Nasra Abdullahi

I offer this text as an activity of sharing.

                  I offer this text as a wilful motion of spiralling through incompleteness against mastery. i

I insist upon my right to be multiple

I insist upon my right to be multiple

Even more so, I insist upon

The recognition of my multiplicity


I can also, also, also, also, and, and, and, and1


Lately, I’ve been obsessed with placement, perhaps because I am negotiating with the boundaries of the self and what it all means to live in shit. Nudging at any root I can find, I have an embarrassing need for trying to make sense, to comprehend, to go back to a back to a back to a back. I am tired, afraid, and reckoning with external incoherence and the incoherences I find within myself. A year ago, I picked up Byung-Chul Han’s Psychopolitics, and suddenly, my ‘libidinal slowdown’2 made sense. Perhaps what I’m feeling is the excess condition of large-scale neoliberal paralysis, as ‘the neoliberal subject is running aground on the imperative of self-optimisation – that is, on the compulsion always to achieve more and more’.3

              When nothing is ever enough, the stillness that follows a reluctant stagnation can be painful.

              I know of this silent stuttering.

              So I zoom out. I start with the cosmos; I contemplate the stories of pastpresentfuture cosmologies and Black and Indigenous ‘constellations of co-resistance’4. I obsess over the multitudes, the singularities, the wonders of scale, and the possibilities of mythmaking as a tool of survival. For a brief moment, I play with this abstraction as a conceptual exercise, holding the macros and micros together.

              Yet I still tremble at the work of mundane daily life.

The Erotic

Audre Lorde’s ‘The Uses of the Erotic’ is a text I try to reconcile this rootlessness with. The Erotic is a space of sacredness, of ritual, and of being, ‘for the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing’5. As a choreography that is often one of surrender and improvisation, the matrix of the Erotic exists in all. I think of Simone Weil’s ‘absolutely unmixed attention is prayer’6 or, as the poet Donika Kelly vividly puts it in her poem ‘Sanctuary’, ‘the difficulty of the nonbeliever, of waking, every morning, without a god’.7

             Perhaps in wanting for an elsewhere, I am constantly praying.

Nomadic Fragments

I come from a lineage of pastoralist nomads. The transport technology of the aqal (the nomadic home) is a system of quadrangular spaces, a living architecture holding memories, meanings and rhythms. Traditionally, nomadic Somali women use their bodies as measuring tools, exacting from its symmetries and asymmetries to endow meaning to architectural space and its boundaries. The transient nature of nomadic living requires an active (re)making of space through a continuous creative process. ii

              There is a sweet spot formed in this moving geometry of being in between physical transience and permanence.

The City

The undercurrents of pastpresentfuture nomadic existence are alive in my community. I see it in the ways women move through the violent city and the ways we are spatially placed and displaced in lineworks of legality.

              I think of American poet and artist Renee Gladman’s narrative prose and poetic constructions. Gladman’s narrative practice activates architecture not as the built form but as complex characterisations present in speech, gestures and the impermanent elusiveness of living.

              So I come back to the aqal – the moving circle.

              In places like Europe, my community does not wield physical parameters engaging in rigorous cartographical exactitudes. Instead, the infrastructures of relations exist in the residual, the nebulous, the tangible, a membrane ready to be formed, deformed, unformed. For those who have (had) lives outside of this condition and reckoned with the loneliness of exile, there is comfort in the practicality of legal documentation, a placement in displacement.

              Yet you are never really European. Do you want to be?

              I come back again to the Erotic as a site, the moving circle as spatial poiesis, as suture and as a point of refuge. I consider the Erotic as intimate rituals performed as the sourcing of the best dabqaad, the burning of uunsi, the smell of uunsi, the smell of the luubaan (frankincense), the sourcing of organic henna, the intimate application of henna, the smell of henna, the sourcing of qasil from the gob trees of the homeland, the mixing of qasil, and the smell of qasil.

              I think of the familiar garbs, the hijabs, the Somali jilbaab styles serving as navigation marks offering recognition to one another, and the signage of Somali malls in London, Cape Town, Minnesota or Nairobi. I think of Somalinimo as a survival network, digital survival economies like hagbads all as ‘spaces constructed for very particular audiences, forcibly displaced and attempting to reconstruct a sense of home’.8

Conversations with Aude

We talk about the work of living. The knots, the hesitations and frustrations of pulling from inattention and lethargicness. We share readings – meeting at the sacred place of Black feminist self-definition and Édouard Glissant’s consent à n’être plus un seul9 (consent to not be a single being), echoed in Fred Moten’s Black and Blur.

the right to incalculability, the right to negate value, the right to escape categorisations.

the right to incalculability, the right to negate value, the right to escape categorisations.

the right to incalculability, the right to negate value, the right to escape categorisations.

I ask you to fix my fog, I ask for clarity, for respite.

I ask you to fill in the distance between us.

The weight of colonial epistemes and repetitive discursive rationalities is not easy. Lamenting on the dangers of isolation, we discuss the loneliness of not being able to touch the veil, to grasp the essence, existing in the margins and the-perils-of-self-annihilation-and-self-denial sort of thing. Yet we continue to attempt against ontologies of empire and the tyrannies of the clock, seeking inter/multiscalarities in everything. Perhaps we hurry towards a deconstruction because the effort suggests collapse. Failure. Zero.

              In between some elusive rhythm of clarity, obscurity and approximated choreographies of the sure …

are we all doing the same project?

I wonder if the audacity itself is the work.

Themes: Premonitions of Bodies, Presencing the Erotic

Methods: Fragments, Archive, Documenting the Mundane


[1] Moses Sumney, ‘Also Also Also and and And’. Track 10 on græ: Part 1. Jagjaguwar Records, 2020, CD.

[2] Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009), 12.

[3] Byung-Chul Han, Psychopolitics (London; New York: Verso, 2017), 28.

[4] Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, ‘Indigenous Resurgence and Co-resistance’, Critical Ethnic Studies 2, no. 2 (2016), 19–34.

[5] Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (London: Penguin Books, 2019), 44.

[6] Simone Weil, An Anthology, ed. Siân Miles (London: Penguin Books, 2005), 232.

[7] Donika Kelly, The Renunciations: Poems (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2021), 40.

[8] Huda Tayob, ‘Architecture-by-Migrants: The Porous Infrastructures of Bellville’, Anthropology Southern Africa 42, no. 1 (2019), 46–58.

[9] Fred Moten, Black and Blur (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017), 16.

[i] For another piece that thinks and writes against mastery, see: A GEOPOETICS OF DUST by Aya Nassar 

[ii] To read more about nomadic life and memory see: A SOLUTION IS FOUND IN SALT AND SPICE by Fozia Ismail

Nasra Abdullahi is a designer, writer and editor based in London. She is currently a junior writer at Wallpaper* magazine, the 2021 guest editor of The Avery Review and a member of the second cohort of New Architecture Writers. A student at the Bartlett School of Architecture, she is interested in ways we can seek equitable futures through material cultures away from projected architectural and urban desires. Seeking a multiplicity in spatial practice, she is interested in what modern architectural technology can look like when innovated and reappropriated through and in relation to various knowledge systems. Currently, her work is centred around exploring the possibilities of using analytical tools from black and indigenous radical traditions to inform us about design and technological practice.

︎ @nasjournal
︎ @archiflop