SAPAC Mourns Passing of Ifti Nasim
Yesterday Chicago’s South Asian and LGBTQ communities lost a true pioneer—poet, journalist, and activist Ifti (Iftikhar) Nasim. There have been numerous tributes to Ifti written in the last couple days, especially on his Facebook page. We would like to share one from our friend Kareem Khubchandani, who got to know Ifti well over the last few years through their work with Trikone-Chicago:
I am privileged to have met, known, and spent time with Ifti Nasim. Ifti was a gifted artist, an inspired activist, a successful businessman, and a truly spectacular being. Ifti was born in Pakistan, and moved to the U.S. to pursue an education in law, but he found that art (specifically poetry) truly moved him. He committed his life to writing, and has performed and published poetry in English, Urdu and Punjabi all over the world. His book Narman has been taken up as a source of inspiration and strength by young people in Pakistan who have had trouble reconciling their sexual orientation and gender identities with what society expects of them. Ifti has been an activist not only through his poetry, but on the ground in Chicago: establishing Sangat for LGBTQ South Asians, rallying South Asians to protest in the wake of post-9/11 hate crimes, and educating South Asians about HIV risk and prevention. Between his art-making and activism, Ifti also worked selling Mercedes cars, and prided himself on his sales skills. Every step of the way, he looked fabulous! Fur, silk, leather, diamonds, gold, sequins, glitter, wigs, makeup, ruffles, and jewelry, he wore it all in style. This is what I will remember most about Ifti, that there was always pleasure to be had; no matter how dire the situation, no matter how painful the issue, there was always pleasure to be found. Ever time I asked Ifti, “How are you?” his answer was, without fail, “Honey, I’m just trying to survive in this big, bad, heterosexual world.” But the grace, flair, and humor with which he “survived” assured me that he was doing more than just getting by, he was finding happiness in the crevices of what truly is a difficult world for an outspoken, queer, immigrant, Muslim, South Asian.
Our community has lost an important figure, but we must continue to be inspired by his activism, his art, and his exuberance. I have lost a special friend, but I will attempt to sustain the difficult work that he has done, and widen the path he has laid for queer desis in Chicago.
Please keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.
Ifti was buried Saturday on the north side of Chicago, the area he had called home for many years.
The last time some of us saw Ifti perform was at KalaKranti 2010, Trikone’s annual celebration of queer South Asian art. Fortunately Trikone caught his performance on video, and we’d like to share it with you (parts of it are NSFW):
Tracy Baim, publisher and managing editor of Windy City Media Group, has also compiled a biography and series of video interviews with Ifti on her Chicago Gay History website.
Please feel free to use this space to share your own thoughts about our friend Ifti, his impact on the community, and his artwork and life.
We’ll miss you, Ifti.