my review: blonde

i have not watched (neither do i plan to watch) ‘blonde,’ a fictional biographical film written and directed by andrew dominik and loosely based on a novel about marilyn monroe’s life, as imagined by joyce carol oates – yes, the number of ‘removes’ from the actual woman at the center of this ceaseless capitalist production is astonishing.

the reviews, especially by women, stating how the film ends up being soft porn with expensively produced cinematography would have kept me away, but the film is so much more problematic. it turns marilyn into a victim (something she resisted throughout her life), it is crassly graphic in how it shows affairs, abortions, and miscellaneous sexual assaults that never happened, not only does it objectify and diminish marilyn monroe (all over again) but it also exploits ana de armas, the young actress playing her (the director seems to have a fetish for some of her body parts).

many of these borderline art/adult films are written, directed and produced by men. remember ‘blue is the warmest color,’ a french film by abdellatif kechiche? it became famous for its graphic lesbian sex, but it was pretty obvious that the sex scenes were written and choreographed by a man. later on there were accusations of sexual assault, bullying and aggressive behavior on set. it seemed to fit.

as a woman i find it unbearable that our usefulness/import is still so intimately tied to our bodies. whether to cover us or disrobe us, whether to allow us to use contraception or not, give birth to a child or not. some of us are forcibly sterilized while others are not allowed to end unwanted pregnancies. some of us can be killed for not covering our hair while others are utilized to fulfill gross male fantasies and compromise our body sovereignty.

it has always enraged me that 99.9% of victims portrayed in western detective novels and crime thrillers are women and the methods used to torture, kill and mutilate them ever so creatively are invented by men. it normalizes violence against women. even as we cringe, there is something lurid about it that teases, tempts, raises the stakes. we are told the movie is make-belief, controlled, safe. but real life is not, and this is where we continue to struggle.

as fascism takes over the world, one election or coup as a time (look at italy’s giorgia meloni), all i know is that it will get tougher for all of us out here who are not straight, white, able-bodied, european men. this is the time to understand true intersectional feminism and fight together as equals.

thoughts on the berlin wall

a few more posts about berlin.

checkpoint charlie (or checkpoint C) was “the best-known berlin wall crossing point between east and west berlin during the cold war (1947–1991).” it’s famous for its death strip, bordered by mines and channels of ploughed earth to stop people from escaping to the west. now it’s a tourist trap. our guide suggested we skip the fake museum and enormous gift shop and just look at remnants of the wall. i found some old b&w pictures of the area, the way it used to be before the wall came down. it’s the human suffering that sticks in one’s mind, families separated forcibly as they have been (and still are) by colonial borders across the world. there was a sign (in many different languages) saying: “in this very place just 30 years ago u might have been shot at…” and “can u imagine what life must have been like with a wall on ur doorstep…”

all i could think was: this is not history. these crimes against humanity are ongoing. what u are asking us to imagine is every day life for the people of palestine. my only hope is that one day soon, their apartheid wall will also become a tourist trap where people will congregate, reflect, and say to one another: “can u imagine what life must have been like to live with a racist, separation wall on ur doorstep and checkpoints every few steps that encroach on ur human right to move freely?” this is my hope.

Columbia whistleblower on exposing college rankings: ‘They are worthless’

“I’ve long believed that all university rankings are essentially worthless. They’re based on data that have very little to do with the academic merit of an institution and that the data might not be accurate in the first place,” Thaddeus said.

…The former head of Columbia’s mathematics department described an expanding and self-replicating bureaucracy that is growing ever more expensive to maintain. He said that Columbia’s endowment is not large enough to cover the cost of the growing administration and so it is paid for by increasing tuition costs.
“It means that our educational programmes have to be run to some degree as money-making ventures. That is the secret that can’t be openly acknowledged,” he said.

…“It’s clear that the growth of university bureaucracies and administration has been a major driver of the cost of higher education growing much, much faster than inflation. We now have about 4,500 administrators on the main campus, about three times the number of faculty, and that’s a new development over the past 20 years,” he said.

“What is less clear is what all these administrators are actually doing.” More here.

when’s the right time to talk about colonial atrocities?

this whole thing about ‘now is not the right time.’ because someone got attacked or killed or died at 96. i don’t get it. it’s never crass or insensitive to hold people with power (whether symbolic of literary) accountable for their actions and words – especially if they use their status to support violence against thousands (sometimes millions). why is mass violence less shocking than dancing on the graves of monarchs? it doesn’t compute. here is a video from the aotearoa liberation league (“an empowered and well-informed population of kaitiaki committed to the protection of our most vulnerable individuals and their sources of life”). they have more patience than i do.

Devastating floods in Pakistan

Pakistan has 7,253 glaciers, the highest number outside the world’s polar regions. Global warming is melting them at an alarming rate, causing flash floods across the country. A state of emergency has been declared in Pakistan. The situation is desperate.

The death toll has risen to 937 (as of yesterday), 30 million people are without shelter, 23 districts in the province of Sindh have been declared ‘calamity-hit’ as floods submerge southern Pakistan, hundreds of schools and more than 20,000 homes have been destroyed in Baluchistan, millions of cattle and entire crops are lost, help and donations are needed immediately. This has been going on since May but no one’s talking about it. Pls donate to organizations working on the ground. Here is a list.

We donated to the Edhi Foundation.

Emancipated Breath: A Prelude

Dear friends, I am thrilled to share this brilliant dance shot by Jesus Duprey at High Falls (Rochester, NY), choreographed and performed by Andrew Evans, title by Erica Jae, with original music composed by Tom Davis. This is a prelude to The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America. I am back at work editing this documentary and listening to some pretty badass women of color. I created the trailer for the film back in 2020 but then life happened (we moved thrice in two years during the pandemic). I am excited to come back to this beautiful project. I will be sharing as I edit and hope for your support throughout this delicate process. My goal is to complete the film in 2022. But first, here is Emancipated Breath.

#prelude #theinjuredbody #documentary #emancipatedbreath #highfallsny #rochesterny #dance #tomdavis #andrewdavid #maraahmed #thebreathisthebridge #thebodyspeaks

delusions of the twitterati

all social media platforms are terrible (including FB, IG, whatsapp, etc) but i find twitter particularly unsettling. it’s not just the vicious back-stabbing and habitual fightiness, it’s also the unbearable snobbery. this idea that twitter is better than other social media for its 280-character repartees from the woke literati. some are better than others, but puleeezzz…

The Way Forward by Teresa Werth | The Warp & Weft

Friends, I’m happy to share a new Warp & Weft story today. It’s a unique retelling of the pandemic from the perspective of a funeral celebrant. Written and read beautifully by Terry Werth, pls listen to ‘The Way Forward’:

“I worked to control my outrage, fear, and ignorance by focusing on the skills I had to help people navigate their loss, grief and trauma in healthy and effective ways. I validated their despair (and my own) by stepping back to try and see the big picture: what can we learn from this experience? How can we heal ourselves and help others heal?”

Listen and read here.

#thewarpweft #thewarpandweft #archive #audioarchive #multilingualarchive #storytelling #oralhistories #yearofthepandemic #terrywerth #teresawerth #wayforward #maraahmedstudio #maraahmed #rochesterny #newyork #unitedstates #2020andbeyond #covid19 #funeralcelebrant #pandemic #healing #helpingothers #loss #lovedones #sayinggoodbye #grief #trauma

the attack on salman rushdie

needless to say we all condemn the attack on salman rushdie. i would condemn the knifing of any human being, including clarence thomas and donald trump. i liked rushdie’s work back in the day when he wrote ‘midnight’s children’ and was friends with edward said. but his transformation over the years into an imperial mascot is problematic to say the least. he supported the invasion of iraq, denies the existence of islamophobia (it’s hard to miss in the west but also in his home country of india where violence against muslims is reaching genocidal levels), and wrote unoriginal, bigoted, ignorant opinions like this in the NYT: “yes, this is about islam. if terrorism is to be defeated, the world of islam must take on board the secularist-humanist principles on which the modern is based.” the modern? like school shootings and patriarchal control over women’s bodies in the US? or the ongoing killing of children in gaza by the modern, democratic state of israel? or the humanist invasions and occupations of a series of muslim majority countries? this is basic colonial nonsense, not intellectual or moral courage. at the same time that rushdie was being attacked, this was happening: layan musleh hamdi al-shaer, aged 10, died from injuries she sustained in an israeli strike on gaza on august 5th. she died alone in a hospital because israel wouldn’t allow anyone from her family to be with her. she was a 10-year old child with so much life ahead of her. why are we not all decrying the attacks on her body and publicly mourning her death? many will say it’s different. she wasn’t a writer. she wasn’t famous. she wasn’t a western mascot. but there’s the rub.

Serena Williams retires

Things I missed while on vacation: Serena Williams retires at 41

From Dave Zirin: Serena Williams already had been a pro for five years in 2000 when ESPN put out its top 100 athletes of the 20th century list. Four women in the top 50. Two Black women in the top 50, none higher than 22. This was the world she stepped into and audaciously chose to rule.

Today, my list of best athletes ever would have Ali number one, maybe Thorpe at 2. But if you were asking who had the best CAREER in sports history, taking into account length and consistency from start to finish, it’s Serena & then LeBron. She’s that mighty. All hail the Queen.

Artwork by Sheraz A

Ready to Wear online exhibition

More to post about Providence, but wanted to share that my artwork has been selected for an international juried exhibition. Hosted by Arts To Hearts Project and guest curated by artist Celine Gabrielle, this online exhibition will open on August 12th.

The topic, Ready to Wear, was a bit different for me. But it struck me that many of the collages from “This Heirloom” speak to fashion in Pakistan in the 1960s. What an interesting time that was – soon after the heartbreak of the 1947 partition but also in the afterglow of what a break from British colonialism could mean. So I wrote about fashion, national identities, and borders, and submitted three artworks. They were selected and will be part of an online group show.

The opening is on Friday Aug 12, and the show will be online until September 12th. Can’t wait to share my write-up and artwork with you all <3