5. März 2020

Sara Karayusuf Isfahani: Embrace the future, cherish the past

You never know where life will take you. In the case of publisher Sara Karayusuf Isfahani it has taken her to many different places.

At only three years old she fled her native Iran with her family to live in Ruhrgebiet in Germany. A gap year in Panama, studies in Düsseldorf and experiences in Rome and Barcelona lead her to her final professional and geographical destination, at least for now: Leading her own publishing house Inpact Media Verlag in Berlin, which she co-founded with her partner in their late 20ies. As a self-made media entrepreneur Karayusuf Isfahani, who, in her own words, can be very persistent, wants her work to reflect the values dear to her heart: Diversity, fairness, and the chance of equal opportunity.

How did you become who you are today?

There have been so many turning points in my life. Such as my escape from Iran when I was 3 years old. When I was 16, I spent a gap year in Panama. I would also mention a bus accident, my studies of communication design and photography in Düsseldorf, the moment I met my husband while I was living in Rome for six months. We founded our own company at 28 years old and had children. That shaped me, as well as all the interesting and beautiful people I have met, either on trips or beyond.

Do you travel to Iran often? If so, what do you take with you? What interests you?

Actually, the first times I went back to Iran after our escape was when I was 18 and 20 years old. After that I didn´t come back for a while. But two years ago I made a trip to Teheran with my children, my sister and my parents. I went through a very emotional mix of feelings. The last time I was there I said goodbye to my grandmothers´ house, where I grew up as a child. That was the last physical space left from my childhood, as it has now been demolished. My feelings definitely go through ups and downs when I´m Iran, feelings of home, estrangement, nostalgia and longing.

I always want to know more about my ancestors, my parents and the time before the Islamic Revolution. I´ll go through family photo books that I find at my relative´s houses, and try to feel where I come from.

How do you combine both the German and the Iranian culture in your life?

That has not always been easy. But I´ve learned to take what´s best for me and my own life. I think the biggest gain from it is empathy.

What is your passion? What makes your heart beat faster?

Dancing, swimming in the ocean, my friends and family. And whenever I feel like I have achieved something.

What makes you laugh?

A dark sense of humour.

What could you never live without?

I could never live without my kids, my love, dancing and traveling, the ocean, the sun, my gold chain, my friends and great food.

Are there any customs and traditions from your native country that you share with your children?

There are, such as the Persian language, the food, the warmth of the Iranian people and Persian music. Also pet names like Azizam Eshgham J and our traditional spring holiday. Since the times of Zarathustra it marks the beginning of a new year and on every march 21st we celebrate it all together by using symbols of nature.

What is the best way to make your kids happy?

Ice Cream and Netflix. Or cuddling and doing arts and crafts.

What is the most important thing you want to teach your children?

To love yourself, not to judge and to free yourself from the constrictions of norms.

The White Cube is an open space that shuts out all the noise and focuses on the essential. How did you feel in the White Cube? How did it feel being photographed in there?

I felt safe, like I was in a light filled space.

What does art mean to you?

Art transforms love, the world, society and time. It takes us on a journey through different worlds and worldviews and allows us to escape the stiff routines of everyday life. When I dedicate myself to arts and culture, I always feel inspired and fulfilled.

How do you feel about the role of women in Muslim countries like Iran?

I think, generally speaking, you have to differentiate between the different countries. Iran has a different history than its neighbouring countries. 50 per cent of all university students in Iran are female, women work, they drive, are members or Parliament etc. I think that speaks for itself. On the other hand there are legal restrictions for women. There have been some positive changes, but still, since the founding of the Islamic Republic, women need the permission of their husbands to leave the country, they are banned from working as judges, they are banned from dancing and singing in public or in front of men. I can only speak for my family, but all of us, my aunts and cousins, have received an education that allowed us to be free and independent. Most of them have been educated in technological and scientific fields and taken on jobs in them. I see the same happening in Tehran, where a big part of my family lives as part of the Middle Class.

How do you see the future of technology? What worries and what excites you?

I´m open to any kind of change, but I´ll admit that sometimes it scares me as well. I hope print will survive and not be completely replaced by digital. Print media has a certain aesthetic that I cherish and it provides our income and living. If digital technologies help us to make the world a better place and protect it, they can be a great opportunity. I would also hope they allow us to work less and spend more time being creative in life. What worries me is the potential misuse of data and the fact that our private information could end up as part of some singular entity´s Big Data and be misused against us and humanity.

Which characteristic traits of yours help you when dealing with business matters and negotiations?

I´m persistent and a big fighter, a thing I had to learn from very early on. My creativity helps me to always find different ways and solutions. I have a mathematical understanding, which helps to think logically and strategically and at the same time I´m empathetic so I can lead my team and understand my clients needs.

How much do you struggle with packing for trips?

I do sometimes. Sometimes are harder than others, but I almost always forget something.

You´ve always worked a lot. Do you feel like you have reached your goal? And what was the way like?

It´s true, I have worked a lot, but rarely more than 40 hours a week, not even when we first founded our start-up. I´ve always wanted to make time for myself, for dancing, my friends and life. I can be very ambitious when I want to achieve something, but I ´m also good at prioritizing and delegating.

What are you reading at the moment? Do you have a favourite book?

I´m reading “My brilliant friend” by Elena Ferrante, I´ve finally made it to volume 4. With two kids and a business it´s hard to find the time to read, but now I´m really looking forward to the fourth book.