Today, we have the pleasure to share with you our interview with Ines, Kenza, Odélia and Saena, the four authors of the graphic novel Une Nuit. Identity(s), origins, immigration, uprooting, integration, assimilation, secularism, feminism, intersectionality, justice, freedom, equality, sisterhood... So many questions and reflections delivered without filter, like a mirror of the current society.
For more information on the book, click here !
Can you introduce yourself?
Ines: I am French, born in Paris, and I grew up in Jerusalem, my father being a journalist. I spent 18 years of my life there. I studied at Sciences Po and I created Pilgrimage in Shift, the first Israeli-Palestinian festival in Paris.
Kenza: I was born and raised in Morocco before moving to France to study at Sciences Po. I co-created with Ines, the festival Pèlerinage en décalage. I am now a columnist for various French and English media.
Odélia: I grew up in Besançon and studied political science and international relations. Then I became an illustrator against all odds, so I learned a bit on the job, doing commissions and taking a lot of night classes.
Saena: I am the co-writer with Ines and Kenza, and the calligrapher of this book. They gave me the opportunity to present my calligraphies on about twenty pages. I am an engineer of climatic studies at the CNRS during the day, and a scriptwriter and calligrapher at night.
How did you meet ?
Inès: I met Odélia through Kenza on the festival, she was doing the visuals for the 2nd and 3rd editions. I knew Saena through friends, we both did Masters in urban studies at Sciences Po. Then, I met her with Kenza because she was a partner of the festival and we became friends.
Kenza: We all studied at Sciences Po, not necessarily at the same time but that's what unites us. I met Odélia because we did exactly the same internship a few months apart and as we had the same hair, everyone told me about a certain Odélia that I met in Master. Saena was also at Sciences Po on the Poitiers campus and very kindly offered to help us when Ines and I were working on the festival Pèlerinage en décalage and we became friends!
Odélia: I already knew Kenza because we had done an internship in Tel Aviv at Amnesty. We were studying at Sciences Po together, then I met Ines and Saena through the festival organized by Ines and Kenza.
Saena: It was a friend of mine, who was very exotic, who got me involved in the festival and that fed our conversations on our famous WhatsApp group where everything started.
What is the genesis of Une Nuit?
Ines: The project started in a WhatsApp conversation where we were discussing our lives, our jobs, our loves, always through the prism of our identities, our origins and our heritages and especially our respective exoticiations (the way we are exoticized by men). What is interesting in this project, and this is why it is very rich and why it was exciting to do and I hope it will be as exciting to read, is that we are all different. Our relationships to our identities, our origins, our relationships, our exotiosations are different. That's also why we wanted to do it; to show these different points of view, to show that everything is also very moving, that the way of reasoning is not fixed, the one we had in 2015 when we started the book is different today.
Kenza: We were trying to think together and to understand a little better what was happening to us as young women, in a particular context in France and in the world. One day, we said to ourselves that we had to tell these stories, they couldn't just stay locked in our phones. And the idea came up to make a book, a comic book! Very quickly the name of Odélia came up and we said to ourselves that we would propose the idea to her. No one had done this before!
Odélia: They had a WhatsApp and a Google Doc where they exchanged a lot of ideas and jokes about their identity. They came to me at one point to do a comic book, I said "why not since I just started being an illustrator and I don't really know how to draw so let's go!" But that was a long time ago, and then we started building the characters, structuring it a bit. We had no idea what we were doing but we learned, we worked a lot. The girls wrote a script, and I did a lot of storyboards. We built the work together and we built ourselves a bit artistically together. It was quite difficult, but at the same time a very beautiful adventure! With a series of miracles, work and perseverance, we are here and it's so cool!
Saena : These are three girls who meet each other and who have nothing to do with each other and who, during a chaotic night, realize that they are extremely different but who share stories of immigration and questions of identity that will define them, even if they don't want it to define them. It is a common story, beyond them, it is the story of humanity, of migrants and their arrival somewhere. It is not just the history of immigration, it is the history of anchoring after migration.
Here we talk about hair, is there a hair angle in your novel? Is there an intention behind it?
Ines : When we imagine characters, we ask ourselves how we can make this character represent people, and make them feel touched by this character. For example, for our character Ava, we thought a lot about her hair color. At the beginning, she was a girl who was supposed to be a little Venetian blonde, now she is blonde. There is also the reality of the harmony of the drawings, so there are a lot of things that come into play, but yes the hair was a big subject.
Kenza : I would say that there is definitely a hair angle to our novel because we discussed a lot about the hair of our characters, their color, their texture. Specifically, in terms of graphics, drawing and calligraphy, hair is featured on a number of pages in our book. It's not just there as a part of our bodies, but it's also there to deliver messages with drawers. There are pages in the book that Shaeri will particularly enjoy.
Odélia : We had to find some techniques to make people understand and to represent a diversity of women without going too much into clichés, by using colors and hairstyles that are realistic and that can be used in comics. Besides, when you look at the book, you can see that the length of the hair of the characters changes from one page to the other. Drawing a character's hair is like drawing his vibe and his energy! It really plays in the expression of the character. Sometimes we draw the hair very long or very stunt, or a little straighter for the same character.
Saena: The characters try to look like us, we are three writers and in a way each one of us is the guarantor of one of the characters, of its veracity and its realism. Obviously, our hair looks a little like the hair of the characters, but not too much. I would love to have the hair of Salomeh for example, who is the Franco-Iranian character of the book! She has very long hair, she managed to make a braid, which I never managed to do! Salomeh's hair is very jet black, straight but thick, Ava's is quite blonde and straight, and Leyla's hair is dark brown, brown, very wavy.
On some pages, the texture of the hair becomes a bit like the identity and ancestral baggage of the characters. There is a whole kind of genealogy, stories and counter-stories written in their hair. It was a graphic intention that we had thought of and that we first tried to transcribe in the drawing and then in calligraphy.
And you, how would you describe your hair ?
Kenza : It's them who choose, I accepted the randomness in my life thanks to them ! I have always considered it important to wear my hair naturally. There were times when it was harder than now, there was a lot of pressure to straighten your hair, especially in Morocco.
Ines : That's a very interesting question and not easy to answer because for a long time I followed my mother's hair routine even though we don't have the same hair. I could only see her detangling her hair when it was wet with conditioner. So I did the same. I've always done a wavy, thick hair routine while I have fine, fairly straight hair. A few years ago, I noticed that I didn't really have a routine that worked for my hair. For me, it was shampoo/after shampoo no matter which ones. I would say that I have fine hair but with a wavy tendency. It's very changeable, it's complicated, I don't have the key to my hair yet. My hairstyles depend on too many parameters, my look, my mood. I don't have my best routine yet and I don't know if I'll ever find it! Maybe it's like identity, you never find it.
Odélia: My hair is freewheeling, it's very curly but actually it depends. This year, I started to have a lot of green plants and to take care of them. By taking care of the plants, I think I've kind of figured out what I have on my head. My hair does its own thing, sometimes it thinks of me and remembers that I exist but it's very rare! At the moment, we are not really friends I admit, it's a bit of a hair crisis without precedent, it's changing, I don't understand it.
Saena : For me they are very Iranian, even if it doesn't mean much, because there are many different ethnicities in Iran. They are Iranian-Indian, Asian. They are hair that likes to go to Indian hairdressing salons, because they are understood by hairdressers who go from Maghreb to Pakistan, we will say. I like it a lot. I almost lost it, in fact I lost it at the time of my first postpartum, I had given birth to my first child and I did not know that one could lose it. So I cut my hair for the first time very short and I will remember it for the rest of my life.
Do you have a hair motto to share with us?
Ines : I would like to say that I don't really have one. But there are some basics like sleeping well, and especially being at the seaside, salt, I have the impression that all the people I know with any type of hair, well, sea salt, it works for them.
Kenza : I cut my hair quite short a year ago and I love it ! I think it's opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me in terms of hairstyles because I always had the same cut before. And now that I have short hair, I like it, I save a lot of time and my routine is much easier. It makes me think about changing my hair color, braiding my hair, things I had always forbidden myself before.
Odélia : Right now I don't really have a hair motto except to let go!
Saena : You have to really love your hair because you can lose it one day. As long as it's with us, it's our great friends and we love it too much!