Artists are a medium of maintaining democracy.
Sarah Naqvi has led their life trying to give a voice to the voiceless. Despite being relatively young, Sarah understands the critical role they play and is yet to play. Born in Aligarh but having lived in cosmopolitan Mumbai, Sarah grew up in an atmosphere where they had the freedom to voice their opinions. Despite the limited information she received about the LGBTQ spectrum, other communities and ground realities have considerably impacted Sarah's worldview. So much so that Sarah turned towards art as a form of expressing dissent. Their projects, art, and creativity have always stemmed from a need to highlight issues surrounding gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic power structures. They aren't afraid to take on concepts that could be perceived by the mainstream as "disrespectful," "lewd," or "uncultured." They are aware that language can be exclusionary and elite, so art must make a difference. However, this is only possible if it is consciously created using an easily understandable visual language that cuts across all layers of the social strata. Sarah is also aware of the privileges they hold and their access to resources, which enabled them to be a part of the De Ateliers residency program in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In fact, their last project at the institution is an art installation that highlights its colonial nature.
A lot of narratives are lost because history has mainly been recorded by cis-men.
For Sarah, this realization wasn't automatic. Like many other non-binary queer individuals, Sarah also went through a debilitating process of fighting gender dysphoria. They also had to go through the mental battles associated with naming who they identify as. Despite having a very supportive family, critical failings in their social environment held them back. As Sarah lamented, there is a rich history of Muslim queer people that has been erased. They and countless others have lost precious opportunities to discover the beautiful and powerful work of Muslim artists. History that could have been monumental in helping young children make sense of their identity and aspirations is missing. This lack of representation is why Sarah chose to work with Calvin Klein on a project that highlighted forgotten icons and leaders who have done so much for marginalized communities.
There are implications of agreeing to a campaign that actually doesn't do any groundwork.
Sarah's experience of working with such a mega-brand heightened her consciousness of the corrupt nature of brands and their tokenistic stances. Most such campaigns exploit queer talent but do nothing for the community. This is why Sarah undertook the project with Calvin Klein only after careful research and evidence collection that proved their genuine commitment towards the community.
What shone through all our conversations with Sarah was their carefulness. When exploring the role of the diaspora in uplifting marginalized Indian communities, discussing the role of the government, or even dissecting the inclusivity within a queer community, Sarah is careful never to overshadow or usurp the real voices in question. They know words have a profound impact, and they want to be sure of what they express. However, Sarah wholeheartedly believes that governments must do more by acknowledging and being accountable to the continued damaging repercussions of caste and religious discrimination in all spaces; the diaspora needs to step aside and resist the need for glorification by occupying spaces that take away voices from lived realities.
Representation on a global scale by the more privileged takes up more space.
They also stress a lot about the importance of building communities to fight loneliness. One of Sarah's latest passions is being part of an a capella group in her university in the Netherlands. Their friends, peers, and the opportunities presented to them at university are something they cherish. Contrary to popular practice, they do not shy away from highlighting the Netherlands' social issues, including regressive trans laws, terrible homophobic violence, and the oppressive and colonial nature of the government itself. Sarah attempts to strike a delicate balance of challenging the status quo wherever they may be and being socially integrated.