feature: travelling the world through story – ‘the ma’ati’ novel and indie travel magazine project

July 15, 2015

The Ma’Ati Magazine is a digital, global storytelling experience unlike any other. It is a hybrid platform, one-part novel and one-part travel webzine, all inspired by and told through the lens of a legendary nation of magical nomads. I’m so excited to introduce the AFROPUNK community to my project, which launches on Kickstarter today.

By Shamira Muhammad AFROPUNK Contributor


Shamira Character

According to legend, the Ma’Ati were the oldest, most powerful nomadic nation in the world until a few centuries ago. The story of their unique ‘Origins’ can be found here. Although they were the spiritual ancestors to the griots, troubadours and other storytellers, the Ma’Ati had no contemporaries and their power intimidated many weak men. So when some world rulers had their chance, they forced almost the entire Ma’Ati nation to flee, never to be heard from again. But the Ma’Ati name continues to be used on Earth as a term that extends to that part in all of us that yearns for places we have yet to see and friends we have yet to meet. 


I created the Ma’Ati after several frustrating years of looking for a travel magazine that spoke to the type of explorer that I am. It is hard to find good, travel content that appeals to a young, Black, artsy, urban, ancient, trippy, fantasy loving biker-girl. Having traveled to over ten countries around the world, and living in places like Ghana, France and Egypt, travel and adventure became the ultimate mode of creative expression for me. It made me a better writer and cleverer when it came to critical-thinking, networking, budgeting and living for the moment. .


Ghana, Nkrumah Mausoleum .


While I was living in Paris as a freelance journalist, I had a growing list of friends asking me for help planning trips overseas. For those coming to Paris, I was happy to help them carve out an itinerary. But for those going elsewhere, I soon found that great website recommendations were hard to come by. My friends wanted to know the best global clubs to hit up. They wanted to know where the cool, weird kids hung out. They wanted to see local street art. They wanted food that looked straight out of Pinterest. And most importantly, they wanted to know which places were “people of color” friendly.

What I found was that there was no one website for all that. Travel sites were either too boring, too homogenous or too focused on tourism and devoid of authentic, local exchanges. It was frustrating. So I decided to create something that I would want to read and see: one publication composed of two parts. An ongoing, illustrated book series and a cool, little travel webzine: the Ma’Ati, which means “duality.” In creating this, I knew I would be able to showcase the world in a way deeper than tourism alone allows.




Havana, Cuba

First, there is the novel, ‘The Ma’Ati’. It will live on and will feature a portion of the first book of an epic series free of charge. Each month, a new chapter of the Ma’Ati story will be illustrated by amazing graphic artists and published online, featuring a new global destination. The plot of the story follows Shamira, a character based loosely off myself. She is a young American woman in the throes of a quarter-life crisis who stumbles onto clues of her family’s mysterious heritage. Shamira quickly embarks on an adventure around the world that finds her retracing the footsteps of her ancestors and challenging how far she might go to unveil the fate of a nation.



Why did I make myself into a character? Because I know everyone can’t afford to travel, for both monetary and personal reasons. So what better way to bring the world to everyone on the internet than through a story? I have decided to use real events from my own trips to write the scenes and create the characters in my story. Because of this, each chapter in the Ma’Ati series requires me to travel to a new destination and document my experiences. I have already drafted the plot and the locations for two books and the overall story arch for years to come. But the intricate details of each chapter are and will be informed by my current and future travels to different cities, towns, and secret hideaways around the world.




Lincoln Park, Washington D.C..



Alongside this, I am producing the second part, a web-based travel magazine hosted on It will include content that compliments each chapter’s exotic destination. While the novel represents the importance of remembering our history and past storytelling, the travel magazine is an interactive space for you and I to explore the present. I’ll show you cool travel gadgets, beautiful boutique hotels, and luscious scenery. I’ll introduce you to some of the coolest kids my team and I meet, and highlight parties and festivals you may want to check out. 


And it’s here that you can introduce yourself and tell your story. Simply knowing that I am writing for other young people of color isn’t enough. There is no one-size fits all travel literature for multicultural explorers. That’s why I am openly appealing to those of you who’ve refused to give up your senses of imagination, adventure or magic. The Ma’Ati is for those who believe in a history much deeper than slavery and much more fantastic and complex than our minds are trained to go. Because we’re much more diverse than we’ll ever know and the only way to revel in that is by traveling.


Now, I need your help! I must finish traveling for the first book, paying for art work commissions and designing the website for the book and novel. Although I’m pretty proud of all that I’ve accomplished, I’ve been paying for everything completely out of pocket. Everything from filing copyrights to paying artists, web developers, web hosts, and merchandise suppliers to travel costs have come from my paltry earnings. Not to mention the cost of time needed to write a story. .


Ma’Ati Origins illustration by Taj Francis,


I really do hope you support the Ma’Ati project, although the ultimate goal I’ve set for myself is not how much money I can raise. (Though that is important and I do hope you’re able to pledge.) The most important point is that if any part of this project resonates with you, it means that you’re one part of this nation that I’ve been searching for all along.Please help me to build and begin a traveling youth’s guide to the universe. 


My Kickstarter project will run until August 14 and can be found here. You can keep up with everything that the Ma’Ati is doing by following us on social media. .