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un cahier perlé

October 2, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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in this world

recently, i made my students watch michael winterbottom’s ‘in this world’ a hands-on, many times unscripted, documentary-style film that follows the arduous (and ultimately tragic) journey of two young men (jamal is only 15) who risk everything and travel from a refugee camp in pakistan to iran, to turkey, to trieste in italy to london. some parts of their journey are more harrowing than others, but one that’s particularly unforgettable is the long voyage on board a ship (from turkey to italy) during which they are locked along with others in a dark, suffocating, metallic container. most don’t make it out alive. 

we discussed the film in class and some of my students made such brilliant comments i have to share.

they were surprised by the corruption of the bureaucracy (officials had to be bribed at every checkpoint), the cultural and linguistic mosaic they didn’t expect (sometimes w/i the same country), and the rationing of food in refugee camps (they said they felt nauseated by comparing it to how much food is wasted here in the US). they couldn’t believe that jamal had such a good head on his shoulders at such a young age, yet they laughed at his jokes and his desire for the largest scoop of ice-cream – reminders that he was just a child after all. they talked about how billions are spent on war against some of the most vulnerable people and they also connected the fate of the two boys they got to know in the film to 9/11 and america’s response to it.

they made some out-of-the box connections, e.g. to the underground railroad – how people have always taken risks, journeyed, and secretly crossed borders to escape oppression and make better, safer lives for themselves and their families. they noticed how jamal and enayat were welcomed by kurdish villagers who helped them get to turkey, and thought about the generosity of a people who don’t have sovereignty themselves, but will do everything they can to get someone else ‘home.’ 

finally, they shared how refugees and immigrants (‘migrants’) are mostly invisibilized and how seeing them up close thru the film moved them in unexpected ways. we also read warsan shire’s poem ‘home’ and fady joudah’s ‘mimesis.’ rather than ask them to write an analytical essay on the film, which is what we usually do, i asked them to write about one leg of jamal’s journey in the first person, to tell me his thoughts and feelings but also details related to the situation he is caught in. i just read some of their responses and i’m blown away. i feel like we’ve hooked into something here. something profound.

October 1, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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have your mother make you kibbeh

today in my #class ‘through another lens’ we read from the catalog for ‘clear-hold-build’ a powerful #art #exhibit i saw at Twelve Gates Arts#gallery in #philly a couple of weeks ago. 

we focused on #iraqi #artist dena al-adeeb’s work, particularly ‘have your mother make you kibbeh’ which re-enacts dena’s ongoing participatory #performance ‘the #taste of #displacement.’ 

i made kibbeh for my students and we enjoyed eating them with hummus, chips and lemonade as we watched a clip from the video installation.

September 30, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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so behind on my blog!!!

am so behind on my blog updates. will get right to it. soon. in the meantime, ‘current seen’ is coming up and my work is part of this imp rochester biennial. here’s a spot we did for nbc. my voice was stuck in my throat but hey, anything to promote current seen 🙂

July 15, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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Amália Rodrigues

Amália Rodrigues was a Portuguese fadista and actress. Known as the ‘Rainha do Fado’, Rodrigues was instrumental in popularising fado worldwide. Fado (“destiny or fate”) is a musical genre that can be traced to the 1820s in Lisbon, Portugal, but probably has much earlier origins. The songs follow a certain traditional structure and are characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. They are infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. Will be going to Mesa de Frades in a few days to listen to fado inside a building that used to be a small chapel.

July 15, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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lunch in sintra

#lunch at #tasca do #chico in #downtown #sintra with megan and colby and then travesseiro at the famous #piriquita #bakery founded in 1862

‘Travesseiro means large pillow, and that is what these pastries look like. But, instead of cloth and feathers, these pillows have layers of puff pastry filled with an egg and almond cream.

Despite many attempts, no one has been able to copy these travesseiros since Piriquita first opened its doors to the public.’

July 15, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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The chapel of the former Our Lady of Pena

‘The #chapel of the former Our Lady of Pena #convent still retains its original 16th century layout. The small scale nave has an ogival vaulted arch finished in 16th century tiles.

The Neo-Gothic #stained #glass #window was commissioned by King #Ferdinand in 1840 from the Kellner family workshop in Nuremberg and alludes to the foundation of the Convent of Pena in 1503: King Manuel I appears in the bottom left; to the right is Vasco da Gama with a ship and the Tower of Belém in the background; above there is Our Lady of Pena, Saint Jorge, the armillary sphere, the cross of Christ and the coats of arms of Bragança and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

The main #altarpiece is a work in #alabaster and black #marble carried out between 1529 and 1532 by the French #sculptor Nicolau de Chanterene (ca. 1470-1551).’

July 15, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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sintra

today i took a trip to #sintra with our guide patricia, myank from #india and two lovely families from the #westcoast – the #beautiful colby second from right is the same age as my #daughter 

sintra was enveloped in a delicate #mist and as #magical as the #moon#goddess it is named after ‘The #Pena #Palace and Park, in the Sintra mountains, are the product of the creative genius of King #Fernando II and the epitome of 19th century #Romanticism in #Portugal. Architecturally speaking, they are a mix of #Manueline and #Moorish #architecture. The palace was built so that it could be seen from any point in the park, forest or luxuriant #gardens, with their five hundred plus species of trees from the four corners of the world.’