About Shadow Heroes

Shadow Heroes is an education initiative that supports young people in embracing all sides of their linguistic and cultural heritages. We do this through creative translation workshops that explore issues of representation, self-expression, colonial history and the power of language.

Working with a network of accomplished translators, writers and other artists, we have developed workshops covering sixteen languages, all carefully designed with the students’ needs in mind: Arabic, Bissau Guinean Creole, French, German, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu.

Led by our collective of talented translators and writers, our workshops engage students in critical thought through hands-on activities and thought-provoking discussions. Our workshops boost the students’ interest in languages without requiring prior knowledge of any language, broadening instead the students’ view on what it means to be multilingual and making the most of any existing linguistic skills in the classroom. They foster curiosity and intercultural understanding, employing a range of media (music, film, graphic novels, and more) from around the world.

Our approach

Our innovative approach centers translation as a site of plurality and a prism through which to examine the world. We teach translation in ways that:

  • Help young people to think critically about what they read, watch or listen to.
  • Teach young people a set of specific techniques to understand the impact of their writing. 
  • Spark curiosity with a wide variety of creative and inspiring content.
  • Encourage questioning, revising and working together to solve complex problems. 
  • Boost confidence in students’ own stories, experiences, skills, and their respect for the stories, experiences and skills of others.
  • Bring creativity closer to them through concrete exercises while also leaving space for exploration and improvisation

For more information see our workshops or contact us to discuss options and approaches for your school.

Our team

Gitanjali Patel Co-founder and Director

Gitanjali Patel is a translator and social researcher. She translates in a range of media, from film to fiction, including stories by Luisa Geisler, Miriam Mambrini, Fernanda Torres, and Evando Nascimento. She has a master’s degree in social anthropology from SOAS, University of London, and also uses translation within social research projects, including studies on the emergence of favela community museums, which won the Jon M. Tolman Award at the BRASA XIV Congress. She co-founded Shadow Heroes in 2016.

Nariman Youssef Workshop Curator
Nariman is a Cairo-born, London-based semi-freelance translator who works between Arabic and English and part-time manages a translation team at the British Library. Her literary translations include Inaam Kachachi’s The American Granddaughter, Donia Kamal’s Cigarette No. 7, and contributions in Words Without Borders, The Common, Banipal magazine, and the poetry anthologies Beirut39 and The Hundred Years’ War.

Our collaborators

Ayça Türkoğlu is a literary translator from German and Turkish into English. She studied European and Middle Eastern Languages at the University of Oxford before completing her MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia. Her writing and translations have been published in Words Without Borders, In Other Words and renk magazine. She is passionate about minoritised languages, class and German-Turkish culture and is working on a co-translation of Selim Özdoğan’s The Blacksmith’s Daughter, forthcoming from V&Q Books (2021). She is currently learning Welsh and Ancient Greek.

Filiz Emre is a Turkish translator based in London. She was born in Turkey and has lived in Switzerland, France and the UK working as an English teacher and freelance language professional. She has translated numerous children’s books from English to Turkish and works closely with Turkish-speaking communities in London as a public sector interpreter. She volunteers for various community projects working through arts, storytelling and food to tackle inequality and negative narratives around migrant communities.

Harriet Phillips is a Scottish translator based in Edinburgh. She studied German and Russian at the University of Cambridge, during which time she spoke about Russian feminist activism at Pushkin House and was the winner of the 2020 University of Warsaw Prize for Literary Translation. She is currently working as a historical researcher for award-winning author Jack Fairweather, as well as co-translating an encyclopaedia of Russian avant-garde art with Fontanka Books. An avid linguist, she has studied French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Modern Greek, Polish and Ukrainian to date.

Katharine Halls is an award-winning Arabic-to-English translator from Cardiff, Wales. Her translation, with Adam Talib, of Raja Alem’s novel The Dove’s Necklace (Duckworth / Overlook, 2016) received the 2017 Sheikh Hamad Award and was shortlisted for the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize. Her translations for the stage have been performed at the Royal Court theatre and the Edinburgh Festival. She loves translating colloquial Arabic and to date has worked with Egyptian, Sudanese, Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Iraqi, Saudi and Algerian dialects. She was awarded a 2021 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for her translation of Haytham El-Wardany’s short story collection Things That Can’t Be Fixed.

Kavita Bhanot is ECR Leverhulme Fellow at Leicester University. She is editor of The Book of Birmingham (Comma Press), Too Asian, Not Asian Enough (Tindal Street Press) and the Bare Lit Anthology (Brain Mill Press) and is currently co-editing an anthology on decolonising translation with Jeremy Tiang (Tilted Axis). She wrote the landmark essay ‘Decolonise not Diversify’ (2015), founded the LitMustFall Collective and co-organised the Literature Must Fall Festival (2019). She is reader and mentor with The Literary Consultancy and on the board for Comma Press. Her novel won third prize in the 2018 SI Leeds Literary Prize. She was awarded an Emerging Translator Mentorship 2018 (National Centre of Writing.)

Khairani Barokka is an Indonesian writer, poet and artist in London whose work has been presented extensively, in 15 countries. She was Modern Poetry in Translation‘s Inaugural Poet-in-Residence, and is Researcher-in-Residence and Research Fellow at UAL’s Decolonising Arts Institute. Her books are Rope (Nine Arches) and Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis; Vietnamese translation by Red (Yen Hai), AJAR Press), and she is co-editor of Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches). You can find out more about Khairani’s work here.

Mohini Gupta is a DPhil student at the University of Oxford where her research explores the politics of language in South Asia, with a focus on sociolinguistic hierarchies between English and Indian languages. She founded the multilingual digital collective Mother Tongue Twisters to promote Indian language poetry for young readers. Mohini is a SOAS alumna and previously a Charles Wallace India Trust Translator-Writer Fellow, a Research Fellow at the Sarai programme at CSDS, and a translator-in-residence at the Sangam House in Bangalore. She has written extensively on languages, literature and translation and her translations have been published by Tulika Publishers. She is also a trained Indian Classical vocalist and a Western Classical pianist.

Naima Rashid is an author, poet, and literary translator. She has translated works by Perveen Shakir (Defiance of the Rose, Oxford University Press, 2019), and is translating Naulakhi Kothi by Ali Akbar Natiq (forthcoming, Penguin India, 2022), both from Urdu into English. Her forthcoming works include her own fiction, poetry, and other works of literary translation. Her work has appeared in Asymptote, The Scores, Poetry at Sangam, Newsline magazine, and The Aleph Review, among others. She was recently long-listed for the 2019 National Poetry Competition.

Nariman Youssef is a Cairo-born, London-based, semi-freelance translator. Working between Arabic and English, she part-time manages a translation team at the British Library. Her literary translations include Inaam Kachachi’s The American Granddaughter, Donia Kamal’s Cigarette No. 7, and she has contributions published in Words Without Borders, The Common, Banipal Magazine, and the poetry anthologies Beirut39 and The Hundred Years’ War.

Reem Abou-El-Fadl is Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics of the Middle East at SOAS, University of London, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is a heritage speaker of Arabic and learned Turkish during her studies at the University of Oxford. She is currently translating an Arabic language memoir on Egyptian and African liberation movements, and uses Arabic and Turkish to English translations extensively in her research. Her work explores the politics of protest, decolonisation, and transnational solidarity in Middle East and Afro-Asian spaces.

Sawad Hussain is an Arabic translator and litterateur with an MA in Modern Arabic Literature from SOAS. A regular contributor to journals such as ArabLit and Asymptote, she has assessed Arabic works for English PEN Translation grants and was co-editor of the Arabic-English portion of the award-winning Oxford Arabic Dictionary (2014). She has lectured at IAIS and the University of Exeter, and taught KS3 & KS4 Arabic in Johannesburg and Dubai. Her recent translations include a Palestinian resistance classic by Sahar Khalifeh.

Yovanka Paquete Perdigão is a Bissau-Guinean writer. Born in Lisbon, Yovanka grew up in Guinea-Bissau until the age of six when a civil war forced her to relocate to Lisbon. She has since lived in Abidjan, Dakar, and London. Yovanka’s writing has been deeply inspired by her early experiences of conflict and she has since worked to champion Lusophone African stories as an editor, translator, and formerly as a podcaster on the Not Another Book Podcast. Yovanka’s writing has been featured in several platforms such as the Johannesburg Review of Books, AFREADA, etc and shortlisted for Penguin 2016 WriteNow,  The Spread the Word’s City of Stories competition and the Miles Morland 2018/19 scholarship.

Yuka Harada-Parr is a freelance Japanese-English translator and interpreter, illustrator and cartoonist. Born in Kyoto, Japan, she has been living in the UK for over 20 years. She teaches Japanese language and culture at English primary and higher educational colleges and works as an oral examiner for Japanese GCSE. Her unique teaching style mixes art, craft, visual and auditory methods. Her current projects include translating a Japanese novel about the Great Tohoku earthquake into an English theatre script, and working on the Japanese-English Oxford dictionary.

Our board of advisors

Daniel Hahn, award-winning translator, writer and editor, with some seventy books to his name.

Khairani Barokka is an Indonesian writer, poet and artist in London whose work has been presented extensively, in 15 countries.

Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún is a linguist, writer, and scholar. He is the first African awardee of the Premio Ostana, a prize given by Chambra D’Oc in Italy, for work and advocacy in the mother tongue.

Mandana Seyfeddinipur, psycholinguist and director of the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme and Head of the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS University of London.

Nina Kelly is a communications strategist. She is Editor at race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust. A former journalist, Nina has provided communications leadership for human rights organisations over many years. She is fluent in Italian and Teeline Shorthand.

Preti Taneja is a writer, editor and activist. Her novel We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press, 2017) won and was nominated for awards worldwide. She teaches writing in prisons, and lectures in Creative Writing at Newcastle University.

Sophie Lewis co-founded Shadow Heroes. She is an award-winning translator from French and Portuguese and an editor, most recently at And Other Stories and the Folio Society.

Yansé Cooper is a school leader with over 10 ten years of experience in teaching Modern Foreign Languages in state secondary schools across London. She graduated from Durham university with a first in Modern Languages and Cultures and completed an MSC in Education at Oxford University. She is currently in charge of Initial Teacher Training and is French and Spanish Lead Teacher in a secondary school in North London.

Our partners and supporters