Written by Melina Mehr, Illustration by Rozalina Burkova

When Melina Mehr writes of her grandmaman, she allows us into intimate moments of retelling shared between them - some moments that feel familiar, like those with your own family, and some gloriously singular. Mamanie, as we come to know her, is the one to ground “Za’faran.” She is where the story begins and ends, and one cannot be untethered from the other.

The moments shared feel palpably near to us as readers, so easily conjured are the vivid scenes of history, emotion, and even scent. Melina spares no detail; this story is sprawling and lush with feeling. And here, deeply embedded in family history, you’ll find a pulse of something else entirely running quietly throughout: a seeking of faith and connection. “Through the limitless access to her past, Maman’s nearness to me is the closest I have come to understanding spirituality,” writes Melina. “Za’faran” reminds us that memory and the privilege we have in connecting with its caretakers — our elders — can be the conduit for bringing us closer to what we need. If our lineage can be mined for answers, for understanding, what else can it give us? What else should we be yearning for?

Featured story for June 2019

Maman’s survival is an act of revolution. But, she is fading a bit. And her memory is blurring. I see Mamanie every week or two, and each time I see her, she demands of me, مواضب باش — be careful, as she kisses me three times on alternating cheeks. I ask her, “Be careful of what?” and she says, همه چیز — everything.
— Melina Mehr

rozalina burkova

Rozalina Burkova is an illustrator, animator and visual artist, spending her time between Barcelona, London and Sofia. She has a design degree from Central Saint Martins in London and has been working as a professional illustrator for four years. Her portfolio includes music videos, animations, projects for advertising, publishing, product and packaging design, events and editorial. Recently Rozalina has been curious to explore the creative space that lies between illustration and fine art by balancing client work with personal work and collaborations with like-minded artists.


melina mehr

Melina Mehr is a multi-disciplinary creator currently based in Toronto, whose work focuses on cultural lineage and transgenerational memory. She holds a Masters in Museum Studies and strives to create inclusive, accessible, and decolonized art experiences. In 2018, she began a DIY project called invisibilities zine to share the stories and visualizations of marginalized communities. In both her professional and personal pursuits, Melina works towards creating environments which are a little more open and kind.