Photo by Princess Amugo
It’s March 5th, 2020. There are sixty-seven recorded cases of coronavirus in the United States. George Floyd is alive. Breonna Taylor is alive. The only thing on my mind is getting to this interview on time and it’s starting to get dark on campus. I start to walk a little faster.
We’re supposed to meet in the sculpture garden, but they ask me to meet at the RISE– a “wellness center dedicated to the UCLA community to promote self-care, connection and thriving.” You can read about them here.
I don’t know where I am going– which is unusual. I thought I was familiar with the ins and outs of this campus. Usually congested with busy students, staff, visitors, and
over-confident squirrels, I’m realizing that I let myself get distracted by the energy on campus. I didn’t take time to visit this space when I had the opportunity. Now, with the very likely possibility of an online graduation in sight, I deeply regret not frequenting this space when I could have.
When I enter the RISE, I’m pleasantly surprised. The center is somewhat comforting– I begin to forget I’m even at UCLA. Samar points to some tea and a kettle, tells me to grab a cup. Good. Something to calm my racing heart. I’m thinking: what was the rush?
In the studio, Mango and Samar offer me food to munch on. They are Mirrored Fatality, but they look like different versions of themselves than the other night at their show. There is no stage light intensifying their aura, no booming mic. They’re chill humans. Rad. Take a breath.
When our bellies are full, we migrate from couches to the studio floor. This new location reorients the mood. I can feel the earth beneath me respond to my touch.
Martha Bedier-Cabot: Hi. Do you want to start with a statement ?
Samar: My name is Samar I use they/them pronouns. It actually has a few meanings: it means myth, it means heart of a flower, it means battlefield commander. I feel like that is a pretty good way to start my description. I’m existing in between all of these spaces, in a way that most people don’t view as possible.
My family immigrated here in waves after the Partition in 1947. I’m an L.A. native. I identify as a queer/ nonbinary, Muslim, and Pakistani and Bangladeshi. I’m interested in a lot of things. Where do I start? I think the biggest thing is wanting to always be fighting for the fact that my loved ones deserve to live the life that they dream of– my community deserves to live the lives that they dream of.
There is a world, one day, that doesn’t exist in this current system– one that allows so many of us on so many different levels, who have such a hard time surviving… just getting up in the morning. Right now a lot of my work focuses on fighting against India’s genocidal occupation in Kashmir. I’m really involved in abolition work on different levels, and am involved in the larger L..A. prison abolition community, and on a level that is specifically fighting against policies that are targeting and surveying black and brown muslim youth.
I’m interested in art. How it can be a form of healing– how art is a bridge between this multiverse and so many others. How it’s a way of imagination and catharsis, how it’s a way of archiving, a way of creating evidence of lives in the shadow realms– ones that are usually not documented, not usually remembered.
Mango Gwen: Hi. My name is Mango Gwen. I use they/them/theirs, sila/siya/iya pronouns. I’m a nobinary Kapampangan-Pipilpinx. Kapampangan-Pipilpinx is something that I’m naming for myself. My family and a lot of my culture is based in Kapampangan culture. Pipilpinx is a term that a lot of trans/non-binary folks from Filipino culture are adopting to put ourselves in the diaspora as a category so that we can all see ourselves and create something that is decolonial. I feel like a lot of my art, a lot of my healing, and a lot of the grassroots organizing that I do is centered on the love that I learned to cultivate as a Kapampangan-Pipilpinx living in Tongva land. Uhh… What was the question again?
I got lost. My ancestors were like “Yes bitch!!! Write us in. Spell that shit out!”
Samar (S): “They’re like ‘say it!’”
Mango Gwen (MG): One thing I do want to name about myself: all the love that I put out into the world is a means for us to connect to each other, a means for us to connect back to the land, a means for us to love and connect with each other in a land that is ours. Not in boxes, not in these institutions that are stripping us apart. Everything that I do, and breathe, and love, and create is centered on that. No matter what.
Whether they have realized it or not, Samar and Mango have fallen into a natural rhythmic pattern. They echo each other’s words with soft “mmmms” and casually drumming. These two have a symbiotic life-bond.
Martha Bedier-Cabot (MBC): If you have a statement as a duo, you can share that.
S: Mirrored Fatality was born out of this desire to release rage. As queer and trans poeple of color, we don’t have a lot of spaces where we can tap into our own anger. Anger at everything that we go through, that our community goes through, that the world around us and the earth are going through, and tapping into that rage and harnessing it in a way that is a creative force, that is politicized. Audre Lorde talks about how anger can be used as a creative force and political response.
Mirrored Fatality is also really influenced by a lot of the origins of punk, which is queer. QTPOC created punk as a response to what society was throwing at them. It’s really about tapping into our individual, collective, and ancestral healing and really finding a way to bridge that with releasing anger.
MG: Yes, Mirrored Fatality is an experimental-healing, punk band. Yes, Mirrored Fatality is Samar and Mango. But Mirrored Fatality is also a space. Mirrored Fatality is an energetic portal. Mirrored Fatality is a cocoon web. Mirrored Fatality is about harnessing intergenerational trauma one-on-one, together as a place to heal.. We can’t afford therapy, we can’t afford mental health services. We can’t afford EMDR. We can’t fucking afford vacation– we have a whole community and family to support. Mirrored Fatality is a place where we can unapologetically access our healing and our care, not only individuality and as a duo but within our community. Everyone who is invited to Mirrored Fatality, all the spaces where we do Mirrored Fatality in, it is the healing and the liberation that we want the whole world to feel and experience.
MBC: You do so powerfully.
To speak candidly, it was an extraordinary experience.
So, thank you. People speak very highly of you. Everyone I met was saying… “do you know Samar and Mango?” I sure do hahah. It was cute! You have a lot of fans. I don’t know– It was really sweet. You are doing amazing work and it looks like you have fun doing it.
S: It’s fun, but it’s also a whole ceremony too. It’s a process of putting so much of ourselves, our magic, our spirit, and such personal traumas out into the world and into the space. We are holding a portal and container for our community to be in that process of their own release, their own healing, and their own catharsis. This work is beautiful and incredible and powerful and special. You know ? We’re not just a band who have fans. We are creating a ceremony with loved ones and community that allow us to heal with them, heal ourselves, heal our histories, to intervene and create spaces for other folks to fucking yell too.
MG: A lot of our work is rooted by the teachings of other queer people of color. For example, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, who writes “Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice” talks a lot about care webs and creating communities of care. Through their work, we’ve been inspired to create something called cocoon webs, which is what we create in Mirrored Fatality performances… whether we are inside a classroom, at a UC-conference, whether we are at an Indigneous Youth Council protest, or if we are literally just vibing at a fucking dumpster in the middle of the night at 2am with our queer friends post-rave, you know? What you said… we’re not just a band. We are building a really tight-knit network that not only heals together, but creates, mobilizes, and fights together. Mirrored Fatality is a seed that is continuously growing. We would not be Mirrored Fatality without the love we cultivate with one another and with every person in our lives.
MBC: Well, shit. Well said.
MG: It’s also revolutionary, you know? Because we are queer. We are people of color. It’s the hardest thing to love yourself and can be even harder to love someone outside of yourself. Its an unapologetic fuck you to everything in this world that is trying to push us apart. When we are Mirrored Fatality, there is nothing but love and abundance and unapologetic joy that we try to always tap into. It comes from creating the best space– one that is safe and full of intention.
And bravery. Because it’s really hard to go up there and reveal your truth.
MG: We are very mindful too because we are aware that we have physically abled bodies. We are light-skinned Asians. We have access to resources through UCLA that allow us to travel and do this work and keep us safe. With that, there is an active redistribution of what we are creating. If we make any money off of Mirrored Fatality, it goes directly back into the community. We do this work not to sustain ourselves, we do this work to sustain the liberation of our community.
MG: Which makes me so happy to do this work with you. We have the same visions and different visions that–
[in unison] Samar & Mango: collide!
Their interconnectedness makes me laugh.
MBC: How did you decide to create together ?
S: It was a process that took a lot of trust-building. We were in the same community for a while but never really got close until you came over at five am and showed me your New World tarot deck by Cristy C. Road. After that, it was this moment of, I see you and you see me. That is where the “mirrored” part of Mirrored Fatality came from. When you meet someone who, in a way, is a mirror of you. Mirrors aren’t supposed to be an identical reflection. To look somewhere and see a piece of yourself in someone or something– I felt that in you. You told me about that queer futurity class. Mango was like “you gotta take this class!”
MG: It’s Queer Futurity and Temporal Drag: Feminist and Queer Theory Now by Mashinka Firunts taught by Mashinka Hakopian.
S: I’d been really wanting to revisit making punk music. I was also about to curate a show. Mango said, “let’s do something.” So we took two weeks to piece together the first Mirrored Fatality project. We spent a lot of really intentional time in the deep hours of the morning, opening so many pockets of vulnerability, care, and trust. In that time and onward, I just knew that we were gonna be aligned. Our souls are so aligned and our work is so aligned. Our minds, hearts, and bodies–
MG: are aligned! I was taking that Queer Futurity class and was like “fuck! This shit is so lit.” Seeing Samar in the community, seeing Samar at Word on Wednesdays, seeing them at their art show: “Manifesting Malleability,” I just wanted Samar to have the experience. A lot of that class was talking about queer futures. One day I was just pissed off and I came up to them after class and was like “Yo. You tryna start a punk band?” and Samar was like “Yeah. This person just asked me to throw a show at Chewing Foil on May 9th. Let’s perform.”
Punk is not glamorous. Punk is: you’re in the middle of midterms at UCLA– week 10– and you’re at Tree, and there’s frat parties playing 102.7, and you’re tryna make ancestral chants at 4 am. Their roommates are tryna go to bed because they have a midterm in the morning and there’s like ten Yerba Mates around. Environment-wise, it didn’t matter, ‘cause we had each other and our commitment to making something greater than ourselves.
S: So much of our community has informed our work. Through doing abolition work together, through Dignity and Power Now, through being in community, being in QTPOC spaces, being in Q Scholars– being in everything and building and seeing each other through the hardest fucking times of this life time. Being up at 5am crying your fucking eyes out with your contacts in for 3 days or going to the ocean in the dark and swimming naked in the water under the moonlight– all these moments define what Mirrored Fatality is. It wouldn’t exist without all of these…
MG: …special, sacred, intentional, bonding moments.
S: Good, bad, messy, beautiful, sacred…
MG: We almost died when we were stranded in the middle of Death Valley. We’ve slept in a tent in the middle of a fire pit on the 710 freeway.
S: We built an earth pit.
MG: We built an earth pit! We did drums and fed folks and did healing work in front of prisons all over Los Angeles county. It didn’t happen overnight and it has continued to grow.
MBC: How do you think your work has been shaped by being in this city… on this land ?
S: Being on Tongva land, growing up as someone who is already othered and who is also taking this space– calling this place my home at the expense of a community that has been displaced, and in LA county post 9/11 was a really informative part of a lot of my adolescence.
I think Mirrored Fatality is really influenced by this experience of growing up a visibly brown, Muslim person who comes from a family who were made refugees– carrying that intergenerational trauma that comes from a history that is so grounded in war, displacement, and genocide. I think part of Mirrored Fatality is really influenced by having immigrant parents who have seen and experienced so much violence that they haven’t healed from.
We are influenced by our presence on this land– land I am claiming but isn’t mine to claim. At the same time, land that I am constantly being othered on, not only a Muslim person but also a queer person as a queer-Muslim person.
All of that has influenced my presence in Mirrored Fatality as well as learning spiritual work, learning the practices of femmes in my family, learning practices of urban ritual, which I feel like is such a big part of growing up in L.A. It’s this concrete jungle but everywhere there are these pockets of magic.
But growing up in L.A means growing up in a literal police state. That’s something that has impacted my family, our families, our community’s families and being part of the healing justice movement, which is part of prison abolition work, has been a big part of Mirrored Fatality. That is where I learned about community altars. I’ve learned about how to create portals. We’ve been able to create portals outside some of the most painful and dehumanizing places and bring smiles to peoples’ faces– give them plant medicine and moments of peace. That is a big part of the work for me.
MG: Another big part of living in Tongva land, is that a lot of incredibly talented multi-expansive artists, healers, and organizers live here. We are able to learn, create with, be called in by, and transform a lot of political and community events because of our community. There are so many artists that live in Tongva land, it truly informs the intention that we do put in. Not only is everyone a fucking artist, but an incredible organizer fighting in so many different sectors: whether that’s indigneous sovereignity, prison aboliton, enviromental racism, anakbayan, national students justice for palestine, freedom for all animals!
We are all fighting in all these different ways. We are able to bring all these different amazing Earth-warriors together in a way that is meant to heal and play and have fun. That is definitely a big blessing in living in Tongva land.
But like Samar said, this is a police state. Our families have been so heavily impacted. I feel like Mirrored Fatality is one place we can really hold that rage, sadness, grief, and depression for them in a way that they might not be able to, which is like the main principle and wisdom we’ve learned through transformative and healing justice.
S: Even though LA as a landscape is so scattered, the QTPOC community finds ways of making sure we are there for each other. We are here to help each other learn and grow and shift and respond. If one of us loses a job, all of us are gonna show up. If one of us gets taken into police custody, we all show up. If one of us has access to a recording studio, they offer it. If one of us has access to some research grant, we offer it. Really building connectivity is something that is really special about L.A.
MG: We really do create the world that we want to see. We really do break down borders. We are able to travel from Thailand to Mexico. We are able to organize without those borders. Everyone has food because our community is down to share our food. Everyone has access to care and love. We don’t see borders, we don’t see institutions, we only see the freedom we want. One quote by Arundhati Roy is “liberation begins in our minds.” She feels like that world is coming. I feel like we are able to feel that world through our work.
S: That’s my favorite quote ever! “Another world… she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Our work is not all pretty. A lot of it is putting in the effort to bring our visions to reality, Surviving in a world that actively does not want us to exist. It is work every day. Really just putting in that work every day to imagine that future and building toward that world. We are doing it. We are not there yet, but we will be one day.
MG: No, it’s not always pretty. It looks like ten thousands of google docs. It looks like not sleeping sometimes. It looks like having ¼ of the food you prepare for yourself so everybody eats. It’s not this glamorous punkstar life where we get to travel and play our music and look bomb —
S: I mean we do that too!
MG: Hahahah. But it’s hella deeper than that. We want folks to know that this is done through so much invisible femme labor.
We are writing the first ever collaborative gender studies honors thesis to ever exist.
S: In a way, we are archiving and creating this remembrance of how we have managed to do this, but also paving a way for other folks to continue to do this. As I mentioned earlier, so much of this work is so erased a lot of the time. So much exists outside of what we read and consume. It’s really important that we write our histories and our truths and know the importance of doing so. There are gonna be younger queer-Muslim and Kapampangan folks, QTPOC folks who are thinking that there is no one else out there like them. I wanna show that this is what happens when you put your hearts and minds together and create something that is so based in the fact that you just fucking care about everything so much.
MG: so much! To leave and show that it isn’t just the two of us. It is channeling out of us, but we are so deeply connected to our Earth, to our land, and we are so supported and held by our community and people that support us– from professors, advisors, folks who give us guitars and bases, and rides, and gas their money, and housing and booking us and giving us clothes or making clothes or just sending a text. It takes a village. Mirrored Fatality would not be who it is without y’all, and y’all know who you are.
S: It’s like that star analogy. We are two stars, but because there are so many other stars in the fucking galaxy, we are able to make the whole entire sky glow.
Every single person, creature, spirit is creative. Everything has the power to tap into that creative energy. I think especially as QTPOC folk, having to live in a world that actively does not want you to survive means you having to constantly create your own existence. A big part of it is having to be creative every day, having to find these means of putting on armor, of tapping into magic.
MBC: At the performance I attended, you offered a space for what would describe as secular transfer of energy– an altar for ongoing connection to each other and our shared experiences in the past and beyond.
MG: I feel like MF creates a space where we are unapologetic about the fact that magic is everywhere and abundant and we really are able to tap into it and show everybody that it’s literally right here. We just have to puncture and disrupt and take it out. Spirituality is expansive and it’s for everybody and it’s also a collective feeling. For me, spirituality looks like taking the time and intentional mind-mapping to create a purposeful connection between the land and humans around me in the past, present, future. That looks like centering all the different parts of everything– finding ways to create corporeal movement. In reality, the community altar at our show is just a physical way to see that magic. There are objects and things, but its spirit, its love, its care, its using your imagination to see more than what is in front of us.
S: I grew up in a house that always had spiritual rituals. My mom burned Agharbati saying different chants or Islamic duas on Sundays. Those are moments of peace. Being a kid and playing with fairies in the grass– all of us do have the capacity to tap into the different ways that spirituality shows up. It has always been part of me. Spirituality is actively stripped away in this world, instead society tells us to focus on the physical: producing and consuming. They tell us that materialism is everything but it is not anything! If the only thing you have is wealth to surround you, you’ll still end the night feeling empty inside. In a world where it is really easy to lose hope, I’ve seen the way that spirituality is a way of keeping that hope. Part of mirrored fatality is tapping into grief and pain and transforming it.
MG: The spiritual process is really evident in how our families cultures have really been affected by colonizers. Through Mirrored Fatality there is a queering of the religions and spirituality that I personally have experienced in my blood family. In the way the Samar would do duas with their mother, I would sit in the room with my grandparents with the rosary and we would be chanting the hail mary. To be able to take that chant “Ave Maria” and ungender it– to try to bring it back to our practice before the Spanish colonizers came.
Through mirrored fatality, living in Tongva land, living in a diaspora, trying to tap into this spirituality, we are able to unapologetically create our own pathway, our own way of healing. It is really special. Sometimes there is a disassociation from the love and the practices that are familiar with growing up. To be able to reclaim them in a way that feels safe and honored is so special. I don’t think I would have been able to tap into that without this work.
S: I really agree with that. Islam is so outwardly painted in an ugly way in this society. On top of that, there is all this internal cultural shit that is very patriarchal and policing of anyone who is queer? Thinking about everything that is lost when things get wrapped up in the toxicity of culture, through the work and our own ceremony, this is our way of reclaiming that.
I remember the first time I did the lā ʾilāha ʾillā -llāh chant, and Mango did the Ave Maria chant, my sibling was in the front and I saw them crying because I think it was one of the first times they were able to see Islam be reclaimed through the practice, not just the political identiy of identifying as Muslim, but also the act of embodiment of reclaiming those spitural practices.
MG: It saved our lives. It got us out of the desert when we were stranded.
EP statement: “Mirrored fatality weaponizes COCOON WEBS as a sonic metamorphosis container to a world numbing us with toxic forces. COCOON WEBS is a ferocious affirmation of chaos to harness our ancestral power, primal spirit, collective fury, and interconnectedness to our multiverse. BLOOM, UTOPIA, INVALIDATION, and EARTHBODY(S) are restorative anthems to sustain us through the revolution.”
Bandcamp: Album will drop on December 12th, 2020 at 12pm. https://mirroredfatality.bandcamp.com
Video will release on December 12th, 2020 at 12pm.
The BLOOM music video features soundscapes and footage from immersing ourselves in nature as we ground in our souls as bodies existing outside of isolation, capitalism, gender dysphoria, and the prison state.
BLOOM was written together at the top of a mountain in Happy Valley in Tongva Land, so-called East Los Angeles at Sarita Doe @saritadoe and Champoy @champchampchampoy yurt dwelling ceremony. BLOOM unearths diasporic queer spirituality and harnesses our ancestral languages- Urdu and Kapampangan. BLOOM is a prayer to honor the bonds of our love that expands and brings regeneration into our multiverse.
BLOOM is a spell to inspire deeper connections to our Earth and welcome in freedom and joy for ourselves and kin.
directed by mirrored fatality
produced by mirrored fatality
filmed by princess amugo (@princessamugo), alea skye (@011080x), and mirrored fatality
edited by mirrored fatality
make-up and costumes by mirrored fatality
Outwrite NewsMagazine at UCLA is located on the ancestral lands of the Gabrielino/ Tongva peoples. We acknowledge their presence here and recognize them as the traditional caretakers of Tovaangar (L.A. basin, So. Channel Islands). As a land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Anscestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders), and ‘Eyoohiinkem (relatives/relations) past, present, and emerging.