i’d like to share something beautiful this morning. as u know, the warp & weft is an audio archive of stories about 2020, the first of its kind i believe. it weaves together many voices, languages, and POVs. it also includes responses by artists to stories that moved them. the warp & weft is an ongoing project, and today i’d like to share a new artistic/dance response by Missy Pfohl Smith. i am honored that she used my story, about the non-linearity of time and the connectedness between all that we call life, as inspiration for this gorgeous, organic piece. it’s called ‘root to leaf.’ pls watch. this is my story if u’d like to hear it.
Friends, I am honored to be a part of ‘Activate, Reimagine, Transform,’ a virtual gathering hosted by the UR Institute for the Performing Arts, in partnership with the UR Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, 540WMain, Create A Space Now, and Rochester Fringe Festival. I will be talking about The Injured Body: a film about racism in America and so much more. It will be multimedia, as usual, with clips from the documentary and hopefully, the premiere of a film trailer. I will be presenting on opening night, June 3rd, at 8pm. The conference runs June 3-6 and is completely free. Pls register here.
Last year, I worked with JVP to organize a Palestinian film festival. One of the films I suggested was the story of a 15-year old boy named Obaida. The festival didn’t go anywhere, but we develop a sense of connection to the people on the screen. We learn a small part of their story. We feel like we know them a little. I just found out from a post by the film’s director that Obaida was killed earlier today. An Israeli soldier shot a bullet through his heart. I have no words, just deep grief and immense rage. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. May u rest in peace, sweet child.
Matthew Cassel (May 17):
I write this through tears after learning that Obaida Jawabreh, who I met in his refugee camp two years ago when he was just 15, was killed earlier today by an Israeli soldier’s bullet to his heart. Obaida was so curious, I was supposed to be the one conducting the interview but he spent our few days together asking me more questions than I asked him. He wanted to become a chef, but surrounded in every direction by Israeli military, checkpoints and settlements, even chasing such a simple dream was always going to be tough. He died before his 18th birthday. My heart goes out to his family, especially to his dear father Akram, who would send me the sweetest messages on holidays long after our meeting. He loved his son and wanted nothing more than to watch him grow up away from the occupation. Together with Defense for Children International – Palestine I made this video on Obaida in 2019. May he now rest in the peace that he was denied throughout his life.
thank u Chen Chen for sharing this poem. i am writing a paper about language right now, esp the violence of having to use the colonizer’s language and thus inserting them between oneself and the world, erasing oneself by losing one’s mother tongue and one’s collective memory bank. but i am also writing about cesaire and achebe and how they took the colonizer’s language and exploded it — forced it to understand them, the people it had violated. i shall add this poem by noor hindi to the list.
[POEM] Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying by Noor Hindi
Colonizers write about flowers.
I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks
seconds before becoming daisies.
I want to be like those poets who care about the moon.
Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail cells and prisons.
It’s so beautiful, the moon.
They’re so beautiful, the flowers.
I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad.
He watches Al Jazeera all day.
I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan.
I know I’m American because when I walk into a room something dies.
Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care about sound.
When I die, I promise to haunt you forever.
One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them.
17,000 people have watched A Thin Wall already, in the few days that it’s been available online. Pls watch our love letter to all those displaced by colonial partitions, and “like” if u like.
Today on Mother’s Day, we release the last set of Warp & Weft stories brought to u via our collab with Rochester Contemporary Art Center! In this special set, we have a story about the reassessment of one’s life by Gulrukh Syed, another about the draw of the open road by Saira Murtza, a poetic story about introspection/extrospection by Rajesh Barnabas, and one about a life in theater by Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp. Finally, a weaving together of all the stories thru an art object created by Karen Faris. Read, listen, look at maraahmedstudio.com. This is an ongoing project – pls stay engaged and let us know if u want to share a story!
Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:
What Makes Us Who We Are by Gulrukh Syed
Over the last few months, I have allowed myself to pause a little and introspect, to understand my own mind. I guess the pandemic and a few major changes in my relationships have forced me to do so. [Photo: Jahanzeb Sye
The Open Road – Discovery, Freedom and Healing by Saira Murtza
I have often wondered why traveling down an open road provides me with a certain freedom and healing seldom felt elsewhere. Though we may travel down the same highways, and drive past the same mile markers, the aging structures and familiar visited rest stops, each of us imprints our own impressions of a world based on our own experiences, leaving footprints of our own story in the landscape.
The End of Isolation/Introspection Extrospection by Rajesh Barnabas
So I must confess, I am everything. I am the galaxy of galaxies. Agreed that philosophers have wrongly pointed out the errors of my theorem, that testimony is unscientific, that knowledge only arrives when two or more people can experience it. But I tell you, I am the universe. [Photo: Megha Barnabas]
A Life in Theater by Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp
I was driving today listening to a random playlist when a song from ‘Les miserables’ began to play. I found myself overcome with emotion. While music often impacts me, it wasn’t that. [Photo: Cheryl Adams Johnson]
The Warp and Weft Of It All by Karen Faris: An artistic response to the archive
Dear friends, A Thin Wall is now free to watch on the Bandra Film Festival channel on YouTube. Produced by Surbhi Dewan and myself and shot on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, it is our love letter to all those who were lost and displaced, forced to leave home and cross colonial lines. From the wonderful review by @ind.igenous: “Filmmaker Mara Ahmed’s documentary, ‘A Thin Wall’ is a haunting and thought-provoking account of the partition. Strung together are stories, memories and experiences of those who suffered, leaving behind what they called home, plunging into the unknown. Yet, like wilted flowers inside an old book, love still remains on each side of the border. The documentary reminds one of Zarina Hashmi’s art, of a constant search for home, and the pain of separation.”
4 new Warp & Weft stories today! A gorgeous poem by Roja, a story about colorful human passions by Katherine Denison, another about rivers and community from Limerick, Ireland, by Zoe Lawlor, and a story about personal growth by Yvonne Colton. Finally, an artistic response to the archive from Vermont by Delia Robinson. Pls listen, read, look at maraahmedstudio.com ??
Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:
Visit The Warp & Weft archive today for the second to last release of 4 new audio stories curated by Mara Ahmed! Click over to maraahmedstudio.com and listen to:
Fall Theatrics by Roja
Fall colors collapse
on my peeling deck
tired leaves on stage
mimic my struggles
Bad Monk by Katherine Denison
We bond in community by place and age, by race, size, education, skills, then into self-selected groups by passions. Fish and Gun Clubbers. Skydivers. When I’m lucky, I meet someone whose base group has burst into glittery bits of divine attention. Extreme pleasures. Beautiful time-benders. Finding secret selves is my life’s joy. [Photo: Julie Gelfand, Gelfand-Piper Photography]
This River by Zoë Lawlor
I live in a small city in the midwest of Ireland, Limerick, it wouldn’t be a city in many countries but it is here, in this small one, and it is my home. Outside my work I’m involved in a lot of activism, in Palestine solidarity, anti-war activism, refugee and migrant support and anti-racism work here. [Photo: Donal Higgins]
Change Starts With Me by Yvonne Colton
I remember growing up as a young girl in the 90s obsessed with Disney princesses and the classic damsel in distress mentality. I would swoon over the dashing princes and men who would save the day, and of course my life wouldn’t be complete without the color pink! [Photo: Adam Eaton]
Bridget’s Concert by Delia Robinson: An artistic response to the archive
The Warp & Weft is a multilingual archive of stories that seeks to capture the 2020 zeitgeist, curated by interdisciplinary artist and activist filmmaker @mara__ahmed.
Dear friends, A Thin Wall, a Neelum Films documentary co-produced by Surbhi Dewan, that tells the story of the partition of India through oral histories and is shot on both sides of the Pakistan-India border, will be part of the Bandra Film Festival (a collab between Film Karavan and YouTube) starting May 5th! It will be free to watch for 3 months! Visit the Bandra Film Festival channel on YouTube and enjoy the film.
London-based director Yumna Al-Arashi’s poetic new film—which originally premiered at Tribeca Film Festival—sheds light on the mysticism and rituals that have been part of the Islamic tradition throughout the centuries. Here she explains why her film is not just about beauty, but about correcting the often negative portrayals of Islam:
“Piecing together the old and the new, I aimed to create dreamlike imagery that breathes fresh air into a subject rarely seen in a positive light. The importance of geometry, nature, spiritual connectivity, style, meditation and feminine power are components of Islam that the modern media have failed to depict. “My goal is to revive these historic themes in a beautiful manner, exploring Islam’s underlying meditative, universal, and spiritual values. It is time we see new imagery dedicated to truly understanding a religion filled with mysticism and beauty.”
4 new Warp & Weft stories today! one about having a baby in the midst of a pandemic by Nabeeha Chaudhary, another in French about an exceptionally gifted dog by Sab Le, a reflection on the nature of time by yours truly, and one about connection and imagination at a time of isolation by Arseniy Gutnik. Finally, a moving artistic response to the archive by the beautiful Indian artist Rollie Mukherjee. Listen, read, look here.
Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:
Visit The Warp & Weft archive today for the release of 4 new audio stories curated my Mara Ahmed! Click the link maraahmedstudio.com and listen to:
Hello Baby, Welcome To A Whole New World by Nabeeha Chaudhary
I went in for a routine ultrasound in March, a couple of weeks before the baby was expected. Covid panic was just setting in, in Austin, and toilet paper was disappearing off the shelves. The doctor chatted with us about which grocery stores were better stocked and soon we were good to leave. [Photo: Massan Photography]
Babou par Sabine Lebrun
Babou by Sabine Lebrun: I have several animals, dogs and cats, but Babou is an exceptional dog. She is an old dog and I truly dread the time of her departure, because she has incredible empathy for dogs, humans, and also members of other species.
Connectedness by Mara Ahmed
Although I’ve always revolted against linearity, I think I began to engage seriously with the concept of time during the fall of 2019, when I introduced my students to Afrofuturisms. [Photo: Aitezaz Ahmed]
Connection, Isolation, and Imagination by Arseniy Gutnik
During this pandemic, I have been thinking about connection and isolation. The new normal of quarantines and lockdowns has impacted my connections with people, and heightened my awareness of connecting with myself.
Barbs Inside My Flesh by Rollie Mukherjee: An artistic response to the archive
i’ve never understood the difference between folk art and ‘art.’ after all, expressions of cultural heritage, folklore and tradition also come into play in the creation of ‘high art’ (it’s not suspended in some kind of vacuum). the distinctions between artifact, craft, ornament and art are so many borders and hierarchies that we shouldn’t respect. at the museum of international folk art, i saw such beautiful objects from all across the world. their permanent collection is impressively lavish. they also had a special exhibit called ‘sewing stories of displacement’ – it tells stories of ‘forced migrations, new transitions, and memories’ through embroidery and weaving. the people looked familiar in one of them. i read ‘railway station’ written in urdu across the top. it’s about displacement – ‘the forced migration of kahuta residents (in pakistan) after the area became a site for the national atomic bomb project in 1976,’ something i had never heard of before. the power of art.
walked along canyon road, in santa fe, which is just 5 min away from our house. over 100 galleries, boutiques and restaurants in one spot. an art lover’s dream. couldn’t possibly afford most of the art but loved absorbing it. one thing that struck me: there are so many galleries full of beautiful native art – they should be owned by native people. i hope they are. everything is in bloom here. nature seems to be unstoppable.
at the museum of international folk art, ‘yokai: ghosts and demons of japan’ and ‘the art of afghan war rugs’ – an exhibition that should be properly problematized in the united states (the imperial war machine) but isn’t. i had already seen some of it at the memorial art gallery in rochester. the work is beautiful. the violence that seeps into cultures and artifacts heartbreaking.