Confess Your Secrets to this Emirati Artist

Sarah Alagroobi wants to heal your traumas through anonymity

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Our world might be rapidly changing and steering towards an inherent acceptance of diversity, but for many black and brown young people, growing up having to navigate their cross-cultural identity and experience of “othering” is exhausting. This is why Brussels-raised, London-based, 29-year-old Emirati artist Sarah Alagroobi started using her Instagram account to discuss feelings of exclusion and dehumanisation, creating a space to empower and offer visibility.

 

Last fall, Alagroobi started Letters Project, a platform that invites anyone and everyone to submit any kind of letters, in total anonymity. Since launch, she’s received more than 50 letters, which she has been reposting on Instagram. As a form of public declaration, the anonymous letters have opened up multi-entry points of dialogue, through which marginalised voices can reflect on their experiences, on their own terms.

 

 

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LETTER NO 28. {To The Universe} —— #thelettersproject #letter #anonymity #anonymouswriter #arabletters #artproject #art #writing

Une publication partagée par {THE LETTERS PROJECT} (@letters.project) le

 

“I noticed a lot of people were sending me DM’s using fake accounts”, says Alagroobi explaining why she came up with the principle of anonymity. “The agency of words through it is very apparent”, she continues. The way Letters Project process works is extremely easy: Alagroobi simply added a tab on her own personal website inviting people to submit their letter in the format of their choice, without having to share any kind of personal information. “Instagram stories were mainly a one way dialogue”, she says before adding, “I just wanted to become a facilitator and let people become the curator of their own expression in total freedom.”

 

The result is an outpouring of extremely heartfelt letters, discussing deeply personal topics, such as depression, sexual abuse, identity crisis, gender fluidity, family relationships and toxic masculinity. “Through anonymity, people can be transparent while feeling protected. In that way, they are able to seek refuge”, she says.

 

Alagroobi has been able to synthetize the letters into four main styles:  declaration, reconciliation, concession and apology, with most of them being addressed to one person specifically. She has also received many thank you letters, expressing deep sorrow and grief. So while writing letters is obviously therapeutic, reading and engaging with them through Instagram feels just as good and comforting. Alagroobi knows some people read and comment on the posts without following the account. But although many are still scared to explicitly validate the initiative, “It’s clear people need to feel like they’re not alone in their experiences”, she says.

 

 

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LETTER NO 1. {my Arab mom} —— #thelettersproject #letter #anonymity #anonymouswriter #arabletters #artproject #art #writing

Une publication partagée par {THE LETTERS PROJECT} (@letters.project) le

 

“This is not defamation. I don’t want to shame or name anyone, but help him or her release themselves from any trauma”, she explains. And what’s even more important to Alagroobi is to shed a light on the universality of these experiences. They have resonated with diverse people, from different races and backgrounds, revealing the existence of a universal voice. “The intersectionality of these feelings and experiences is literally a recognition of humanity”, she affirms.

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