Friday, 17 April 2009 05:55
By Floree Williams
Catching up with this young woman is a task, but she wears so many hats that finding spare time to talk to her is always a treat. Meet Zahra Airall: teacher, playwright, actress, director, photographer
and poet. This young woman is truly extraordinary; her dedication to youth development, commendable, and her limitless talents a true asset to Antigua.
As she strolls up and down the corridors of the Antigua Girls’ High School, there is usually a trail of girls behind her, calling her name, asking for one thing or another. Airall is one of those teachers who go the extra mile. She started teaching at 18, and says it was only natural, coming from a family of teachers.
While teaching a post primary class at Villa Primary, Airall decided to pursue a degree in psychology so she could help the students who came to her with overwhelming problems. Along the way in university, she picked up literature, which she thoroughly loves. After graduation, she was placed at the AGHS, where she passes her passion for literature on to her students. She said it’s quite a reward to engage students to the point where they want to go off and do their own research and read more.
Her parents met through the Harambee Open Air Theatre; how can theatre not be in her blood? Airall gets her acting skills from her mother, and her playwriting skills from her father, whose typewriter she would use for her own plays from an early age. She was part of Child’s Play (a theatre group led by Mrs Blackwood-Meeks), and now directs her own group, Z’s Youth Theatre, comprising 20 young members. Their first production, “You Need To Be Told,” an Antiguan version of the Christmas story, was performed in December 2007 on the very same stage where her parents met.
Airall also just finished directing another successful staging of the Vagina Monologues. She also plays the character Rene in Paradise View (HAMA’s new mini-series).
One night she mustered up the courage to share one of her countless poems with the public at a Funky Buddha event. On that stage, after shaking the nerves, she found a new rush and passion for presenting her works. Now well seasoned, she performs her pieces on request and is working on an anthology with another poet, Linisa George, which they hope to publish this year.
“I come from a picture taking family,” Airall says with pride. Her mother used to take and develop photos as a hobby, so the camera was always around. With her own camera now always in hand, Airall began to play with light, different shadows and angles, and to her surprise, people thought she was really good.
So, for the past two years, she has added photography to her list of talents, and even does wedding photography as a side job. One of her favourite subjects is shooting people - their expressions, faces and emotions. She hopes to host a solo exhibition sometime in the near future.
Did I mention that she finds time to be a mother too? What a phenomenal young woman.
photo credits Zia Productions