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

rest in power sidney poitier

one of the most defining, unforgettable, stunning moments in cinema. and history. sidney poitier. a life of firsts. one of the most beautiful and elegant actors to grace the screen. proud. masterful. charming. electric. with a spine of steel. a giant. no one can ever fill his shoes. a staggering loss. may he rest in power.

#sidneypoitier #cinema #history #definingmoments #giantofcinema #changedcinema #icon #sidneypoitierfilm #sidneypoitiermovies #hugeloss #thereisnoonelikehim

the long goodbye

‘the long goodbye’ with riz ahmed is a short film but so incredibly hard to watch. as he says: “it feels clear to me that this does very much feel grounded in reality, the reality of people’s fears, the reality of where we’re at…” the sequence of events shown in the film is already a reality in palestine, kashmir, india, china, burma and many other parts of the world. this is where we’re at.

google the long goodbye short film riz ahmed. it’s free to watch online including on youtube and vimeo.

You can watch my films online

Friends, I am delighted to share that in addition to ‘The Muslims I Know’ and ‘Pakistan One on One,’ you can also watch my third film online.

‘A Thin Wall’ (2015) is shot on both sides of the border, in India and Pakistan. Produced by myself and my friend, filmmaker Surbhi Dewan, it tells personal stories of the 1947 Partition. Surbhi and I interviewed our families and friends in order to capture their stories of loss and rupture, and their longing for home in what became another country.

Writer Namrata Joshi says about A Thin Wall: ‘Without intending to do so, the film makes one go beyond ruminating on the “us” and “them” narrative of 1947, when one country was torn apart to create two independent nations, forcing us to look at the fissures that continue to form and deepen more than 70 years later. The talk of “organised violence” and “systematic ethnic cleansing” back then reverberates in the present. It makes you wonder about the ghosts of the past mutating into newer entities of hatred, still using people as pawns. The film may not be about it, yet it makes the viewer confront this pervasive reality indirectly.’

The film is a collage of poetry, prose and images about the Partition by artists and writers such as John Siddique, Uzma Aslam Khan, Ajay Bhardwaj, and Asim Rafiqui.

With gorgeous animation by Gayane Bagdasarian and music by acclaimed singer songwriters Zeshan Bagewadi, Hassan Zaman and Nivedhan Singh.

Pls watch and support activist filmmaking! If you live in the US, Canada or UK, watch A Thin Wall on Amazon. Everywhere else, watch on Vimeo.

navigating the pandemic

so my story about moving from rochester to long island during the pandemic was published in a book! u can read it if u scroll down – link in comments. it’s called: musings on moving (in corona times)

book #navigatingthepandemic #collectionofstories #movingduringthepandemic #rochester #longisland #coronatimes #covid19 #pandemic #mystory #published #maraahmed