Citizen Historian of the Month: Marwa Najah
We are all collecting important memories–stories that are all around us, but which need to be collected, preserved and shared for the world to benefit from their wisdom. Regardless of our backgrounds, by caring and recording these stories we all become citizen historians. Every month we recognize an amazing citizen historians who is being amazing saving stories and filling the gaps in history.
This month, it’s the turn of Marwa Najah. Marwa is at university in London and has been inspired by storytelling since she listened to her grandparents talk about their lives. Growing up in an areas of London where 12 different languages were spoken on the same street, she has been collecting stories about immigrant experience in London. Let’s meet Marwa:
When did you first get interested in history?
My first encounter with history was through storytelling. When I was a child, I would curl up with my grandparents, usually on a rainy day, and listen to stories about their younger years. I was intrigued by how they lived, what they wore and everything in between! I enjoyed finding out about the mundane details that really shaped their lives and connecting with family members who lived before me. From then on, I liked the idea of digging deeper and learning about the untold stories that make up our communities.
Unfortunately, the content of the history lessons at my school was very limited and tended to focus on perfecting essay structure over exploring the past. But, I do have fond memories of history at a primary school level, I remember enjoying learning about Henry VIII’s many wives and their gruesome deaths.
You’ve been a real champion of some voices that aren’t heard. What do you like about being a citizen historian with Tell History?
I love Tell History’s emphasis on personal experience. By providing people with the opportunity to be recorded and have their story shared all over the world, history becomes something other than just facts, dates and events. Instead, every video provides us with a very human story that is much easier to connect to and far more informative.
Are there people, groups, or historical events that you think don’t get enough attention?
Women! Women have often been overlooked, ignored or made invisible by the dominant narrative of the time. They were – and still are at times – endlessly spoken for, and spoken about. I would love to record more stories related to women and their own experiences to counterbalance the misrepresentation in the past.
What histories have you been focussed on collecting so far?
I’ve been recording stories about the immigrant experience in London. Being a second generation immigrant, I grew up with parents who moved to London from Morocco and moved to a very diverse area in London where up to 12 languages were spoken in a single street. I wanted to explore their stories further, capture their journey and document their personal struggles.
Any advice for someone who wants to get started collecting stories?
I would say just do it! All you need is a phone that records videos and a willingness to chat with your friends or neighbors. At first I was very nervous about talking to strangers about what I thought might be too personal, but people are really willing to open up and share their personal history with you. It’s very satisfying, I promise.
Thank you so much Marwa!