Today we chat with Zafirah, who in her short time with Konti has produced a slew of awesome stories on sex trafficking, racism against Asians during COVID-19, and the Hajj pilgrimage. She is also the co-editor of AKAR, a print publication focusing on the everyday stories of Southeast Asia.
Hi Zafirah! What do you do at Kontinentalist?
My job scope right now is straightforward — I’m a writer, so most of the times I’m brainstorming ideas and stories that have yet to be told in Asia and thinking of ways that I can best write and visualise these stories.
How has it been for you starting your job entirely on a WFH basis?
It’s been very weird (laughs) and mildly sad. Before I joined Konti, I really liked working from outside, because I can’t sit still in the office. Being stuck at home due to lockdown and not being able to meet any colleagues was quite depressing for the first 1–3 months. And it was weird, because I’m very bad at video calls and phone calls, so it was awkward meeting everyone over Slack. I don’t know what everyone thinks of me, but it’s better now because I got used to it. And everyone at Konti is very nice and made me feel very comfortable, so it’s better now but it was depressing for 1–3 months. And I still haven’t met everyone properly.
Yes, that’s true, you’ve only met us for brief periods. I’m curious, how has it been transitioning from being an environment journalist to a data storyteller?
The transition is mostly dealing with data visualisation. In my previous role, I got a lot of my content from interviewing people and attending events and doing research, which I do now, but it was less of a deep dive into data. I didn’t touch any visualisation before this job. So it was challenging at first, and I’m bad at numbers and technology actually, so doing datavis and coding… I had a lot of anxiety! But yeah, I’ve learnt a lot. Pei Ying passed me resources and everyone has been helpful, but the transition was tough. I’ve always been more into documentary and photography, so when I think of presenting a story visually, I am used to thinking about images and videos, so it took a while to get used to visualising data. But I found that the latter can be really impactful and appealing as well.