt like suddenly a part of me [was] threatened.”
Our conversation moves to the idea of reclamation. What happens when we lose important parts of ourselves and our identities? What happens when we let external influences guide our own knowing? Nasimeh describes her own struggles of growing up in a mostly white part of the country and the journey that she has been on to fully claim her Persian identity. She remembers:
“There [was] one or two other Middle Eastern kids [at my] school. And so there was this distinct sense of ‘other,’ you know—my name, my heritage. Then, there’s this other side of it which is that I have felt at times like I’m ‘other’ from pure Iranians as well, because I’m only half. And so, I exist within this gray area. When I take a lens to it, I can [see the beauty], because in this liminal space . . . so much can happen . . . And there [have also] been times where it’s been such a journey of figuring out where I feel like I fit into a landscape of identity politics and conversations and even who I am in this world.”
I ask Nasimeh the story behind her name. She laughs and shares that the first name her parents picked was Jamileh—which is the name of a famous belly dancer. Her grandmother quickly rejected the notion of her granddaughter being named after a belly dancer to which Nasimeh’s parents chose her now name, which translates to a refreshing spring breeze. As our name is one of the first things we impress upon another, I am delighted to hear that Nasimeh’s name so fully captures her essence as a human being.
Our conversation deepens to explore the idea of self-understanding and our curiosity to know if we can ever fully understand who we are in the world. Nasimeh says, “I think that the ‘who am I’ is going to change all of the time . . . The sooner I can make peace with the [changing] landscape, [I can start to own] that [I am not] here to please other people. Therefore, I just get to grab hold of what’s true for me and hold that viciously in my fist or in my open palm—if you will—and let that be so and not try and fit into some other notion [of who I am supposed to be].” She finishes by stating, “I am complex . . . I contain multitudes; I have so many layers.” Nasimeh isn’t afraid to continue to peel back more layers on the complexity of being human:
“I think that we all have to find our medicine and our way of connecting to ourselves and each other. And whether that’s through a conversation with a friend, or sitting still, or being near a tree, there [has to be] some way that we can return back to the place that’s deep within us even when external factors are really challenging.”
In just a few weeks, Nasimeh will be moving to Los Angeles, a conclusion she has come to by encouraging herself to put her own ‘big yes’—as she calls it—at the center of her decision-making process. She doesn’t really have the words to explain why she feels called to pick up and move her life down to Southern California, she just feels it in her bones. As someone who is committed to growth, creativity, and finding her way in this wild world, I am certain that she will continue to claim and reclaim all parts of herself as long as she sticks to her own belief that “the journey is in making peace with your process.”