Loose Canons25.05.18

Loose Canons: Saraid de Silva

Writer and performer Saraid de Silva lets us in on her inspirations.

Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.

Saraid de Silva is an actor and theatremaker who graduated from Unitec with a degree in Performing Arts in 2012. With collaborator Amelia Reynolds, Saraid created Stomach at Basement Theatre in 2014 and The Memory Shelf, which won Best New Script as well as the Tour Ready Award in the 2015 Auckland Fringe Festival.

Saraid moved to the UK in 2016 and joined the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain for a summer workshop consisting of 28 women making a show about Pandora’s box with a New Zealand/British director. She also performed in the Edinburgh season of New Zealand show Generation of Z. Most recently Saraid performed in Ahi Karunaharan's Tea for Auckland Arts Festival and wrote, produced and performed two sold-out seasons of her first solo work - Drowning in Milk which won the ‘Unfuck the World' Award for Social Impact in the Auckland Fringe Festival. Saraid and Amelia's next work, Cult Show: The Revitalisation of the New Zealand Women's Archives opens at Basement Theatre this Tuesday.

Fight Club

I read Fight Club when I was 17 and then watched it straight after. I only read it because we studied it in Year 13 English. Our teacher paired the book with texts from Foucault and Baudrillard (I guess to make it a more respectable and less badass choice), which we all pretended to understand.

What could a Sri Lankan teenager living in Christchurch possibly have in common with 20 sweaty men fighting in a basement? I still don’t know. But when I watched it, I felt — in my super deep, essential, teenage way— incredibly understood.

I never really experienced racism until I moved to Christchurch, so the whole time I lived there, I felt like I was missing a step. I suppose I was just angry and lonely. I had a lot of smashing and breaking feelings, but nowhere to put them, and this movie spoke to that. All the men in the film feel like they're surplus to requirements, or prepared for some great task but never given the opportunity to undertake it. I think what the movie shifted in me was an acknowledgement of anger. I’ve since been really interested in anger and the ways it can transform and motivate us, and I think women aren’t given as many outlets or opportunities to be angry as men. People often describe me as angry when I feel very calm, so this whole question has stuck around for me.

The fact that everyone in that movie was white and mostly male did register with baby Saraid, but I was literally just coming to terms with the idea that loads of people didn’t think it was cool to be South Asian, so I was a wee ways from understanding how a lack of representation would affect me and my tastes. I didn’t yet know a reason why Fight Club should be any less than everything to me.

Amelia Reynolds

Amelia Reynolds and I met doing Young & Hungry in 2013. Sitting in a big circle, we did a read-through of the play, and Amelia was wearing a little pleather bucket hat. I decided we were friends. I’ve had this thought maybe three times in my life.

She was the first person I confided in about wanting to break up with my partner at the time – a pretty weird move early on in a friendship. I can’t hide anything from her so I don’t even try. Amelia and I have points of trauma in our lives that either coincide or echo each other and I think this has given us a way into each other’s language. We've not just seen each other at our absolute worst, but been the absolute worst to each other, gotten over it, and written plays about it. I don’t really know how. She’s the most interesting, complex and kindest person I’ve ever met and she makes everything she wears look really expensive.

I matched our birthdates up (see above) and the result was pretty wild, so now I know it is actually destiny.

Donna Awatere Huata

If Donna Awatere Huata was born in the 1980s her brain would be applauded for the genius that it contains. She was an opera singer, a writer, a mother, an activist, and a politician.

This young brown woman was writing and speaking about things in the 1960s that would wither all of us today. All people remember about her is dark sunnies and fraud. I mean, the fraud was bad, and she was part of ACT, but I still think Donna Awatere Huata is, and was, a rock star.

Angry brown women are the height of inspiration for me. I feel like they give me energy. And angry, articulate, devastatingly cool Donna Awatere Huata is the best of them all.


I started putting pieces of my body onto famous artworks because of the Instagram account Young Thug As Paintings. Western Art History has made a lot of us believe that brown, black and Asian beauty isn’t as worthy as European beauty.

I’ve seen so many soft white bodies in priceless paintings and then headed off to the café next door for the cheapest thing on the menu. Young Thug as Paintings and the pictures I posted in response helped me look at my body in a different way. I rewrote myself as central to a narrative and believed it.

Also, Young Thug is Art.

Being Alone in Unfamiliar Places

Sometimes, unintentionally so, I'm alone a lot. It's probably the result of being an only child until age 12 and moving schools and cities so much. In my adult life, I’ve voluntarily travelled alone quite a bit. It’s something I don’t always love at the time, but afterwards I think about it and wish I could do it again.

When you’re alone in a foreign city, you can’t just point to a beautiful thing and share it with someone. Well, you kind of can with social media, but it’s not really the same. Your safety net only lasts as long as your iPhone battery so there’s less to fall back on if something doesn’t work. Good experiences are so much better because there’s nothing to dilute them or distract yourself, but bad things are kind of multiplied.

I’ve been trapped in a deserted apartment building in Genoa, spent a night in Irkutsk after the plane I was on caught fire, grabbed my 30kg suitcase off train tracks in Hamburg post-losing my job with a week’s notice, figured it out and made it home somehow.

There’s peace in knowing no one else is going to fix it.

Cult Show: The Revitalisation of the New Zealand Women’s Archives runs from May 29-Jun 2 at the Basement Theatre. Tickets available here.

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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