Return to Sender in Look Long Island

A wonderful story about my film, ‘RETURN TO SENDER: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards and the Politics of Representation’ in Look Long Island magazine! pls check them out and join us for the film premiere on Oct 1st, 2-4pm, at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. For tickets, click here.

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

morocco in the semi finals

yes, there are serious problems with fifa, with professional sports in general, with the horrors that come from hosting large scale international events, and with oppressive war-making regimes. btw most countries of the world fall within those parameters.

however, whatever happens on wed, when morocco goes against france in the semi finals, this much is clear:

1. solidarity from the global south: whether african, amazigh, arab, maghrebi, middle eastern, south asian, muslim, brown or black, people from the colonized south have rallied and celebrated morocco’s history-making games en masse

2. we are the majority: from 1492 to 1914, most of the world was colonized by tiny european nations with limited resources and infinite animus toward each other. therefore, 80% of humans are still coming to grips with colonization and genocide

3. colonialism never ended (it simply transformed and metastasized): we are still controlled by and embedded in racist, capitalist systems so the fight is not over. this is why when the western military-industrial complex goes into overdrive and never-ending wars are activated (like the war on terror or the war on drugs), they whisk together disparate regions and peoples with no regard for history, culture, or political realities – afghanistan, iraq, pakistan, libya, syria, somalia, sudan, yemen, the philippines, cambodia, vietnam, laos, colombia, cuba, guatemala, haiti, honduras, mexico, nicaragua, panama, and puerto rico can all become a monolithic ‘other’

4. consistent support for palestine: palestine has become a symbol of colonial subjugation and a rallying cry for resistance to global systems of oppression. it’s obvious that no amount of political or economic finagling can change that. people are not their governments or regimes, many of which are installed and protected by the colonizing west. the palestinian flag is a f—k you to censorship, political blackmail, and economic arm twisting

so whatever happens on wednesday friends, this is a historic moment. let’s remember it.

Farha on Netflix

i finally watched ‘farha,’ a film by jordanian director darin sallam, on netflix last night. i knew that it’s a film about the nakba (or the catastrophe) in which more than 700,000 palestinians were forcibly expelled from palestine in 1948, to make room for the jewish-supremacist state of israel.

i also knew that the israeli government has been applying pressure on netflix to censor/remove the film from their library. a bit funny considering the heretofore love affair between israel and netflix. you can read about it in belén fernández’s excellent piece ‘netflix and israel: a special relationship’ in which she shows how “netflix has been willingly subsumed into the israeli hasbara industry.”

the nakba is a vast and important episode in human history, yet sallam’s approach is small, specific, and spare. the story is told through the eyes of a 14-year old girl who becomes an unwitting witness to shocking atrocities committed by israeli soldiers. as we spend most of the film seeing the world through farha’s eyes, we too are called to witness and testify.

the experience transforms farha – gone are her dreams of studying in the city and investing her life in her community. the nakba was meant to destroy palestinian society, very deliberately, one bureaucratic and military step at a time, over multiple decades and generations.

israel’s war on ‘farha’ is enraging. not only because palestinians might be some of the few people in the world who are not allowed to tell the stories of their own dispossession and ethnic cleansing, but also because the facts of what we see in the film are not new. the terror (including theft, rape and massacres) wielded against palestinians during the nakba is well-known and well-documented, including testimonies by israeli soldiers who carried it out.

u’d have to live under a rock not to have heard of the deir yassin massacre, for example. many parts of tel aviv itself are built on depopulated palestinian villages.

in any case, the bots are out in huge numbers trying to sabotage farha’s ratings, so pls watch the film, ‘love’ it on netflix (two hearts), make an imdb account, give the film 10 stars, go to the film on google and letterboxd and give it 5 stars. write a review if u like.

let’s make sure we see more stories by and about the oppressed and their histories, and less state propaganda packaged as art. we can make a difference.

interview & playlist | graphic ear

an interview i did for graphic ear (WAYO 104.3 FM) back in july of this year, is now online. it was so much fun to talk to sabra wood and share some of the music i enjoy. what i love most about interviews is that i get to talk about the people who make my work possible. here i talk about june foster, thom marini, rajesh barnabas, darien lamen, bleu cease and also faiz ahmed faiz.

i got to share music by abida parveen, naseebo lal, arif lohar, meesha shafi, chrisstie hynde, julien clerc, ultravox, mashrou’ leila, and stromae.

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.

Dasht-e-Tanhai – A Desert Soundscape

Dasht-e-Tanhai (The Desert of my Solitude) is one of my favorite poems. It was written by the great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I translated the poem in English more than a decade ago, in 2009. This year I took a recording of that translation and the original Urdu poem to Darien Lamen, a genius at sound design (and much else), and together we created the soundscape for Dasht-e-Tanhai. I wrote about the poem, my translation, and our collab in this piece. The audio and text were published today in The Markaz Review. This is the kind of work I love. Pls read the piece but most of all, listen to Dasht-e-Tanhai here.

“To me it’s a love poem brimming with scents, sounds, landscapes, and textures. It speaks to movement and physical phenomena, to disconnection and union. Perhaps to the cyclical nature of life itself. Faiz wrote the poem while in prison, from a place of sensory deprivation and seclusion, and therefore all the physical world’s vividness and intensity are contained in his words. The poem demands more coloring in, more relief than words on a page.

[…] For me personally, as someone who is permanently déracinée, who lives in between homes and languages, and feels a particular ache for Pakistan, Faiz’s words of love and wistfulness set off untold emotions. I tried to read Dasht-e-Tanhai in Urdu at the Spirit Room, in Rochester, New York, in 2018. I could see my parents and husband in the audience. The import of releasing Urdu poetry into a wintry space, a world away from the fragrant jasmine Faiz describes, overwhelmed me. This recording is a way to be able to say all the words, finally.”

Photo by Rabah al-Shammary

Article in Newsday about our exhibition

Article in Newsday about our exhibition at Westbury Arts:
“Honoring the Past and Creating the Future”

WHEN | WHERE Through May 27, 2-6 p.m. Friday and 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Westbury Arts, 255 Schenck Ave.

Six Long Island women artists whose cultural heritages stretch across the globe share works that reference identity, immigration, history and fantasy. In her “This Heirloom” series, Brookhaven artist and filmmaker Mara Ahmed creates layered images full of texture, color and memories – some remembered, some imagined.
“Art,” she stated, “allows us to imagine alternative futures”

More here.

#asianamericanpacificislander #asianamericanpacificislanderheritagemonth #artexhibition #openingreception #westburyarts #westbury #longisland

Meet the Storytellers Behind The Warp & Weft

Last week on April 21st, 11 writers and artists from the Warp & Weft met one another on Zoom and shared important insights about their stories. We had storytellers joining us from Gaza/Palestine, the Gambia, Ireland, California and New York. It was a rich and dynamic discussion. Multidimensional – for the personal is always political. Pls check it out and visit the Warp & Weft [Face to Face] at Rochester Contemporary Art Center. It will be on until May 7th.

Meet the storytellers behind The Warp & Weft

On April 21st at 6pm EST, join Rochester Contemporary Art Center for a virtual conversation with The Warp & Weft writers, artists and activists. They will share their reflections about 2020 and the inspiration/process behind their stories. Together they will help highlight the importance of archiving diverse voices and the crucial role storytelling can play in times of uncertainty and upheaval.

Our speakers will connect with us from Gaza (Palestine), the Gambia, Ireland, Oakland (California), Rochester (New York) and Long Island. Registration is necessary. Pls register at the RoCo website.

Speakers (in alphabetical order):

Ashwaq Abualoof
Darien Lamen
Deema K. Shehabi
Erica Bryant
Ian Layton
Kaddijatou Fatty
Karen Faris
Quajay Donnell
Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp
Selena Fleming
Zoë Lawlor

The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] at RoCo

In 2020 and later in early 2021, I was honored to work with an international group of truth-tellers, writers, poets, artists and activists who shared their personal stories and reflections. We built a multilingual archive together called the Warp & Weft, because it wove the threads of our thoughts and emotions together. Now a year later, the Warp & Weft [Face to Face] is coming to Rochester Contemporary Art Center as a multimedia exhibition. It opens on April 1st with an artist’s talk at 6:30pm. You will be able to meet some of the brilliant storytellers at a Zoom event on April 21st starting at 6pm. And you will have a chance to see the exhibition at RoCo until May 7th. This is beyond exciting – I hope that you can join us!

‘Visit The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] at RoCo and immerse yourself in a colorful tapestry of stories. You can social distance, yet walk through the material expression of the archive and experience the beauty of human ideas and kinship.’

Thank you Bleu Cease, Rajesh Barnabas, and the RoCo team for all the hard work in bringing this project to life.

#thewarpandweft #thewarpweft #thewarpweftfacetoface #thewwf2f #multilingualarchive #archive #storytelling #oralhistories #yearofthepandemic #roco137 #multimedia #multimediaexhibition #maraahmedstudio #maraahmed

Lost or Found

So proud of this beautiful conversation and exchange of memories, places, languages and photographs between myself and my dearest friend Claudia Pretelin (an accomplished art historian). Thank you to Kathleen Kern for her editing support and to Celeste Schantz for publishing this gorgeous issue. Always an honor to work with brilliant women <3

From Lost or Found, in Mason Street Literary Magazine:

‘The following is a portion of the correspondence between Mara Ahmed and Claudia Pretelin. Ahmed is an interdisciplinary artist and activist filmmaker based on Long Island, New York. Claudia is an art historian, independent researcher, and arts administrator based in Los Angeles, California. The two women collaborated on several projects, starting with Current Seen, Rochester’s biennial for contemporary art. In 2020, Claudia interviewed Ahmed for Instruments of Memory, a site she curates and which documents conversations with women in the arts. As a response, Ahmed decided to interview Pretelin about her work, but in the form of a dialogue about art, memory, language, and becoming. They hope to continue this conversation over the years and capture the continuing shifts in their lives and work. Their correspondence is a collage of text, images, and references both literary and cultural. It is intimate and global, straddling distances between Mexico, Pakistan, Belgium and the US.‘

What Rashida Tlaib Represents

a profile of @rashidatlaib by the brilliant rozina ali in the @nytimes. we are on the cusp of change.

‘During the 1990s the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization, along with the United States, agreed that the best solution to the conflict was the establishment of two states: a sovereign Palestine and a sovereign Israel coexisting side by side. Though the borders have never been agreed upon, the two-state outcome remains a “core U.S. policy objective,” according to the State Department. But since then, settlements have grown steadily, while military occupation of the Palestinian territories continues. Today, nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers occupy land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which has not only cut off some residents’ access to water and electricity but also left Palestinians with less — and more fragmented — territory for a Palestinian state in any hypothetical future negotiation. This has led Middle East experts like Zaha Hassan from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Steven Cook from the Council on Foreign Relations and commentators like Peter Beinart to publicly give up on a two-state solution as a fair or realistic outcome and turn toward what was once considered a radical prospect in the debate: a single democratic state with equal rights for Arabs and Jews.

Tlaib didn’t seem to have a firm view on the best road to peace before her election. During her 2018 campaign, the liberal pro-Israel group J Street endorsed her candidacy based on a meeting and a policy paper that her team submitted, which argued that a two-state outcome, while increasingly difficult to achieve, was the best aim. Soon after, in an interview with the left-wing magazine In These Times, she reversed herself, questioning the two-state solution. After seeking clarification from Tlaib about her position, J Street pulled its endorsement. By the time Tlaib reached Washington, she was the only member of Congress to publicly back a single, fully democratic state.’

#rashidatlaib #rashidatlaibisabadass #rashidatlaibisright #supportrashidatlaib #palestine #palestinewillbefree #rozinaali #ethicaljournalism #noaidforisrael #bds #bdsmovement