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December 23, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Eve Ewing: Other Means to Liberation

Eve Ewing: When I was first handed the autobiography of Assata Shakur I knew who she was politically. I knew the history. I knew what had happened with her, but I didn’t expect to see a poem in the front of the book. The book has this poem, “Affirmation,” at the front, and it was interesting to me that I hadn’t heard her talked about as a poet. In the last couple of years, I’ve become really obsessed. I have this tattoo that says, “Poetry is not a luxury,” which comes from Audre Lorde, and I’ve been obsessed with how black women have been doing this intellectual production. Black scholars in general have been doing this intellectual production that has elided boundaries of creation and genre for so long, and it fascinates me that I live in a world where that is not normalized. Where I’m a sociologist and a poet and I make visual art and I make these essays, and 90 percent of the interviews I do I have to sit there politely while somebody awkwardly asks me about that, about the fact that I do multiple things.

The reason that happens is because that is not considered orthodoxy even though Du Bois, a hundred years ago, was doing all of these things. I don’t know if you saw this, but there were these viral images going around of these infographics that Du Bois drew. He did all this sociological analysis and then he made these incredibly beautiful infographics, by hand, because there wasn’t digital design. He made these, and he wrote fiction. We have all these intellectual ancestors, like Zora Neale Hurston, and the majority of the people who read Their Eyes Were Watching God don’t know that she was an anthropologist. As a person who lives in the social sciences and who also lives in the arts, I’ve just been really fascinated with how many models we have of people doing that. Of course, it begs the question of why it’s considered unorthodox and what it would look like if it was accepted as a given—that people move organically between the forms of intellectual and creative production that best suit them at the moment, or best suit the ideas they’re trying to put forth at the moment.

Another thing that frames my relationship to Assata is seeing her as a proxy for the importance of multiple histories and the understanding that the history we’re given in the United States is but one history. I think that she is an important figure because she also calls to the fore how we think about histories and how we think about heroes, how we think about who matters, whose story matters, and who is to be believed. And the poem “Arrival Day” is based on this quote from her that I saw: “Black Revolutionaries do not drop from the moon. We are created by our conditions.” And I was like, “Oh, but what if we did?” More here.

December 21, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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atique ahmed ♥

my mamoon atique ahmed, my mom’s older brother, who left us in 2016. a star athlete, a lover of art and literature, who moved to london when he was quite young and spent most of his adult life there. found this small, passport size picture and cleaned it up. some serious good looks in our family 🙂

December 20, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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my review: lazzaro felice

watched “lazzaro felice” last night. a beautiful film that charms and surprises. lazzaro, the film’s main character, has the head of michelangelo’s “angel with a candlestick” and a guileless kindness that’s just as otherworldly. storytelling as magic, unmoored from constraints of time and space. on netflix.

Alan Scherstuhl: Alice Rohrwacher’s work unites a passionate interest in social realism, in the hardships faced by people on the streets and in the fields, with a daring refusal to be held by the rules of narrative realism.

December 19, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Chinese girl by Chughtai

‘Etching is a time-consuming process requiring patience and skill in equal measures. A. R. Chughtai’s etchings aren’t faithful renditions of Mughal lore or memories from a family traceable to the Tatars and Uzbeks of Central Asia and the Caucasus. Exploration, experimentation and reconfiguration abound in most of the works. Amidst reinterpretations of familiar topics imbued with contemporaneity — the stuff of Mughal or Indian folklore — are also explorations possibly informed by exposure to foreign literature and travel.’ 

Abdul Rahman Chughtai. Chinese girl, etching on paper, 27.7 x 22.5cm

December 19, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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What did Mahatma Gandhi think of black people?

Rama Lakshmi: During his stay in South Africa, Gandhi routinely expressed “disdain for Africans,” says S. Anand, founder of Navayana, the publisher of the book titled “The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire.”

According to the book, Gandhi described black Africans as “savage,” “raw” and living a life of “indolence and nakedness,” and he campaigned relentlessly to prove to the British rulers that the Indian community in South Africa was superior to native black Africans. The book combs through Gandhi’s own writings during the period and government archives and paints a portrait that is at variance with how the world regards him today.

Much of the halo that surrounds Gandhi today is a result of clever repackaging, write the authors, Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, professors at the University of Johannesburg and the University of KwaZulu Natal. More here.

December 19, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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History suppressed: censorship in Israel’s Archives

Rona Sela, a researcher of visual history and a lecturer at Tel Aviv University, first began studying the history and culture of Zionist and Israeli photography more than 20 years ago.
Her goal was to uncover photographs that preceded the establishment of the state of Israel. In her research, she found visual archives of propagandist Zionist photography that shaped a specific and deliberate history of Israel.

Rona Sela: So the question under discussion is how a state, the one in power, controls the other, the colonised – not only geographically, but also its knowledge, history, past and culture, as well as controlling the way the conflict is shaped visually. As I’ve said in previous interviews, in the same way Israel demands the return of treasures looted by the Nazis, understanding their significance, Israel has to return looted archives to the Palestinians. It’s their culture, their history, their heritage, and their property.

Second, as an Israeli, I believe that Israelis have to know about this regime of control of knowledge, history and culture. They have to understand this mechanism of silencing, which has two main aspects: first, the seizure of Palestinian archives and material; second, their concealment and control – censorship, access prohibition, limitations, etc – in Israeli archives.

Third, Israelis have to learn, know, and respect Palestinian history. Israeli society denies Palestinian historiography. How can we live together without knowing the history, culture, language and heritage of the other? How can the conflict be resolved without understanding the roots of the conflict, the way the image of the conflict was constructed and the power relations behind it?