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February 1, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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Olave Talks to Rachida Aziz

An excellent interview with Rachida Aziz, founder of Le Space in Brussels where I screened my film A Thin Wall in 2016. Much to think about in terms of deconstructing the very terms of engagement we accept as the other, trapped in a white, patriarchal, capitalist system. Lots of food for thought.

February 1, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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Congresswoman Ilhan Omar interviewed by Zainab Salbi

i like Ilhan Omar. for her no-nonsense, commonsensical approach to politics, for her courage to be unapologetically direct, for her ideas and groundedness. and of course, her fashion sense 🙂
also appreciate Zainab Salbi, the interviewer. it’s refreshing to come across an interviewer who doesn’t have an axe to grind and doesn’t ram into, ambush or sabotage their guest. we need more muslim women in politics and the media.

January 31, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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Les Femmes D’Alger

Katherine Brooks: Asad Faulwell‘s massive canvases channel the ornate appearance of tapestries or kilim, weaving together intricate designs from paint, paper and pins. Yet the repeating patterns flowing in and out of the foreground are interrupted by decidedly darker, psychedelic imagery. 

The faces of phantom women populate the frame, their faces and bodies obscured at times by neon adornments that creep around limbs and back into the canvases’ backgrounds. You might not recognize the female visages, but the series, “Les Femmes D’Alger,” centers on Algerian female combatants from the Algerian War of Independence. The blacked-out eyes and whimsically cloaked figures are meant to belong to women who took part in the guerrilla attacks that took place from 1954 to 1962 in French-occupied Algeria. More here.

January 31, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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i was in rochester magazine

wow. this was 7 years ago. rochester magazine did this wonderful story about me in their feb issue – it was called “filmmaker, political explorer.” loved what editor mark liu took from my interview (esp what i had said about my film Pakistan One on One) and loved the picture by matt wittmeyer.

January 28, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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How the ghazal traveled from 6th-century Arabia to Persia, India and the English-speaking world

Anisur Rahman: The trajectory of the ghazal is unlike that of any other literary form that has had a history of traversing beyond its spatial confines. A brief tour through the passages of this poetic form and its diverse routes would reveal both its uniqueness and universal appeal. When the ghazal moved out of the Arabian Peninsula, it found a hospitable space in medieval Spain where it was written both in the Arabic and the Hebrew languages. In yet another instance, we have the ghazal reaching out to west African languages like Hausa and Fulfulde.

…It was only when the ghazal reached Persia in the middle of the 8th century that it started developing its own contours even while it did not entirely disengage from the formal patterns of the Arabic ghazals.

…Ali Shir Navai of Afghan descent, who was supposed to be the founder of Uzbek literature, brought it closer to new linguistic habits and exposed it to the extinct Chagatai language of Turkey in the mid-15th century.

…Even though the ghazal in India is sometimes traced back to the 13th century in the works of Amir Khusrau, its Urdu incarnation is rightly identified in Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah towards the latter half of the 16th century, and Vali Deccani in the succeeding century.

…The most remarkable feature of the ghazal in India which stands out quite prominently is that the poets of various linguistic, regional and religious affiliations joined hands to broaden its thematic and stylistic frontiers and impart to it a unique resilience that has stayed with it through all the phases of literary history.

…When the Orient lured Germany in the 19th century, the ghazal reached there with the translations of Persian works. Friedrich Schlegal, an Orientalist who studied Sanskrit, chose to make his bold experiments in this form. His contemporary, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, imitated Persian models, translated ghazals, and wrote under the Oriental influence and published his collection, West-ostliche Divan.

…In modern times, the Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca wrote his ghazals, called gecelos… Adrienne Rich, John Hollander and Robert Bly in America, Jim Harrison, John Thompson, Phyllis Webb and Douglas Barbour in Canada, and Judith Wright in Australia are just a few of the many poets who brought the ghazal to new literary spaces, as they experimented with this form and made way for many others to emulate. More here.

January 28, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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jan 26, 2019: with my #beautiful co #panelists Luticha A Doucette and Kristin Hocker at the #gandhiinstitutefornonviolence after a #discussion about “from #inclusion to full #equity: the #diversity #advantage”
photo by Maria Engels

January 28, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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went on a drive to Canandaigua Lake yesterday and saw horizontal snow, for the first time since i’d been to standing rock in north dakota, more than 2 years ago. complete whiteout with almost zero visibility. an impetuous combination of mighty snowbanks, wind and drifting snow. later as we sat by the window of a restaurant with a beautiful view of the lake, i discerned, far away in the distance, what seemed like a finely orchestrated dance of fallen leaves. they were carried by the wind, up and down and sideways, animated by nature’s breath. but they also seemed to have a life of their own. how are they not buried in the snow? why do they seem to have agency? like notes unmoored from a musical score coming together to sing over and over again. as we looked closer, we realized it was a small flock of tiny birds, following the dictates of the wind but also trying desperately to chart its own flight, stuck in some kind of imaginary vortex. one of the loveliest things i’ve ever seen ♥

January 28, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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the favourite

three strong performances, a tough unsentimental script, wide lens/fisheye lens/mind bending cinematography, constant movement and power play, a loose interpretation of history, a particularly hilarious dance, and yorgos lanthimos’s usual obsession with the absurd. i recommend the favourite.

January 27, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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The Emergent Land: Nature and Ecology in Native American Expressive Forms

talking about edouard glissant and his distaste for hierarchies, the separation of humans from nature is also a way to divide and delimit. hence our continuing ecological suicide. native american thinking on this subject is filled with humility and egalitarianism, and a much more sustainable way forward.

From Padraig Kirwan: For the Native American, nature and ecology represent and include what are often the most important elements of an aboriginal lifestyle. Fundamentally, the earth is the creator, a spiritual being containing a multitude of natural deities. In this way the land is the source of all sustenance — a powerful source of stories and tribal history, and also a definer of identity, both tribal and individual, whilst also providing physical sustenance. To these ends the term ‘nature’ in itself is virtually superfluous in a description of the Native American approach to the land. In western thought nature evokes a vision of a physical world that is separate and distinct from the individual, a world where mankind is placed above the entirety of creation. 

Ecological surrounds are not paramount within such western conceptions. 

Acknowledging this insufficiency of western terms to describe the Native American’s cognisance of the environment and its constituent parts, Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko has outlined the term ‘landscape’ as it is interpreted by her Pueblo tribe: 

“the term landscape, as it has entered into the English language, is misleading. ‘A portion of territory the eye can comprehend in a single view’ does not correctly describe the relationship between the human being and his or her surroundings. This assumes the viewer is somehow outside or separate from the territory he or she surveys. Viewers are as much a part of the landscape as the boulders they stand on. “

For Leslie Silko’s tribe the person represents a constituent part of the natural world. And her description goes further, with the individual being interpreted as equal to the landscape and the natural world. More here.

January 26, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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discussion on the diversity advantage at the gandhi institute

solid discussion on the “diversity advantage” at the gandhi institute today. it took more than 6 months for me to put this community event together (it was free and open to the public), along with a preview on wxxi’s connections. getting the panel together and negotiating its constantly fluid, evolving make-up was challenging (thank u kristin for being such a trouper and jumping in – i owe u one), finding a venue that made sense, getting some money, bringing food, promoting on social media and otherwise, figuring out how all our disparate pieces would fit together, and then writing my presentation on the complex work of edouard glissant took time and energy. but hopefully, to the frequent question of “why do we need these discussions?” we could submit, “because we might learn something new, meet the other, hear from the other, and change the way we think and act?” possibly.

we learned about ecology and how diversity endows plant and animal systems with resilience. we also learned how some of those ecological principles and habitats can help us design better urban environments. we learned about ableism as a system of segregation and how more intelligent/inclusive design can create public spaces that enrich all of our lives. we learned about the beast of racism and how it disrupts and distorts our most intimate as well as collective experiences. finally, we talked about the work of an incredible martinique poet and philosopher who offers us a language to imagine a world different from ours. by using ideas such as creolization, archipelagic thinking, relation and opacity, glissant allows us to wrap our minds around what could be.

my film, A Thin Wall, tries to imagine a decolonized south asia, in which our common past and pressing present would allow us to break through the colonial framework we’ve been stuck in for the last 70 years. if only we could see through the thin wall that separates us, we would recognize some of our sameness. the last words in the film, which are echoed by my indian co-producer (i was born in pakistan, on the other side of the border) and friend Surbhi, are: “nothing happens, unless we dream it first.” dreams are important.

thx to my valiant co-panelists luticha doucette, mary scipioni and of course kristin hocker, to maria engels our host at the gandhi institute, and to all those who came and added their presence to our dreaming.

[photograph by andrew brady]