“We’re literally Halloween together,” novelist and perfumer Tanwi Nandini Islam aka Tanaïs tells me as we sit in my living room, wrapped in conversation. She’s referring to our outfits: hers a pumpkin orange ribbed slip, mine a black and floral cheongsam salwar. Together, we are Halloween. Coyly, she adds, “this is The Craft, Bangla edition — bitch!”
I am in awe of Tanaïs, who coined her new moniker from the first two initials of her full name (Tanwi-Nandini-Islam) after she was selected in a roundup of “Muslim Woman Writers” last year. In the writer's words, the selection felt unthoughtful — lumping a bunch of folks together who shared a similar heritage, but potentially not much else.
The identification made no room for her complexity, her various (sometimes oppositional, she’s a Libra, ever-in-pursuit of balance) identities. Now, she goes by Tanaïs and sees it as a way of: “connecting to something that’s a more non-binary hegemonic space.” Tanaïs added, “we’re always being categorized, always being put into a box.”
But Tanaïs is uncategorizable — a multi-disciplinary artist through and through.
This year is the fifth year of Hi Wildflower, a company she built from the ground up — purely because she wanted to create something evocative. First, she started with candles, perfumes, then came the lipsticks. Smells like mala and sandalo evoke childhood, colors like matí and shona stain your lips with memories.
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