Etel Adnan: You know, sunsets are violently beautiful, I would say that they are so by definition, but there are lights, not even colorful in the habitual sense, lights elemental, mercurial, silvery, sulfurous, copper-made, that make us stop, then lose balance, make us open our arms not knowing what else to do, arrest us as if struck by lightning, a soft lightning, a welcome one. I wait for those lights, I know some of you do too, wherever you are, I mean when you are standing by an ocean, alone, within the calmness of your spirit. Be planetary.

[West Meadow Beach today]

goodbye dear robert

as we start the new year, i can’t help but reflect on the linearity of time (a western concept imposed on many of us). i hope to continue to struggle against that programming. in urdu, for example, kal means both yesterday and tomorrow. it’s the same word. there are no borders between the past, present and future.

we lost a dear friend and comrade yesterday, on new year’s eve. my friend Robert Navan. i went to ireland three times, in 2013, 2016 and 2018. each time i met robert. he always gave me a little tour, took me out for coffee and pastries, for cuban food and beer in the most authentic pubs (even though i stuck with lemonade) and had plenty of recommendations about what to do in dublin.

most importantly, robert supported my work via the progressive film club. they screened ‘pakistan one on one’ and organized a brilliant screening/community event for ‘a thin wall’ (one of the best post-screening discussions i’ve ever had). they also put together a retrospective of my work and showed all three documentaries, including ‘the muslims i know.’

how lucky, how amazing to have audiences engage with my work, on the other side of the pond, in a country that’s special to me. i have always been proud to say i have wonderful friends in ireland, all of them opposed to war and imperialism, all of them fervent supporters of justice in palestine. robert was/is one of them. an old school socialist who had been to cuba many times. he told the best stories. they will continue to be with me. how i will miss him. rest in power my friend <3

with robert navan, dublin, 2013

Fictions of Emancipation: Carpeaux Recast

Why I went to the Met and where I spent most of my time:

‘Organized around a single object—the marble bust Why Born Enslaved! by French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux—Fictions of Emancipation: Carpeaux Recast is the first exhibition at The Met to examine Western sculpture in relation to the histories of transatlantic slavery, colonialism, and empire.

Created in the wake of American emancipation and some twenty years after the abolition of slavery in the French Atlantic, Why Born Enslaved! was shaped by the enduring popularity of antislavery imagery, the development of 19th century ethnographic theories of racial difference, and France’s colonialist fascination with Africa. The exhibition explores the sculpture’s place within these contexts.’

The white male gaze, subjection and fetishization, colonialism and empire, the sexual component of enslavement (which was never separate from the work component according to co-curator Wendy S. Walters), the branding of works as anti-slavery to market France’s enlightenment, how values from past regimes continued to masquerade as liberalism, the depiction of “types” and the limits of the European imaginary, pseudoscientific theories of ethnography and phrenology, and more. I’ve never seen such politicization of art before in a major museum.

I chose to photograph ‘Why born enslaved!’ from the side, in profile, to focus on the woman’s vitality and sheer determination. Didn’t want to include the rope or exposed breast, an unsettling mix of violence and eroticism. More works in next post.

lunch with friends

on monday, lunch with lovely friends who happen to be my neighbors. one of them is a hollywood set designer and has worked on succession, julie & julia, spider-man, john wick, little children, and a million other films. her work goes all the way back to big and heartburn. 1 oscar, 8 nominations. pretty cool, no? when we met she asked me: ‘are u a member of the academy?’ i’ve never even considered such a question:)

what a day yesterday!

morocco beats portugal and makes history. the global south celebrates en masse. it’s also my birthday. i get to hear from lovely people i’ve known across decades and continents – primary and middle school in brussels, high school in islamabad, college in karachi, university in connecticut, filmmaking / activism / beloved community in rochester, new friends on long island, like-minded compadres on facebook, and family all over the world. my husband and i spend the day in nyc. we meet our kids and have dinner at ‘let’s meat’ in koreatown. after enjoying an excellent meal, we walk to my son’s apt, eat cake, play with the fabulous loulou, and watch ‘top gun: maverick’ together. how fun is that? thank u everyone for all the warmth, love and sweet wishes – i couldn’t be more grateful <3

meeting madeline

with the lovely madeline del toro churney at druthers coffee today. yes, it was a sunny day but a lot of what u see in this picture is madeline, full of knowledge, humor and light. one of my life’s greatest accomplishments is the connection/friendships with extraordinary people, esp women of color. thrilled to continue that tradition here on long island. madeline teaches anthropology at stony brook and i am excited to say, will be one of the panelists for a post-screening community discussion related to a new short film i will be working on next year. more soon.

part of nature

i try to take breaks in between editing (which requires sitting at a computer for long periods of time, staring intently at a screen).

it’s super windy today, so much so that temperatures feel 10 degrees lower than they are. the husband was too cozy reading his book, so i put on my hat and jacket, grabbed my ski gloves and went to west meadow wetlands reserve (next to our house) for a 45 min walk.

i half walked, was half carried by the wind. it was invigorating to feel its force on my body and skin. the trees around me were twisting in the same gusty gale, the grass flattened by it, combed with little bits of sunlight, a few obstinate leaves held on to their branches like yellow tongues licking the sky, everything imbued with a deceptively warm rusty glow.

the clouds waited patiently, capturing and refracting each shade and emotion. the sun finally set in a climactic scene, birds windsurfed overhead, deer walked by me as if it was the most natural thing in the world. what a beautiful home, our planet. it’s the lifeblood that activates our minds and bodies. grateful to be alive, to be present.

highlights from my playlist: tu aja (remix by DJ usman bhatti), yamaha (dacosta), more than this (roxy music), 1979 (the smashing pumpkins), island in the sun (weezer), and float on (modest mouse)