23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Sadaf Saaz

The poet, writer and women’s rights activist Sadaf Saaz (Siddiqi) was born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1968 and spent her childhood in Great Britain. When she was 16 years old, she moved with her parents to their native country of Bangladesh. At that point, Saaz had little command of her parents’ mother tongue and was also used to the British school system. She found it difficult to adjust to such an alienating environment and found refuge and solace in the world of literature. After finishing school, she chose to pursue a degree in molecular biology at Cambridge University, after which she moved back to Bangladesh, where she became an entrepreneur and got married.

During this time, she also developed a serious interest in poetry and published her very first collection of poems »Sari Reams« (2013). Her work is inspired by a deep commitment to political issues and consistently thematizes the injustices suffered by women in her country. Her repertoire also includes love poetry, combining different rhyme patterns and mixing Bengali with English in easy flowing lines. Indeed, she developed a distinctive, dynamic style that emulates the pulse of life in contemporary Dhaka. Saaz explained the title of her volume of poetry in the following manner: »The sari for me is a symbol of grace, beauty and versatility – connecting and encapsulating a great body of tradition, stories and wisdom, with the present«.

In 2014, her »Je Kotha Jayna Bola« monologues were produced for the theatre and premiered under the direction of Naila Azad. In these monologues, which were shown nationwide, Saaz portrays fifty case studies of women from different Bangladeshi regions and explores the problematic position of women in society. For example, she tells the story of Konika, who marries at the age of twelve and goes on to endure violence and sexual abuse. Or the story of a woman who doesn’t realise she is marrying an impotent man. She also tells the story of same-sex relationships stigmatized by society. These monologues seek to break the silence surrounding sexuality and women in Bangladesh.

In 2011, Saaz co-founded the annual Hay Festival Dhaka, which took its name from the eponymous event in Wales. She continues to act as a director and the producer of that festival, now known as Dhaka Lit Fest, which focuses on English-speaking literature being generated by a younger generation of writers, as well as creating a platform for the rich, diverse written and oral literature of Bangladesh. At the moment, Saaz is working on her first novel. She lives in Dhaka.


Sari Reams

University Press

Dhaka, 2013