Sara-Duana Meyer - A Woman Of Words

  • 13 Jan - 19 Jan, 2018
  • Mariam Khan
  • Interview

A 100-year-old relocated structure was the site where this German met this scribe. On a scorching October noon, Sara-Duana Meyer wrapped up a performative installation and sat down to chat with MAG as the Nusserwanjee building cast shadows.

Sara, a writer, curator and cultural producer was born in Bavaria, but does not live in Germany and resides in Egypt.

“She has many different heads and many different interests. She is curious and seeking for the moment when things fall into place because somehow they are meant to be where they are,” Sara gives a quick word-preview of herself.

Text is where her roots lie. “I studied Comparative Literature but I have been mostly working on independent arts and cultural projects for the last 10 years,” she shares. An artiste associated mostly with public spaces, Sara was in the City of Lights for the first Karachi Biennale – but it was not her first trip to the megacity.

“I was last here in 2016 since I was curating ‘Urbanities – art and public space in Pakistan’, a year-long project organised by the Goethe Institut which had two artists residencies,” she recalls the last project which brought her to the city. “I am based in Cairo and have lived in Bombay for a little while,” shares the avid traveller who has “been to places one wouldn’t call ‘easy’ at first sight, and many people would not call them safe.”

Sara, at the time of this conversation, had not met Karachi. “I am still looking for the city. I believe that cities have characters of themselves; I have a very strong love-hate kind of relationship with Cairo, for example. I feel as if I haven’t understood Karachi yet. It’s a high energy city; the buzz is very visible and I have trouble sleeping at night. It maybe because the projects I am a part of are adrenaline-prone but Karachi has a very lively, contemporary arts and cultural scene for sure. It’s small. It’s also clearly very diverse. There are many different realities to it. The class relationships are also very vivid here, compared to other places.” But she is one who easily commutes here. “I take rickshaws but I do feel Karachi is still hiding from me.”

For Sara, a high adrenaline rush is what sparks inspiration. “During Urbanities, there were times when I was completely stressed out because I was working 18 hours a day which left me as a dragon mom juggling eggs and I was high on adrenaline, so I realised that I would have more ideas (rather) than lying on the beach because when one is high on energy, the brain does funny things; it snaps into overreactions but something always comes out of the process when you are in a creative flow.”

Sara agrees to the public aspect of art. “We should take our exchange out to public galleries and museums. One of the oldest museums in Munich, Alte Pinakothek, was done by a king (King Ludwig I of Bavaria) so the artwork could be seen by the public. Before that, the artwork, paintings in this case, was a private collection so the king opened his museum for common people to visit. I think that this is something to achieve.”

The new generation exhibits shorter concentration spans which Sara noticed even during the performance, Over x Come, with individuals glued to their screens, losing interest in what they see quickly, working on to hold the viewers' gaze is 'unfortunate'. “We need to slow down, or avoid confusing and puzzling art; however, confusion sometimes urges people to interact with it.”

Seated on a wooden stool, one asked if she could point out the most striking object in our surroundings. “It’s the colour green that’s most striking. I am always into big, dirty, grimy megacities but deep down, my soul is always craving to be in the heart of a forest and be surrounded by greenery. So whenever I see green, my eyes drink it in.”

This lady always seeks daylight. “I am a woman of words so I need to write. I can work in many places but I need daylight. It can be dark but I can never work in confined places with not enough light. I need access to the outside world and fresh air. A room without a window is basically my image of torture.”

To feed her soul, she reads and there is an endless list which she has bookmarked in mind. She recalls some of her best reads, “Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is coming to my mind right now because I have recently read it. She plays well with language and is an activist at heart. She talks about a lot of issues I am interested in; social justice, for example. I am also fond of a lot of Pakistani authors, like Uzma Aslam Khan's The Geometry of God. She has an unusual voice.”

Working as an artist, according to Sara is ‘precarious’. “I was done with arts a little before the project Urbanities. It is a precarious life working as an artist or a curator, working independently in the field of arts. The pay is bad and people expect you to do things for entertainment (for free) and I had a crisis somehow so it was this very project which I mentioned earlier that pulled me back to the field and returned me the lust for working in this field again. It was a rewarding experience.”

Sara has contributed in the world of arts during tumultuous times as well. “I did a small festival in 2011 in Munich with an Egyptian artist whose work was based on the idea of Freedom of Expression. This was during the Arab Spring, after the revolution in Egypt and I wanted to explore what it actually meant to supposedly have freedom of expression in Germany and what people would actually say when they can say everything they wanted to. I worked with a few artists from Egypt for that festival and did another project with my sister in 2012 in Munich, who is also an artist. But we worked with the idea of identities. The idea was that everybody has one identity that they choose but then there could also be an alternative storyline,” says the artistic mind whose first love is music. •