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un cahier perlé

October 24, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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remembering aunty shazi

one thing about being an immigrant is how you get used to living in a state of suspension. i don’t know how else to describe it, but it’s the opposite of being settled. it’s a suspension of belief, rather than disbelief, so that what is sharply real (sometimes painfully so) in one’s home country acquires a diffused, haunted quality, and remains permanently extraneous and unresolved. my dad told me his youngest (and last living) sister, my aunty shazi, passed away the day before i drove 6-hours to philadelphia. although i was heartbroken, i couldn’t mourn with him. living so far away from pakistan, the rituals that mark someone’s passing are simply not accessible to us. we can’t attend funerals, meet with family, cry and remember our loved ones together. we call cousins and pray for the aunts or uncles we’ve lost, here, in our new home, but these efforts seem awkwardly disconnected, almost disembodied. 

i write about family members who are no longer with us because in my own small way i hope to record their departure, capture something of their essence (something that tied me to them), and formalize a loss that will leave a gap in our family. i hope to mourn. 

my aunty shazi was a college student when my parents married and for the short time that my dad’s family lived together under the same roof, i became her favorite. she liked to spoil me and fuss over me, in a way that only young aunties can do, and so i became obsessed with her – as well as with treats, sparkles and pretty dresses.

she married young, right out of college, but believed in education and when she had her own kids she made sure they excelled seriously in school. 

i remember that when we visited her (on our way from lahore to islamabad) she would make my dad’s favorite makai ki roti (unleavened corn bread/roti) and sarson ka saag (mustard greens with garlic, ginger and a unique blend of spices). the presentation was exquisite, with a large scoop of homemade butter melting just so, on top of the saag. the recipe called for precision, a substantial investment of time and energy (her kitchen was small and not very user-friendly in those days), the freshest ingredients, and innate talent. she had all of those in abundance. i will never forget the taste of that splendid meal, so full of flavor and texture. so full of love.

as i grew up, i didn’t see aunty shazi as much. but my parents found her lovely home in islamabad to be a place filled with warmth and generosity. they would visit from lahore for eid and always be feted and celebrated with panache, by both aunty shazi and uncle zafar. a rare gift in a host. or a sister. or a human being. 

to god we belong and to god we return. rest in peace aunty shazi. u will always be surrounded by the love u shared with others. and lots of pretty sparkles.

[my father’s siblings, most of whom have left us. aunty shazi is in the front row on the left]

October 23, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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thoughts about autumn

what a delicious day. radiant light, gentle yet fortifying, showing off fall colors at their fullest, most vivid. a warm wind swirling gold leaves and dotting the sky with shimmering confetti. pools of burnt orange and lustrous red at the feet of trees that shiver and sing with the wind. nature can be so generous with its beauty. sometimes i forget to breathe. grateful to live on seneca land and for the stewardship of indigenous people who understand this is our sustenance and only magic.

[pierre bonnard. the studio at le cannet with mimosa, 1938-1946]

October 22, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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claudia pretelin visits my class

art #historian claudia pretelin visited my class today and talked about #alfonsocuaron’s film #roma from the perspective of a #mexico city native
she also discussed the work of art #collectives at the us-mexico #border – engaging with #artists and #activists across boundaries and resisting the violence unleashed by arbitrary divisions and #nation states

October 20, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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chris’ jazz cafe

last night: crab and spaghetti at @giuseppesons and then apple cobbler a la mode and jazz music by sharon sable and her band at @chrisjazzcafephilly #philadelphia

October 19, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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A People’s Tribunal: 28 Exhibits

What I will be attending today: A People’s Tribunal: 28 Exhibits
October 19, 2019, 4-6PM
Twelve Gates Arts, 106 N. 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Performers: Amina Ahmed, Dena Al-Adeeb, Fadaa Ali, Yaroub Al-Obaidi, Nada El-Kouny, Hatif Farhan, Kazem Ghouchani, Maryam Jahanbin, Luma Jasim, Mohammed Okab, Hussein Smko

Organizers: Dena Al-Adeeb, Shimrit Lee, Nataša Prljevi?, Farideh Sakhaeifar

28 Exhibits is a performative tribunal that brings together a group of artists, activists, and scholars to account for the impact of global counterinsurgency doctrine. With storytelling, installation, and song as “evidence,” the tribunal interrogates the rhetoric that has fueled the lasting trauma of the U.S. War in Iraq, while building a collective archive that fosters alternative spaces of restitution for evaluating the war on terror.

Our starting point is Twenty-Eight Articles, a 2006 paper written by Australian strategist David Kilcullen used to advise General David Petraeus, who helped design the Iraq War troop surge. The “Twenty-Eight Articles”, a nod to T.E. Lawrence’s “twenty-seven articles” on tribal desert warfare from 1917, describes counterinsurgency as “armed social work,” and urges the modern counter-insurgent to “engage the women, beware the children,” “know the turf,” “remember the global audience,” and above all, “keep the initiative.” The document was later formalized as an appendix to the FM 3-24, the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency doctrine, and has been in use by U.S., British, Canadian, Dutch, Iraqi and Afghan armies as a training document. 28 Exhibits will be set up like a trial, in which excerpts of Kilcullen’s articles will be critically evaluated through artistic intervention.

28 Exhibits is an extension of Clear-Hold-Build, an exhibit currently on view in Philadelphia’s Twelve Gates Arts, which brings together artists to survey the impact of counterinsurgency over the past seven decades. Clear-Hold-Build is curated by Shimrit Lee, Joshua Nierodzinski and Nataša Prljevi? of HEKLER, an artist-run collaborative platform that fosters critical examination of hospitality and conflict. The event 28 Exhibits is the product of a collaboration between HEKLER and exhibiting artists Dena Al-Adeeb and Farideh Sakhaeifer.

October 18, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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back in philly

back in philly to participate in an art installation at 12 gates gallery
my second time at the @podphilly where i stayed just a month ago on the day the #hotel opened
room with a #view, 10th floor
they recognized me and offered me free breakfast 
good to be back

October 15, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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mashrou leila’s roman

#lebanese #filmmaker Sonia Hadchiti visited my class today to talk about Mashrou’ Leila’s music video #roman and her own animation. as far as the music video, ‘roman’ is one of my absolute favorites and here is why

from Anastasia Tsioulcas: …there’s a lot of subtlety in both the text and the visuals to “Roman” that challenges stereotypes — from all comers. As the band explains, the women in the video are “styled to over-articulate their ethnic background, in a manner more typically employed by Western media to victimize them. This seeks to disturb the dominant global narrative of hyper-secularized (white) feminism, which increasingly positions itself as incompatible with Islam and the Arab world, celebrating the various modalities of Middle Eastern feminism.”

October 14, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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linda’s film class at SJFC

visited linda moroney’s #documentary & #nonfiction #film #class at #SJFCthis evening and talked about the #partition of #india (her students had just seen #AThinWall) but also about borders in general and what #nativeamericans think about ‘#illegal #immigration

powerful on #indigenous #peoples’ day. also showed clips from #TheInjuredBody: a film about #racism in #america [photograph by linda moroney]

October 13, 2019
by mara.ahmed
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the thing that makes us half divine

‘in every age, no matter how cruel the oppression carried on by those in power, there have been those who struggled for a different world. i believe this is the genius of humankind, the thing that makes us half divine: the fact that some human beings can envision a world that has never existed.’ [anne braden]

i am reading ‘feminist freedom warriors – genealogies, justice, politics, and hope’ edited by chandra mohanty and linda carty.