Category Archives: media

Borderless: A conversation with mara ahmed

The first part of my interview with the brilliant Claudia Pretelin for Instruments of Memory is here. Repost from @instrumentsofmemory

“Mara Ahmed is a Pakistani-American activist, artist, and independent filmmaker. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan, about seventeen miles from the Indian border. Her deeply formative migration pathway has informed her practice and has helped her develop a body of work that addresses notions of history, heritage, and tradition. Deeply connected with her roots and in constant dialogue with her contemporaneity and the political moment, Ahmed’s work creates art that subverts boundaries and connects different cultures with the universality of her topics.”

You can read interview here.

My interview with instruments of memory coming up in june

#Repost @instrumentsofmemory: In June, don’t miss a two-part interview with Long Island-based activist, artist, and filmmaker Mara Ahmed | @mara__ahmed .
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In conjunction with her production company Neelum Films, Mara has written and directed three documentaries The Muslims I Know, Pakistan One on One, and A Thin Wall. She is currently working on The Injured Body, a documentary about racism in America, focusing exclusively on the voices of women of color. Mara’s artwork is described by the artist as a multimedia fusion of collage work, photography, graphic art, and film. .
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instrumentsofmemory #womeninthearts #conversationswithwomeninthearts #artist #filmmakers #activist #filmmaker #MaraAhmed #artstories #ClaudiaPretelin #womenofcolor #documentary #comingsoon

A conversation with Mara Ahmed

Asian Pacific American Our Experience: Local Stories

Asian Americans is a sweeping 5-part historical series chronicling two centuries of evolving contributions and challenges experienced by Asian Americans in the United States. The series explores bold, new perspectives that recalibrate the way we look at those experiences, and reveals the vital role of Asian Americans in shaping American history and identity.’ [from Vivek Maddala who composed the music score for this series]

Episodes 1 & 2 premiered yesterday on PBS (broadcast and streaming), and Episodes 3, 4, & 5 premiere tonight (May 12) at 8 PM.

I was honored to be one of the local Asian Americans asked to share their stories and perspectives, as part of the collaboration between APAA (Asian/Pacific Islander/American Association of Greater Rochester) and WXXI. Thank you Mimi and Lily Lee for your continuing work in our community.

You can watch the spots, including my own, below. My only gripe is that, in my intro, I mentioned how I come from the Global South/colonized world and how that impacts my identity and work, which was edited out. But the rest is still here:)

Watch at this link.

The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World

Dear friends, I’m thrilled to share that I will be one of the women featured in a new exhibition, ‘The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World,’ inspired by the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and commemoration of the women’s suffrage movement.

The Changemakers will open on October 9, 2020 in the Riedman Gallery at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

It will be a community-curated exhibition that hopes to celebrate historical and contemporary women visionaries, trailblazers, inventors, social innovators, and entrepreneurs in western New York, through compelling, untold narratives. It will use Immersive, collections-rich spaces and hands-on experiences to give visitors new access to insights from the past, encourage gender equity in the present, and inspire a better future.

I will be there on Oct 8th! What a treat! #ChangemakersRoc

doing a tv spot for asian pacific american heritage month

working with #APAA (asian pacific islander american association of rochester) and #WXXI to celebrate asian pacific american heritage month. 

American Muslim Trailer

Excited about this upcoming documentary ‘American Muslim’ which reframes American history by making Muslims visible and telling their stories. For example, did you know about the Bilali Muhammad Document? It is a handwritten Arabic manuscript on West African Islamic law, written in the 19th century by Bilali Muhammad, an enslaved West African held on Sapelo Island, in Georgia.

unorthodox – my review

everyone’s been talking about netflix’s ‘unorthodox.’ i watched the mini series recently and i agree, it’s well written, well acted, well produced. it certainly grabs u from the get-go and keeps u interested all the way through.

there are some unsettling scenes and cringeworthy situations, but there are also moments that move and inspire, in particular the protagonist’s love of music and her need to express that dizzying sense of emotive freedom. it’s always satisfying to see a woman come into her own anyway. i get all that.
but as a muslim, who’s used to the west’s obsessive depictions of muslim women escaping their oppression, i am sensitive to certain tropes that others might not recognize.

i could easily imagine a similar netflix series (and there might be a dozen or more already) involving a muslim woman breaking away from her exotic/bizarre (not legible to western audiences), patriarchal/religious, sensational/shocking milieu, and the collective sigh of relief and exhilaration that it would produce in western viewers, along with plenty of self-righteous indignation.

for the women in question, whose stories are being shared, their journeys are arduous, hopeful, and steeped in unquestionable power. no doubt about it.

however, i cannot help but note the self-congratulatory, give yourself a pat on the back framing of this genre of drama.
the politics are never too subtle and sit so well, so cozily, with representations of the ‘sacred space’ occupied by first-world democracies, the ones with a superior, universal, liberal culture that loves progress, gay people and women.

‘unorthodox’ hit so many of those typical binaries that are supposed to help us differentiate between what’s civilized and what’s not.
eating pork is esty’s first discovery of the west’s attractive irreverence. it reminded me of an article i read recently about la fete du cochon in france which is used to celebrate french traditions and seen as pushback against muslim immigration. just to illustrate how bacon symbolizes western enlightenment.

i think perhaps esty ended up drinking alcohol as well which is also read as a mark of emancipation.

the club scene is a typical portrayal of a repressed character from a backward culture, uninitiated in the mind-bending freedom of drugs and collective grinding, who learns to finally relax and concludes the night with an empowering sexual encounter.

esty is becoming ‘liberated’ before our eyes, checking off each box on the white feminist checklist of things to do, in order to go from object (baby-making machine) to free agent with tons of individual freedom.

i’m not criticizing any of these actions in and of themselves (eating pork, drinking alcohol, clubbing or casual sex). women are allowed to make these decisions in whichever way they deem fit. but when they’re combined into a stereotypical, white feminist manifesto, i have to mention how recognizable it is, to us the ‘other’ people whose cultures are constantly measured against this very specific and predictable criteria.

just some thoughts:)

The ‘Sultana’s Dream’ Project by Chitra Ganesh and the Importance of Muslim Feminisms

i wrote this in the middle of our move, because it means that much to me.
a new exhibit based on the work of radical bengali feminist rokeya hossain is now at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (until june of this year). that’s something to rejoice, except that hossain’s muslim identity is completely erased in the discourse about the project both on MAG’s website as well as in artist chitra ganesh’s description of the work on her own website.

this erasure is particularly jarring at a time of anti-muslim progroms in india as well as the weaponization of the pandemic (it’s being called covid jihad) to stoke islamophobia.

here’s more.

Film Discussion to Explore Legacy of 1947 Partition, As Anti-Muslim Violence Surges In India

so a screening of ‘a thin wall’ followed by a community discussion at Douglass Auditorium at 36 King St. was cancelled on march 14th, in accordance with NYS coronavirus guidelines. we hope to reschedule some time in the future.

in the meantime, Darien Lamen spoke to Hibah Arshad, Thomas Gibson and i, and put together this excellent intro to the community conversation we hope to have. pls read/listen here.

white hypocrisy

with all due respect to football fans (including my son), the super bowl is one heavy-duty bit of commercial entertainment. an obscene embodiment of american excess. capitalism is pretty vulgar, my friends. so apart from racism and colonial hypocrisy, it’s a bit hard to understand the (white) abuse and panic triggered by shakira and J Lo’s performance. what did people expect? brittney spears?

mashrou leila’s roman

#lebanese #filmmaker Sonia Hadchiti visited my class today to talk about Mashrou’ Leila’s music video #roman and her own animation. as far as the music video, ‘roman’ is one of my absolute favorites and here is why

from Anastasia Tsioulcas: …there’s a lot of subtlety in both the text and the visuals to “Roman” that challenges stereotypes — from all comers. As the band explains, the women in the video are “styled to over-articulate their ethnic background, in a manner more typically employed by Western media to victimize them. This seeks to disturb the dominant global narrative of hyper-secularized (white) feminism, which increasingly positions itself as incompatible with Islam and the Arab world, celebrating the various modalities of Middle Eastern feminism.”