mara ahmed
mara ahmed


i was born in lahore, pakistan. i grew up in brussels and for many years french was my “langue maternelle”. i returned to pakistan and graduated from the institute of business administration in karachi, with an mba. in pakistan, i worked for multinationals like ici (imperial chemical industries) and societe generale. i got married in 1993 and moved to connecticut. i went back to school and got a second master’s degree from the university of hartford, this time in economics. i worked for heublein and abb combustion engineering in connecticut, followed by the sentry group in rochester ny, as a senior financial analyst. my work involved the development of mathematical models for economic analysis and business simulations.


art and literature have always been a passion. i began writing poetry in second grade, first in french and now in english. i have always painted but discovering collage was a breakthrough. i could finally produce work inspired by robert rauschenberg, whom i admire greatly. i took a course in black and white photography, in long island, and became familiar with dark room techniques and principles of good composition. in 2004, after working for the sentry group for about a year, i took the leap – i resigned from my job and enrolled in an art class at nazareth college, in rochester. i had never been happier in my life.


the experience at nazareth further enabled me to express myself through collage. i now use computer graphics to create pieces that incorporate oil painting, photography and, most importantly, fabric. it had been one of my goals to use asian fabrics, especially those produced in pakistan and india, in my work. south asia has a long and well-established tradition of producing textiles. some of this fabric has never been seen in the west. the visual and textural richness of pakistani fabric lends itself naturally to artwork. the story of weaving is the story of our history and culture. with computer graphics, i can finally photograph fabrics and fuse their beauty and texture with the rest of my work. in spring 2005 i took a class in lithography, which is another technique i want to incorporate in my work. a series of collages i submitted to the nazareth college student exhibition in 2005 won first prize.


my film training began in 2006 at the visual studies workshop in rochester. i took classes in documentary filmmaking and in final cut pro. i started shooting my first film, the muslims i know, in 2006. in 2007 i took a production workshop class at the rochester institute of technology with filmmaker cat ashworth. it was during this 11-week class that i went from 30-40 hours of uncut, captured video to an hour long film. the muslims i know premiered at the dryden theatre in 2008. it was part of the high falls film festival in 2009 and broadcast on pbs in the rochester area. it has been screened on countless university and college campuses and at film festivals all over the world.

my second documentary, “pakistan one on one” is a broad survey of public opinion in pakistan about issues of interest to americans. the film premiered on march 24, 2011 at the little theatre in rochester, ny.

i collaborated with indian filmmaker surbhi dewan and russian animator gayane bagdasaryan for my third documentary, which is about the partition of india. the film was shot on both sides of the border in india and pakistan. post-production started in 2014 and “a thin wall” was completed in 2015. it premiered at the bradford literature festival in england.

i am now working on a documentary about racism in america, interviewing women of color exclusively. the film is inspired by claudia rankine’s book, “citizen: an american lyric,” and its working title is “the injured body.” it should be released in 2020. my production company is neelum films. more information about press coverage and screenings can be found at www.neelumfilms.com. i am a member of the rochester documentary group and remain interested in social justice issues such as anti-muslim racism, indigenous rights, mass incarceration and resistance to war systems.

artist’s statement

my artwork draws from highly diverse materials, textures and colors to achieve a multi-layered fusion of opposites – east and west, abstract and representational, male and female, emotive and cerebral, complex and manifest. The random juxtaposition of these elements and the use of painting, photography, text and fabric help me create dynamic collages. my work is intensely personal, but open to infinite interpretations and therefore a door to new ideas and ways of interacting with the world.

un cahier perlé