Interview with Marium Khalid

29 Sep


We first met Marium Khalid in an abandoned Atlanta warehouse after a brilliant immersive performance of her theater company’s adaptation of Moby-Dick. And now we follow everything she creates, because everything she creates is challenging and magical.

Marium Khalid-245


Her vision statement inspires us:

I was lost in the desert, so I built a shade.
I craved knowledge, so I learned to listen.
I was living in gray, so I brightened the colors.
I wanted to teach, so I become a student.
I heard my song, so I found my voice.
I desired to conquer, so I learned how to share. I yearned to grow, so I discovered my roots.
I needed to love, so I decided to help.
I wanted a change, so I spoke to the times.
I needed to heal, so I found my breath.
I decided to create, so I erased all borders.
I wanted to laugh, so I learned to dance.
I hungered for adventure, so I rode an elephant. I aspired to fly, so I made wings.
This is Saïah
I am Saïah.


So much of your work is a mix of magical thinking and some inescapable darkness. Can you describe that special machine of magic and darkness? And do you think it is something everyone “has,” and at some level either struggles with or embraces, or is it something that surfaces only for a certain tribe of us?


Thank you for noticing.
Magic is the world which we don’t pay attention to, or happen to miss the moment we glance its way. Darkness, is the un-nerving realization of that moment lost.
What I follow—search for, is the truth. Truth in lives, grand gestures, moments, cracks, breaths. Once I get to the root of it, I look around and realize that it is soaked in mystery, genius, flawless connections from one soul to the next- but the journey to get there, required the breaking open of wounds that had been patched up decades ago.
My work comes from my own life’s work. The practice I uphold myself to- to heal the wounds of “the past.” Every single being on this planet suffers from the wounds caused from the past—Those wounds are perceived as a darkness. Most choose to settle into them, or perhaps struggle to face them. I have found in my life and work, that the key to reaching a higher truth is ripping those wounds, that darkness open, revealing it in the light of day and speak it, in truth. When Truth is revealed in all its darkening glory, therein lies the magic of it all.


Do you find your style evolving as you continue to design and produce, or do you want to continue to explore what I would call a postmodern mythos, with all its depths and complexity?


I have absolutely no interest in having a style or settling into something I am “known for.” My loyalty is only to the truth of the vision. If tomorrow the story asks to told via film or music, I will do what I can to bring it to its highest self.


Your work is so metaphorically real, going far afield to bring home crucial truths. Have you considered instead straight, traditional, theater, or does that seem too . . . outright and upfront?


My earlier work started out being more traditional- well, with influences such as Artaud, Jung, Sufism, it was still considered “experimental,” but I used more traditional standards.
The truth is that I don’t come from a traditional space in this world- nothing about my childhood, my education, my spirit, et cetera, was outright and upfront. I have always lived a life where I would very clearly witness “the normal lives of others,” but never really felt the urge to participate. And I believe when you come from that, it is buried in your bone tissue to be, or in this matter create from, a place that to the rest of the world seems “nontraditional.”


Do you have a process for beginning new work? Do you tend to plan or see it as New Work in a Certain Form, or do you just start writing and sketching?


I usually start with a very clear vision of a relationship I want to tell a story about. Then the journey goes inward and outwards at the same time. The deeper I explore who/why this relationship is, the outwards vision of what/ when/how starts to reveal itself. This is also where my partner and husband steps in. He will gather up all the intricate details I have been focusing on and see it all from a distance, creating an outline for a story. Sometimes I feel without him, I’d write and create in fragments. But both us create a full experience.


What is your current project?
When did you first know that you wanted to do this kind of work?


Our last production, TERMINUS, took me three years to compile together. So I am at a place where rather than rushing into another project, I am walking through the past a bit. For some reason, I feel I have unfinished business with a few of our last productions, so I am reworking them a bit. In the mean time, I am beginning to work on a new story, but it has a ways to go.
I have always known that I wanted to be someone who revealed the truth. My Mum says it comes from being the youngest in the family, because as the youngest you bear witness to all the lives around you—and eventually want to heal it all.
SAIAH is a place that allows me to do that in a healthy and creative manner. I am very grateful for that.


Who are you reading or viewing right now? Which writers, performances, and genres inspire you?


I am currently taking a break from feeding myself intellectually—I feel we need to be grounded in our own vision, to gather inspiration from other’s work. Currently, I am in a place where I am trying to attain “being grounded,” then the external feeding will come.
The past inspires me. Secrets, buried truths, wounds that need cracking open, inspire me. But most of all bravery inspires me.


You have created a community of followers and artists at SAIAH. Where do you find the intersections between that community-sustaining work and your new creative work, if you draw connections or lines? Is there significant bleed- through? Does one feed the other, or do you find that one takes energy the other needs?


If you are referring to our patrons: People want to witness courage. That is one truth I have realized in my few years of being alive. The work we create, every ounce of it, comes from “the edge of a cliff,” and they feel that. They are on board for that. And when the bar is set, we have their permission to jump, because they know we’ll be asking them to do the same.
As far as the artists we gather, per experience. We are very particular about who we work with. This is sacred work. We hand pick creators, visionaries, performers who are willing to uphold the highest vision of the story. With a community like that, we are fearless and limitless.


So I have to ask this question of everyone, but given your work, maybe especially you. If you could become a different animal, which animal would you be? And why?


I meditated on this and saw a Jaguar. This is what it means to see a Jaguar:
“The Jaguar’s medicine includes seeing the roads within chaos and understanding the patterns of chaos, moving without fear in the darkness, moving in unknown places, shape shifting, psychic vision, facilitating soul work, empowering oneself, reclaiming power … gatekeeper to the unknowable.”

I’ll take it.


One Response to “Interview with Marium Khalid”


  1. the top 15 most-read posts | pea river journal - October 1, 2016

    […] Our conversation with Marium Khalid […]

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