» Aamera Siddiqui
How did you become an artist?
Growing up in the United States, I had never seen an artist that looked like me. As a shy nerdy child, I began writing short stories alone in my room at the age of nine but I never showed them to anyone. I thought I was going to be a doctor someday. I had seen doctors that looked like me. Then, in my senior year of high school I wrote a story for my AP English class. My teacher, Mr. Fontaine, asked me to read it out loud to the class. I was mortified. That’s just embarrassing! Why was he doing this to me?! He asked if he could read it out loud for me. I agreed as long as he didn’t reveal that I was the author. When he read the story, the positive response from the class was overwhelming and mind-blowing. Mr. Fontaine told me I could be a writer that day and a seed was planted. But my first experience sharing my work to an audience came much later when I had arrived at a career in Multicultural Education. I was asked to give a talk for a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in 1994. I responded by writing and performing a short one-woman play. That was the turning point. That day, I considered myself to be an artist.
Why is art a tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world?
Art is one of the only places where many perspectives can share a space in such a short period of time. I am driven to write narratives that get left out, silenced and ignored because people are uncomfortable with the truth that these stories force us to confront. Art is a transformative forum where audiences and artists can shift perspectives and empathize with characters and stories that they never considered or understood. This is exactly how I like to use art. If, through my work, audences, performers and I are able to understand someone we once feared or despised, I have accoplished my goal as an artist.
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story?
One of my earliest co-creations, Draw Two Circles, was performed at Intermedia Arts as a part of the Naked Stages program in 2005. Draw Two Circlesaddressed issues of patriarchy in religion and how women’s stroies get truncated throughout history and how this impacts us today. It was my first experience creating performance art. During the creative process of Draw Two Circles I remember thinking “No one is going to get what we are trying to say here”. But audience after audience proved me wrong and I started seeing Intermedia Arts as exactly the place where work like mine fits in. Whenever I walk into Intermedia Arts, the art I see, the quotes on the walls, the installations all make me feel at home.
“If, through my work, audiences, performers and I are able to understand someone we once feared or despised, I have accomplished my goal as an artist.”
- Aamera Siddiqui
How has art changed you?
Art has made me a more corageous person. When I was young , I was afraid to raise my hand in class, speak out loud or voice my opinion about anything. I now know this was because as a South Asian Muslim woman born in East Africa, I felt invisible and like no one would understand me or my story. Actually, I didn’t even know I had a story. Art validated me, gave me a voice a platform and the courage to say something.
What do you see as Intermedia Arts' role in this community? Why do we need Intermedia Arts?
Intermedia Arts is where transformative art lives in the Twin Cities. It’s a place where the tough stories get told in ways that so many of us never even considered before. Intermedia Arts is where ideas and art grow out of traditional definitions and take on new forms that allow us all to expand how we see and understand art. It is the place for artists who dare to be different.
Aamera Siddiqui’s experiences as a global nomad in 4 countries and 3 continents have led her to a life as a writer-performer and the co-Artistic Director of Exposed Brick Theatre. As a playwright, Aamera is a two-time recipient of the Many Voices fellowship, a Naked Stages performance art fellowship, a featured playwright at the 2008 Asian American Conference and the recipient of the 2014 Artist Initiative grant. Her plays include Draw Two Circles, CHUP and American as Curry Pie – which premiered at the History Theatre and has been performed all throughout the Twin Cities as well as the Women Playwrights’ International Conference in Mumbai, India.