Root To Leaf by Missy Pfohl Smith

i’d like to share something beautiful this morning. as u know, the warp & weft is an audio archive of stories about 2020, the first of its kind i believe. it weaves together many voices, languages, and POVs. it also includes responses by artists to stories that moved them. the warp & weft is an ongoing project, and today i’d like to share a new artistic/dance response by Missy Pfohl Smith. i am honored that she used my story, about the non-linearity of time and the connectedness between all that we call life, as inspiration for this gorgeous, organic piece. it’s called ‘root to leaf.’ pls watch. this is my story if u’d like to hear it.


Exterminate All the Brutes: a critique by Mara Ahmed

i wrote this piece in the middle of the bombing of gaza. it’s a critique of raoul peck’s “exterminate all the brutes” and it pivots on his terse (and highly problematic) treatment of palestine. it got published by mondoweiss today. i know that a lot is going on right now that’s urgent, but i also think it’s more important than ever to root out liberal zionism from what’s considered the left:

No, Palestine is not complicated, Mr. Peck. It’s settler colonialism unfolding “live” before our eyes. As the Nakba continues in 2021, with full on ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah and war crimes in Gaza, it’s more egregious than ever to hide behind evasive language or recycled Zionist tropes. More here.

there is a ceasefire but what’s next?

there is a ceasefire in place at the moment with a break in the bombing of gaza, thank god, but that does not change the reality of settler colonialism, ongoing ethnic cleansing, apartheid, an illegal blockade, military occupation, the imprisonment of children, checkpoints that negate freedom of movement, and non-stop human rights violations. this has been going on, in various forms, since 1948.

it’s been painful to read posts on social media, by well-meaning people who couch their support in abstract language, never mention israel as the aggressor/colonizer, or engage in bothsidesism (pray for both sides, mourn lives lost on both sides, there are extremists on both sides, etc). essentially, they are affirming the equivalent of ‘all lives matter.’

the majority of people have been silent which is even more unsettling.

consider this:

israel has one of the best equipped militaries in the world (thx to our tax dollars), palestinians do not have an army, air force or navy. they don’t control their borders, with no sovereign title over the west bank or gaza strip. this is why we see the obscene disparity in numbers of people killed and wounded.

another set of numbers might be helpful:

per capita GDP for gaza: $876
per capital GDP for israel: $34,185

gaza is sealed from all sides by israel. every few years they ‘cut the grass’ by bombing one of the most densely populated areas in the world. then they don’t allow concrete in, so palestinians can’t rebuild their homes. materials needed to construct vital water infrastructure are not permitted either so there’s a chronic water crisis in gaza. israel limits the amount of electricity gaza can access per day. they even restrict the amount of calories allowed for its population by blocking food.

another interesting fact:

children constitute about half of gaza’s population. the median age is 17.

there is no reason for not knowing – this information is freely available, a lot of it provided by the UN.

i look at this media/social media landscape and understand why grotesque crimes against humanity have been possible in history. it’s easy to look back and decry slavery and genocide. it’s much harder to recognize it, speak about it, and resist it while it’s happening.

those who have spoken up, written posts, made calls, protested, declared their position and invited wrath from their communities, thank you. we see you and we find hope in ur integrity. “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” inshallah.

Activate, Reimagine, Transform UArts Conference

Friends, I am honored to be a part of ‘Activate, Reimagine, Transform,’ a virtual gathering hosted by the UR Institute for the Performing Arts, in partnership with the UR Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, 540WMain, Create A Space Now, and Rochester Fringe Festival. I will be talking about The Injured Body: a film about racism in America and so much more. It will be multimedia, as usual, with clips from the documentary and hopefully, the premiere of a film trailer. I will be presenting on opening night, June 3rd, at 8pm. The conference runs June 3-6 and is completely free. Pls register here.

The Warp & Weft – Eleventh Set of Stories

Today on Mother’s Day, we release the last set of Warp & Weft stories brought to u via our collab with Rochester Contemporary Art Center! In this special set, we have a story about the reassessment of one’s life by Gulrukh Syed, another about the draw of the open road by Saira Murtza, a poetic story about introspection/extrospection by Rajesh Barnabas, and one about a life in theater by Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp. Finally, a weaving together of all the stories thru an art object created by Karen Faris. Read, listen, look at maraahmedstudio.com. This is an ongoing project – pls stay engaged and let us know if u want to share a story!

Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:

What Makes Us Who We Are by Gulrukh Syed
Over the last few months, I have allowed myself to pause a little and introspect, to understand my own mind. I guess the pandemic and a few major changes in my relationships have forced me to do so. [Photo: Jahanzeb Sye

The Open Road – Discovery, Freedom and Healing by Saira Murtza
I have often wondered why traveling down an open road provides me with a certain freedom and healing seldom felt elsewhere. Though we may travel down the same highways, and drive past the same mile markers, the aging structures and familiar visited rest stops, each of us imprints our own impressions of a world based on our own experiences, leaving footprints of our own story in the landscape.

The End of Isolation/Introspection Extrospection by Rajesh Barnabas
So I must confess, I am everything. I am the galaxy of galaxies. Agreed that philosophers have wrongly pointed out the errors of my theorem, that testimony is unscientific, that knowledge only arrives when two or more people can experience it. But I tell you, I am the universe. [Photo: Megha Barnabas]

A Life in Theater by Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp
I was driving today listening to a random playlist when a song from ‘Les miserables’ began to play. I found myself overcome with emotion. While music often impacts me, it wasn’t that. [Photo: Cheryl Adams Johnson]

The Warp and Weft Of It All by Karen Faris: An artistic response to the archive

A Thin Wall now free on the Bandra Film Festival channel

Dear friends, A Thin Wall is now free to watch on the Bandra Film Festival channel on YouTube. Produced by Surbhi Dewan and myself and shot on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, it is our love letter to all those who were lost and displaced, forced to leave home and cross colonial lines. From the wonderful review by @ind.igenous: “Filmmaker Mara Ahmed’s documentary, ‘A Thin Wall’ is a haunting and thought-provoking account of the partition. Strung together are stories, memories and experiences of those who suffered, leaving behind what they called home, plunging into the unknown. Yet, like wilted flowers inside an old book, love still remains on each side of the border. The documentary reminds one of Zarina Hashmi’s art, of a constant search for home, and the pain of separation.”

The Warp & Weft – Tenth Set of Stories

4 new Warp & Weft stories today! A gorgeous poem by Roja, a story about colorful human passions by Katherine Denison, another about rivers and community from Limerick, Ireland, by Zoe Lawlor, and a story about personal growth by Yvonne Colton. Finally, an artistic response to the archive from Vermont by Delia Robinson. Pls listen, read, look at maraahmedstudio.com ??

Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:

Visit The Warp & Weft archive today for the second to last release of 4 new audio stories curated by Mara Ahmed! Click over to maraahmedstudio.com and listen to:

Fall Theatrics by Roja
Fall colors collapse
on my peeling deck
tired leaves on stage
with makeup
mimic my struggles

Bad Monk by Katherine Denison
We bond in community by place and age, by race, size, education, skills, then into self-selected groups by passions. Fish and Gun Clubbers. Skydivers. When I’m lucky, I meet someone whose base group has burst into glittery bits of divine attention. Extreme pleasures. Beautiful time-benders. Finding secret selves is my life’s joy. [Photo: Julie Gelfand, Gelfand-Piper Photography]

This River by Zoë Lawlor
I live in a small city in the midwest of Ireland, Limerick, it wouldn’t be a city in many countries but it is here, in this small one, and it is my home. Outside my work I’m involved in a lot of activism, in Palestine solidarity, anti-war activism, refugee and migrant support and anti-racism work here. [Photo: Donal Higgins]

Change Starts With Me by Yvonne Colton
I remember growing up as a young girl in the 90s obsessed with Disney princesses and the classic damsel in distress mentality. I would swoon over the dashing princes and men who would save the day, and of course my life wouldn’t be complete without the color pink! [Photo: Adam Eaton]

Bridget’s Concert by Delia Robinson: An artistic response to the archive

The Warp & Weft is a multilingual archive of stories that seeks to capture the 2020 zeitgeist, curated by interdisciplinary artist and activist filmmaker @mara__ahmed.

A Thin Wall free on YouTube

Dear friends, A Thin Wall, a Neelum Films documentary co-produced by Surbhi Dewan, that tells the story of the partition of India through oral histories and is shot on both sides of the Pakistan-India border, will be part of the Bandra Film Festival (a collab between Film Karavan and YouTube) starting May 5th! It will be free to watch for 3 months! Visit the Bandra Film Festival channel on YouTube and enjoy the film.

The Warp & Weft – Ninth Set of Stories

4 new Warp & Weft stories today! one about having a baby in the midst of a pandemic by Nabeeha Chaudhary, another in French about an exceptionally gifted dog by Sab Le, a reflection on the nature of time by yours truly, and one about connection and imagination at a time of isolation by Arseniy Gutnik. Finally, a moving artistic response to the archive by the beautiful Indian artist Rollie Mukherjee. Listen, read, look here.

Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:

Visit The Warp & Weft archive today for the release of 4 new audio stories curated my Mara Ahmed! Click the link maraahmedstudio.com and listen to:

Hello Baby, Welcome To A Whole New World by Nabeeha Chaudhary
I went in for a routine ultrasound in March, a couple of weeks before the baby was expected. Covid panic was just setting in, in Austin, and toilet paper was disappearing off the shelves. The doctor chatted with us about which grocery stores were better stocked and soon we were good to leave. [Photo: Massan Photography]

Babou par Sabine Lebrun
Babou by Sabine Lebrun: I have several animals, dogs and cats, but Babou is an exceptional dog. She is an old dog and I truly dread the time of her departure, because she has incredible empathy for dogs, humans, and also members of other species.

Connectedness by Mara Ahmed
Although I’ve always revolted against linearity, I think I began to engage seriously with the concept of time during the fall of 2019, when I introduced my students to Afrofuturisms. [Photo: Aitezaz Ahmed]

Connection, Isolation, and Imagination by Arseniy Gutnik
During this pandemic, I have been thinking about connection and isolation. The new normal of quarantines and lockdowns has impacted my connections with people, and heightened my awareness of connecting with myself.

Barbs Inside My Flesh by Rollie Mukherjee: An artistic response to the archive

The Warp & Weft – Eighth Set of Stories

4 new Warp & Weft stories today! One about the strangeness of MMXX by Noelle Mirabal-Evans, wonderful reflections in Hindi by Surbhi Dewan, a story about birding and the northern cardinal by Kay Saleem, and another about rupture and repair by Yan Lehmann. Finally, a beautiful artistic response by Sarah Sills. Listen, read, look here.

Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:

Head over to maraahmedstudio.com and listen to the newest stories from The Warp & Weft archive!

MMXX: Strange Times by Noelle Evans
You know, two thousand twenty in Roman numerals is M-M X-X. Double M double X. I’ve decided to refer to this year in this way for as long as it serves me. What a year it was for the fall of the Roman Empire. Right? It just feels fitting. [Photo: Madelyn Bradt]

Just Some Thoughts by Surbhi Dewan
Two thousand and twenty. As the year comes to an end, it feels like not much was accomplished. And yet, this year will stay with us for many years to come. I still can’t believe how in March, the whole world came to a standstill. The whole world frozen in time, as all of us retreated into our homes together.

My Spark Bird by Kalsoom Saleem
A spark bird is the bird that triggers an interest in birding or bird watching. For me it was the northern cardinal. [Photo: Zidaan Aamer]

Rupture and Repair By Ian Layton
It is on those particularly still and heavy days that I sit and remember the birth of the universe. The memory contained in my every cell. My mind’s eye catches the moment when life burst forth and set us on this divine course. [Photo: Evan Zachary]

Spark Feather by Sarah Sills: An artistic response to the archive

The Warp & Weft – Seventh Set of Stories

4 new Warp & Weft stories today, including a stunning poem by Deema Shehabi, a story in Urdu about the meaning of life by Ayesha Javed, another about the books and people that shape us by Cathy Salibian, and a look at physics and the nature of reality by Shamoun Murtza. Finally, a beautiful musical response by Tom Davis. Listen and read here.

Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:

You can now experience the newest set of stories from The Warp & Weft archive at maraahmedstudio.com

At Cathedral Grove: A Treatise on Vanishing by Deema K. Shehabi
Afternoon dialects beneath a redwood canopy: two children skip ahead; their feet grind the ground, crushing ferns, tearing tenebrous skulls of leaves. They giggle, while a vanishing world lies ahead of them. The spot where the sun abandons is where the light hangs briefly beneath a shoulder blade, then spreads. [Photo: Omar F. Khorsheed]

The Purpose of Life by Ayesha Javed
We are living in strange times. Hundreds of thousands of people have left this world on account of the pandemic. Their lives were just as valuable as yours or mine. This should be a moment of deep reflection for all of us.

The Right Words by Cathy Salibian
My oldest book is a small red hardcover of David Copperfield. I was maybe twelve years old when my father reached to a shelf in his study, pulled down that book and said to me a little shyly, “I see that you like to read. Maybe you will like this. I read it when I was just a little older than you.” [Photo: Kate Kressmann-Kehoe]

If A Tree Falls In The Forest by Shamoun Murtza
I’ll start with the disclaimer that I am not a Ph.D. My formal education in Physics reached its zenith with my concentration in Applied Physics for my bachelor’s degree. But I never stopped searching for the truth about the nature of our universe. Listen at your own risk, you have been warned.

The Sound Of Falling by Tom Davis: A musical response to the archive

The Warp & Weft: Sixth Set of Stories

4 new Warp & Weft stories today! A story in Urdu about the joys of volunteering by Fabeha Fazal, another about the solace of seclusion by Allyson Perkins, a story about lessons learned from the #BLM uprising by Nate Baldo, and one about the congregation of community and what we can learn from queer elders by Shirly Bahar. Finally, a gorgeous dance response by María José Rodríguez-Torrado. Listen, read, watch here.

Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:

Head over to maraahmedstudio.com and listen to the newest stories from The Warp & Weft archive!

My Story In My Own Words by Fabeha Fazal
I would like to share some life experiences with you that might be worth sharing. I was born in Delhi and brought up in Aligarh. My dad was a professor at Aligarh Muslim University. We were raised with the idea that life had two important goals: acquiring the highest education possible and savoring the best food.

Consolation in Isolation by Allyson Perkins
Reticent was a word my mom used to describe me. I remember she said it with ease as if it were just a matter of fact. She was speaking to my kindergarten teacher who had growing concerns about my ability to socialize. [Photo: Rebekah Ostrander]

A Moral Reckoning by Nathaniel Baldo
The ongoing Black Lives Matter uprising has helped further my recognition of the depth of structural racism and bigotry here in Rochester and across the country. I grew up in Brighton, New York, an adjacent, relatively affluent suburb. I’ve tried to take time and reflect on messages and boundaries that were taught from an early age… [Photo: Adam Eaton]

February 2020: On Fire by Shirly Bahar
February 2021 marks 1 year since we last went to the movies. Remember going to the movies – that act of coming together as an audience, a short-term congregation of community, to share the experience of spectatorship for a couple of hours. On this one year anniversary, I am reflecting back on that experience, trying to retrieve what we have taken with us, as well as left behind us, on our last night so far at the movie theater.

Nostalgia (longing) by María José Rodríguez-Torrado: A dance response to the archive

Islamic Feminisms, Alternative Lifeworlds, Decoloniality

Dear friends, next week, on April 14 at 10:25 am EST, I will be teaching U of R students an online class on ‘Islamic Feminisms, Alternative Life-worlds, Decoloniality.’ Tanya, whose class I am teaching, has been kind enough to open it up to everyone. My presentation will have some kick-ass ideas (articulated by kick-ass women like Alia Al-Saji, Saba Mahmood, and Francoise Verges). It will have stunning artwork created by POCs and video clips that will spark an interesting discussion. I am linking to some of the reading materials in comments. Pls let me know if you’d like to join us and I will send you the zoom link as soon as we have one. Hope you can make it!