Detoxaholic is spotlighting Shamira Muhammad, who is the writer and creator of the awesome online graphic novel series and travel magazine dually entitled The Ma’Ati. She shares how the concept of the graphic series was driven by her passion to create fun and adventurous tales of the cultural legacies established by people of the African Diaspora millennia ago. Additionally, the travel magazine was inspired by her global travels, and she saw the opportunity to create travel guides of international cities that provides an alternative way to explore and interact with the locals. She hopes that The Ma’Ati provides a glimpse into the African Diasporic heritage, spirituality, and nomadic perspective.
Shamira’s natural attraction to travel arose from her childhood. She was born in Los Angeles, and her parents raised her and her siblings in various parts of the country such as: San Pedro and Inglewood, California, Alabama, Silver Spring, Maryland, and Florida. She obtained her college degree at Howard University majoring in Political Science and Classics, and she also studied abroad in Cairo and Paris. Finally, she attended graduate school at New York University gaining a dual Masters degree in Africana Studies and Global Journalism. As a child she thought being a writer was a bit boring and wanted a more complex and adventurous career such as an astronaut or paleontologist. But reflecting back on her upbringing, what inspired her most was being introduced to various ethnicities and social settings. Her creative palette began to form itself around all aspects of art and media and a limitless curiosity in traveling and experiencing diverse cultures.
All of these elements have brought Shamira to this moment of creating The Ma’Ati legacy. Shamira always knew she wanted to marry her loves of narrative and travel. From her consistent research of mythology, ancient societies, and spiritual practices, her goal is to keep readers intrigued with a full sensory experience of history, adventure, culture, and pride. She shares how the formation of the graphic series came first, and the ancient Egyptian Goddess Maat inspires the title.
In ancient Egypt Maat means duality, and is synonymous with truth, justice, and balance. Symbolized by ostrich feathers, the goddess would judge the deceased in the final phase of their trial to cross into the Afterlife. The deceased heart would be weighed against Maat, and if they were found to balance with the weight of the feather, then the person had led a good and decent life and could enter the Afterlife. If the heart did not balance, it was rejected and Maat would transform into The Devourer and consume it into damnation.
Shamira aims to create an adventure that explores the world through story. She believes that The Ma’Ati serves as a creative tool to display and celebrate the full spectrum of the many diverse societies of the world through an African perspective. She hopes The Ma’ati will spark a sense of adventure in readers who aren’t as fortunate to travel as much as they’d like, and inspires them to take the initiative to explore other cultures once they have the means to do so. The creative spin to the complimenting travel magazine is that it is told by the characters of The Ma’Ati graphic narrative, but of their worldly travels in the present. She hopes the project successfully parallel her circular expression of honoring the past, living the present to the fullest, and inspiring future generations.
Shamira shares how searching for visual artists for her series was a spiritual process. Presently, her illustrators are Taj Francis, and Paul Davey, who specifically focused on creating the character art for the graphic series. Shamira is so appreciative of how these artists are so respectful of her narrative and have only positively expanded the mysticism of the magical world of The Ma’Ati. She is the sole writer of the graphic series, but she has had writers of diverse ethnic and artistic backgrounds for the travel magazine.
She discusses how she has pulled from various artists, family, loved ones, and mentors as a consistent source of inspiration and support for her craft. Her ancestors and family are the direct inspiration of the actual characters of The Ma’Ati. She explains how she uses their actual names and personality traits as a way of honoring their presence in her life and immortalizing their legacy.
Shamira is in awe of the success of her campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds to continue The Ma’Ati project. She is deeply honored by how people near and far believe in her talents and platform. And, she has confidence that the blessings of her ancestors and guardian angels will all keep her moving forward on her progressing journey.
In retrospect, Shamira hopes that people can relate and feel inspired by The Ma’Ati narrative. Especially for people whose ancestors were enslaved, she hopes that one can acknowledge themselves through The Ma’Ati perspective of embracing the richness of our culture and spirituality. A person who is Ma’Ati has a soul that is free and not limited by passports and money. Shamira believes there is a part of all people that are yearning to be free and we can share through story and travel. We all have different needs and desires and shouldn’t let age or material possessions stunt your spiritual and social growth.