Project Yourself: Mariam Quessny

Project Yourself
The story of Cairo’s Open Mic Nights with Mariam Quessny

It takes a lot to revive a soul, especially when all it blazes is negative energy and frustration. That’s why we’re honored to have a concierge, like “Project Yourself” in our country because it helps us make use of our signs of disapproval, changing them to live in a better life. It’s not only a cultural place that people love to showcase their talents in, but mainly it’s about having a voice, having a chance to influence others, and really enjoying your time in the process. Mariam Quessny has initiated the wave of Open Mics, in an attempt to be a part of every performers/artists’ lives. And even if you’re not an artist, you’re most welcome to share what you have to say, interact with new people, and attend a night to remember. We’re presenting to you a very intellectual interview with an artist, who truly believes in Underground and how it can genuinely affect Egyptians.

MM: First, we’d like to ask you, do we really have an Underground movement in Egypt?

Mariam: I think we have vibrations; it’s not really a movement because people are not connected. For now, everyone is vibrating on their own. If they’re really connected, they would light up, like stars or move, like sea waves.

MM: Do you think artists need a motive or a goal to reach?

Mariam: I think some people have passion since ever; not caring to be well-known. That’s what amazing about the Underground; you do it ‘cause you love it, not because you have to. You need to do it; you need to express yourself. Don’t know about the goal, but I think they need to know they’re not alone; there are people who are like them and need to share. By sharing, you exchange and you add to yourself and others, then you grow, which is great. That’s why, they really need is to be heard more. They need to release some of their talents. I think it would be selfish of them to keep it for themselves, when other people are influenced directly and indirectly by them.

MM: So, tell us more about yourself.

Mariam: I’m Mariam Quessny, I’m 23 years old. First, I studied 2 years in the AUC, studying Fine Arts, then transferred to PRATT Institute in New York, attended 3 years of Interior Design. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot; it’s very systematic, in an artistic point of view. I took what I learned from there and came to Egypt, looking at things in a different way. I know I’m Egyptian, but I don’t see the negative things other people see. If there’s a trash, for example, I’d instantly fall in love. You can’t imagine how people in New York would die for something random like this. It will become an art project for them; they would start drawing Graffiti about it or analyze it to death! They’d be like, “Wow, we have to carry it to the next Museum!” That’s why, I love Egypt; it’s so rich and organic. I think the difference between New York and Egypt is that Egyptian people rarely have hope, although they can be better in so many ways. While, New Yorkers are constantly competitive, although the city isn’t as rich as ours. If we bring like 10 New Yorkers to Egypt, it will certainly explode! Art, definitely, moves people.

MM: Then, what is Art from your own point of view?

Mariam: Something that questions, struggles, and designs souls. Like, I’ve been in this mood of writing because I’ve been between both worlds, where I don’t know which one I like; what to do and what I wanna be. Although, I just graduated and already working as a designer, still I don’t know what to choose. I guess we all go through this.

MM: Would you tell us your motive behind starting the Open Mic nights?

Mariam: I’ve been to something similar in Brooklyn and I was very moved by it; I was completely urged to know how people are struggling and thinking in a certain way, how their emotions work. It was really, really fascinating to me because you always think that everyone’s like you or different than you, but you never get to see how. So, I got excited about the idea, started a group on facebook and invited some friends, at a place in Maadi, with one condition that they should perform. And, it was awesome; around 40 people came. It had the best vibes ever; everyone kept asking for another one before they even leave. Then, we decided to rent “Makan” in West El Balad territory after a lot of search; it was the perfect place for us. It’s just one room, supporting cultural events.

MM: What’s your plans for “Project Yourself” in the future?

Mariam: We’d love to have our own space with better parking area, hosting shows 24/7. It’s all about connecting people and sharing, so a lot of vibes is gonna happen. It’s gonna bring all those juicy people of Cairo together, and maybe, then, it would become a movement.

MM: What difference have you noticed between performers in New York and Cairo?

Mariam: Not much. Maybe, New Yorkers are less-inhibited, less-shy; they usually pour their hearts out, and some people in Cairo do the same. Actually, I think performers are on the same level of openness and expression. It’s all about being passionate; that has no geographical, cultural, or racial condition.

MM: What about the level of talent?

Mariam: An Open Mic is not supposed to be about talent, it’s a chance to have a voice. Of course, we still need talented people to raise the bar, we need competition, but we need variations.

MM: What if the Underground is our real world?

Mariam: I love the idea of being on the Underground, my studio is Underground; I believe in living Underground. We would take less space on earth living underground, maybe we can have some reflective mirrors to bring down the sunlight. And then, the land would become so empty, so we’ll have fun living above ground and underground.

MM: How would people know they’re on the right track, being close to their real selves?

Mariam: I think you shouldn’t do it for anyone but yourself. At least, in the beginning; you’d play the guitar because you want to get better for yourself, you paint because you love to paint for yourself, not because you wanna be the next famous artist or anything.

MM: How come you never perform?

Mariam: I performed the first time; I read a short story that I wrote. Although I think it would be selfish of me to take 10 mins. for myself.

MM: So, other than painting and writing, what are your interests?

Mariam: I like reading, but I’m not into novels ‘cause I usually predict the ending. I’m more into philosophy and poetry.

MM: We know you encourage learning all the time, Don’t you think artists really need that? Will it make them lose their instincts?

Mariam: It’s all about how you learn. If someone is shoving information that I don’t want, then I won’t accept it for sure. Techniques and structures are important to feel certain things, for example. So, indeed, it is beneficial. I don’t think they would lose their instincts. It’s all about what you retain in your brain; if you really want it, you’ll keep it. You are influenced by the things you learn, but it’s your own fishing pool, even if it’s involuntary.

MM: What kind of projects you want to work on?

Mariam: I just wanna be true to my hands, I just wanna work with my hands a lot. I feel like giving them a chance to visualize what they have to say.

Major Magazine
September/October 2010

.. N.O.H.A ..


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