gadot as cleopatra

a friend asked me to speak to her class about feminism and islam, something i’ve written about, so i’ve been refreshing my reading of texts by three spectacularly incisive women of color – saba mahmood, houria boutelja and francoise verges. the timing could not be better as the controversy over casting gal gadot, a white israeli actress, in the role of cleopatra continues on social media.

i know this will ruffle feathers, but i’ve been meaning to write this since the new ‘wonder woman’ came out (also played by gal gadot). i grew up in the middle of europe, when wonder woman was on fire (albeit dubbed in french) and i have to say, it never did anything for me. i’ve read ad infinitum how wonder woman changed the lives of western/white women and i’ve always felt completely disconnected from that discourse. wonder woman, as invented by a white man and played by a skinny white woman, did not resonate with me. most of the time, she seemed to be awkwardly balancing herself while twirling, burdened with an impractical costume, and, i felt as a child, more limited in her powers than other super heroes. she did not represent strength to me. the bionic woman (also dubbed in french) seemed more sensible and badass than her.

it’s pretty fitting then that gal gadot, a supporter of IDF and settler colonialism, came to embody white feminism, its artifacts and imagery – something i am indifferent to.
in the same way cleopatra, as delivered by elizabeth taylor, felt sad and campy, so very campy, and failed to project female empowerment. she was obviously conceived and executed by a bunch of men in hollywood. now that we’ve come a long way, in terms of women’s rights, a group of white women want their chance to co-opt the story of an egyptian queen. i’m sure that their counterparts will be inspired, but the rest of us — brown, black, women from the east and the global south — will just have to do our own thing:)

My workouts

wanted to give a shout-out to my trainer Julie Zobel. with all the changes in my life – leaving a community that’s home to me, trying to settle in long island in the midst of a pandemic, being in a small space with all the books/objects that provide continuity, familiarity stored elsewhere, getting used to a different rhythm, pace, place, people and accent (!!!) – the one thing i’ve counted on are my workouts. we do them in a smallish space in my bedroom, but they’re still challenging, designed for me specifically, and never boring. all i use is a mat.

i trained with julie at a gym for a long time, and the transition to virtual workouts has been seamless.

it’s safer to exercise at home. message Julie Zobel to get more info.

The African Gaze

Amy Sall: This course is an exploration of post-independent / post-colonial visual culture in Africa (from the late 1950s onward). We will be looking at the ways in which artistic expression in the form of African cinema and photography engendered discourses concerning identity, power, and self-determination.

Colonial photography deprived Africans of agency, rendered them voiceless and classified them as subaltern. In colonial photography, African people were subjected to a physical positioning and gaze
which took away their autonomy and allowed western viewers to perceive them as primitive.

African photographers and filmmakers from just before independence and onward (and in some cases even earlier), were able to reclaim this power and allow their communities to see themselves as they were, and explore their social, economic, and political conditions from their own perspective.

Drawing from key texts to frame our discussions, as well as important works from influential African photographers and filmmakers such as Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keïta, Ousmane Sembène, Souleymane Cissé and others, we will identify the ways in which The African Gaze was instrumental in reclaiming power, visibility and dispelling colonial myths. More here.

Dividing the Indivisible: Revisiting Partition

THIS review!!! When someone sees, truly sees, your work.

A Thin Wall premiered in 2015, five years ago, but MUBI India just acquired it and made it ‘film of the day’ and Kriti: a development praxis and communication team have been screening it, so entire new audiences are watching it now. It’s more relevant than ever.

What was it like to make A Thin Wall, a film that took seven years to complete?

How does one make a film about ethnic cleansing and violence, yet stitch it together with the movement of delicate saris and dupattas, fabric that hugs and celebrates the bodies of women? How does one tell stories about loss and displacement yet make the language of that telling sing with poignant, thoughtful words articulated by poets, writers, photojournalists, historians and filmmakers? How does one jettison linearity and its oppressive demands for a structure loose enough, capacious enough, to contain multiple layers of pain, memory, politics, history, and emotion? How does one talk about ominous violence, yet intertwine it with hope, with dreams of a better future?

These were some of the contradictions, narratives and sensibilities that were woven together to create A Thin Wall.

Thank you Surbhi Dewan for being my partner in this and for trusting me with the stories of your family. Thank you Mitun Gomes, Zubair Tanoli and Adam Netsky for your lyrical cinematography, Gayane Okhota for breathtaking animation, and Hassan Zaman, Nivedhan Singh and Zeshan M Bagewadi for beautiful original music. Thank you John Siddique, Uzma Aslam Khan, Ajay Bhardwaj, Asim Rafiqui, Jimmy Engineer and Urvashi Butalia for lending your genius to this project.

Thank you to everyone who supported our crowdfunding campaign, worked on post-production, and helped in myriad other ways in Pakistan, India and the United States. Last but not least, thank you to the family and friends we interviewed, some of whom have left us already, and who spoke with such generosity, truth and courage. So grateful for all of you, and for being able to make films.

Read review here.

In conversation with the Filmmakers Mara Ahmed and Surbhi Dewan

Kriti Film Club is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting as part of its Weekend Watch of the documentary, A THIN WALL
Topic: In conversation with the Filmmakers, Mara Ahmed and Surbhi Dewan
Date/ Time: Sunday, Aug 16, 2020 07:15 PM, India
Join our Zoom Meeting

A THIN WALL on MUBI

My film ‘A Thin Wall,’ co-produced by Surbhi Dewan, a documentary that highlights personal stories about the partition of India in 1947, will be streaming on MUBI India starting today! MUBI is a global film platform that provides a hand-curated selection of films on demand, in over 190 countries. Psyched:)
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MUBI #athinwall #documentary #neelumfilms #partitionofindia #pakistan #india #southasia #subcontinent #oralhistory #personalstories #womenempowerment #bordersseparatepeople

Neelum Films – Films by Mara Ahmed

Dear friends, after a huge amount of work by Mike Boas and myself, I would like to introduce the updated website for Neelum Films. It includes information about ‘The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America’ and gorgeous photographs taken by Erica Jae of the powerful women we interviewed. I will continue to transcribe those conversations, share quotes, and keep you posted on the film’s editing and post production. Pls visit us here and support our projects. Check out our new website here.

two part interview with instruments of memory

Repost from Instruments of Memory

“Inspired by the words in ‘Snowmen’, a poem by Agha Shahid Ali, This Heirloom explores notions of identity by recreating Mara Ahmed’s family history using photographs of her ancestors and juxtaposing them against South Asian architectural details. The vivid and colorful montages contrast with black and white images of Ahmed’s parents, Nilofar Rashid and Saleem Murtza, her maternal grandfather, Rashid Ahmad Qureshi, her maternal great grandfather, Adbul Majeed Qureshi, and her paternal grandmother, Niaz Fatima. By placing her subjects on the wrong side of the India-Pakistan border, Ahmed defies the dividing lines that separated territories more than seventy years ago.”
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Learn more in @mara__ahmed Mara Ahmed’s two-part interview (see comments)
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#instrumentsofmemory#womeninthearts#conversationswithwomeninthearts#artist#filmmakers#activist#filmmaker#MaraAhmed#ThisHeirloom#ThePartition

Embroidered Dreams by Mara Ahmed

Borderless: A conversation with Mara Ahmed, Part 2

We did this interview in early May, before George Floyd’s murder and the uprising that followed. But I’m glad Claudia asked me about the pandemic and its impact on immigrants and communities of color. Here is the second part of my interview with Instruments of Memory:

It is uncertain how we are going to overcome the recent health and economic crisis that has hit immigrant communities and people of color the hardest.

When I asked Ahmed what would be a way to engage and support these communities at this time, she admits: “This is a big question. Many have said how the pandemic is a great equalizer. Sadly, it’s quite the opposite. The pandemic throws into sharp relief the gross inequities and cruelties of a maniacally greedy, profit-oriented, dehumanizing capitalist system. Income and wealth inequalities in the US are obscene. The global distribution of wealth is even more distorted and disturbing. It’s a suicidal system.

At this time of crisis, we need to provide resources to the most vulnerable: large public projects that provide employment and housing, healthcare, testing and personal protective equipment for all, and equal access to technology, which is essential for remote learning, online work, and social distancing. People’s lives depend on this.

We should also keep in mind that pre-corona life is NOT what we want to return to. This is the time to imagine and organize a just, kind, and decolonial world. We must be wary of disaster capitalism and remain committed to our vision, even in the midst of a disorienting crisis. It can’t be said often enough that we are all in this together.” More here.

INSTRUMENTS OF MEMORY IG TAKEOVER – 5

Repost from @instrumentsofmemory:

As I end my Instruments of Memory IG takeover, I would like to thank my team. Filmmaking is all about teamwork and I am lucky to have collaborated with some exceptionally gifted artists and human beings on ‘The Injured Body.’

I will continue to edit and transcribe interviews and I will be posting images and thoughts on my IG. Please follow me @mara__ahmed to stay in touch and learn more about the film. At this historic moment in our country (and around the world), let’s vow to eradicate racism in our families and communities, but also within ourselves. A better world is possible.

Thank you once again to Instruments of Memory and Claudia Pretelin for this wonderful opportunity.

Photographs of Rajesh Barnabas [Cinematography], Mariko Yamada [Dance Choreography], Erica Jae [Photography], Tom Davis [Musical Score], Imani Sewell [Soprano], Darien Lamen [Sound Design, Photo by Aaron Winters] and Jesus Duprey [Additional Camera]
(see more photos on IG)

Rajesh Barnabas

INSTRUMENTS OF MEMORY IG TAKEOVER – 4

Repost from @instrumentsofmemory:

From Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric:

‘Perhaps each sigh is drawn into existence to pull in, pull under, who knows; truth be told, you could no more control those sighs than that which brings the sighs about.
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The sigh is the pathway to breath; it allows breathing. That’s just self-preservation. No one fabricates that. You sit down, you sigh. You stand up, you sigh. The sighing is a worrying exhale of an ache. You wouldn’t call it an illness; still it is not the iteration of a free being.’

‘The Injured Body’ weaves together an alternative narrative strand told through dance and movement, mostly choreographed by Mariko Yamada. Since prejudice is largely a matter of reading bodies in particular ways and racism is received by and carried in the body, dance is the perfect medium to underline and explore the personal stories shared in the film.

Film stills with Mariko Yamada, Joyce Edwards, Nanako Horikawa, Andrea Vazquez-Aguirre Kaufmann, Cloria Iampretty, Sraddha Prativadi, Sejal Shah, María José Rodríguez-Torrado, Alaina Olivieri, Rosalie M. Jones, and Andrew David
Photography by Mara Ahmed @mara__ahmed

Mariko Yamada and Joyce Edwards. Photo by Mara Ahmed

INSTRUMENTS OF MEMORY IG TAKEOVER – 3

Repost from @instrumentsofmemory:

Claudia Rankine in ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’:
‘Yes, and the body has memory. The physical carriage hauls more than its weight. The body is a threshold across which each objectionable call passes into consciousness—all the unintimidated, unblinking, and unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived through…’

The women interviewed for ‘The Injured Body’ share stories of micro-aggressions and parse their cumulative effect on the mind and body, but they also describe their visions for a world without racism or violence. This is a crucial part of the film, as imagining a better world is an important step towards achieving it.

In order to include a diversity of voices, we interviewed women one-on-one but also in groups, where the conversation was more fluid and informal. Here are some of our panelists.

Luticha A Doucette, Marcella Davis, Khadija Mehter, Muna Lisa, Yogi Indrani, Pamela Kim, Tianna Mañón, Mercedes Phelan, and Erica Bryant
All photography by Erica Jae (see all photos on IG)

Luticha Doucette. Photo by Erica Jae