Connection with Miren
“Human (a)” is a program of connection with ART’s supporters.
I interviewed Miren Maialen, she is from the Basque Country, a Basque/English/German/Portuguese/Spanish speaker, she is a Forró dancer, she is photographer, she plays piano, she sings, she is activist, she supports and connects art and she is an art herself. In her case, being honest, I was also curious to discover her mystery.
In 1999, Dublin opened the gates to someone who would soon become one of the most well known person in the city. On a flight coming from Germany, is a Basque girl from Donostia-San Sebastian who arrives in Dublin Airport, takes a bus to town, carrying the luggage of bravery and willingness to discover new things, to start a new life. Her English language was quite poor and the two things she knew about Ireland were The Cranberries and The Corrs.
“It was a kind of new language, new life, new city and new discoveries”, recalls Miren
About almost 20 years later, we meet in the city center, she is walking towards me with her short legs and fast feet, we are heading to a place she discovered and suggested, located near Busáras and Connolly Station. The sun is being shy as an Irish man, she is wearing a hat with a flower on her hair.
We are passing through many kind of voices, stumbling between steps, ideas and the latest news that she updates me with. In her hands there is a folder with various papers and on her back a bag full of knowledge to share. I am excited, in anticipation for her to open it and share her thoughts with me.
We get to the Art Café, we begin to set up the connection, she greets the staff, I order peppermint tea and we find a table. She is wearing a jacket with some badges with activist symbolism pinned to it. She places the jacket on the chair, and there is a strip of “Vote’s for Women” around her shoulder and chest: “Does it look nice? Do you think I can use it? What do you think?” – she is straightening it with care, saying that she made it herself and it certainly can be seen to possess more meaning than just a strip.
1918 was the first time Irish women were permitted by law to vote and stand in parliamentary elections. The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the law.
So I pour our teas, the camera is on, she ties up her hair and introduces herself in five different accents: first her native language, Basque, then Spanish, after that German, then followed by Portuguese and English. I am observing her uniqueness, watching her in an attempt to discover her innate charm or perhaps even superhuman powers. Miren is everywhere, almost at the same time, and we are curious to know the mystery of her being.
“Miren, I want to know about yourself, like Who you are” – her cheeks coloured but soon she starts to tell us when Dublin came into her life and how the city has changed since she arrived for the very first time, in the last Century.
Miren was living in Hamburg – Germany, and one Sunday morning she read the newspaper and saw an advertisement looking to interview German speakers for work in Customer Service in Ireland. She thought “why not?” It was September of 1999 when she came, in that time there was no LUAS Station in O’Connell Street, and the currency was the punt or Irish pounds.
Everything was so different, the streets were not so organized as she was used to be living before, but this older side of Dublin caught her eyes and made her fell in love with the roughness of the city. She decided to take English’s classes, to join groups and to go on a language exchange tour to Glendalough in Wicklow. It was then that the magic of the emerald island started its magic on Miren and a leprechaun became stuck with her forever.
Gerry is an Irish guy and German speaker who gave her perhaps the most valuable reason to stay. … Nonetheless, as they are two pair of wings, they decided to up and move again, as she got a scholarship in Brazil. In 2002 they moved to São Paulo, met many Brazilian people, traveled around many cities including the Brazilian Amazon and the Iguassu Waterfalls and learned the language and its culture. Gerry was giving English classes and students are usually taught the american accent and many people didn’t know where Ireland was, so they faced some challenges in the matter of being integrated in there, even they have made part of groups and met Irish emigrants including an important one: Peter O’Neill who wrote “Links between Brazil and Ireland”, that reflects some of the links that exist between Brazil and Ireland.
Miren and Gerry decided to come back to Dublin, it was when the Accession Countries joined in 2004. A time of celebration for people from 10 additional countries who were being welcomed to Ireland as part of the European family.
The 2004 enlargement of the European Union was the largest single expansion of the European Union, in terms of territory, number of states, and population to date; however, it was not the largest in terms of gross domestic product. (Wikipedia)
Returning to Ireland, Miren goes for a Master in Sustainability at DIT, that she says it was one of the best decisions she have took and I dare to say that she did the best she could, because I can see that the places she goes, that everything she is up to she is really present. Working on her thesis, learning possibilities of making projects, meeting people, studying Languages and this pack of studies mixed with the taste of doing something that she likes, they were probably a step into her action and engagement with the organization Comhlamh as well as the Dublin Cycling Campaign.
As a part of the mystery, Miren is capable of managing her time with excellence and endless energy, she joins the Capoeira and the group of Forró classes and it was an opportunity to keep the link between Ireland and Brazil.
“What I really like about Dublin is that you meet really interesting people”, Miren is able to use the languages she speaks to meet new people and connecting them, especially when it is about art.
She mentions at least 5 names in our chat, sharing and promoting memories and thoughts of good moments and experiences and she finds the time not only to be present in the events but also documenting them through pictures and videos.
Miren reminds of Bianca Fachel, a Brazilian girl who used to sing the favourite song of her “Não deixe o samba morrer” (putting in English words: “Don’t let the samba die”) in a place called “La Dolce Vita” in Dublin, and then talks about others artists like Forró Namangaia and others who sing in Grafton Street, like the Brazilians musicians Nathalia Ropke and Fabio Rodrigues.
I found this the proper moment to ask how and why she gives her time to promote, document and connect many artists around, and she humbly say “It is just the love of the culture I have and I think is important to let people know what is happening and keep the community together.”
We open the chat to hear more about the other projects she is engaged, besides the ones we already mentioned, she is also part of the Women Writers Migrants Collective and also Miren is one in between over 50 inspired migrant women in Ireland, who will be soon published by Skyline Bureau.
“You need to think globally and act locally. You have to make a contribution to the place where you live and doesn’t need to be something spectacular”
As I am smiling at her and admiring each word that she says, I’m still wondering what is the secret of this person seated in front of me? A human with an ordinary life – with a full time job, with a home to manage, a partner to share life with – yet she still has the capacity to carry a heart that can fit the world into it. An individual who, wherever Miren goes, she keeps her authenticity. Miren might think what she does is standard, but for me, without doubt she is spectacular. I tell her that her days seem to last more than 24 hours, she answers to me “I try to keep my energy flowing”.
For our grand finale connecting with Miren we go to Connolly Station. She sits on a piano that is beautifully painted by artist Holly Pereira, and tuned by Murphy Piano Tuning and Repair. She takes her sheets of music and chooses first to play: “Asa Branca” (in English “White-wing”) by Luiz Gonzaga, then she plays “The Blue Danube” by the composer Johann Strauss II. We keep watching her playing knowing that Miren doesn’t let the samba die.
~ What about you, how do you support art? ~
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