interview with mats grorud and dr. dina matar

had the honor of interviewing filmmaker mats grorud (who directed ‘the tower’) and dr. dina matar (chair of the centre for palestine studies at SOAS) for witness palestine film festival today. a brilliant conversation that we hope to share soon. went for a walk to port jefferson afterwards and got a chocolate ganache raspberry cake from la bonne boulangerie. i’m sold on long island folx. all i need now is for all my friends to move here.

my artwork for roco’s 6 x 6 exhibition

happy to share that the two digital collage prints i sent to Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s famous transnational 6×6 exhibition have been purchased! called ‘stepping into spring’ part I and II, they were created earlier this year with dreams of warmer weather, lush color, nature, and long walks on long island. the exhibition/sale is still on! visit www.roco6x6.org to buy wonderful, affordable art!

Mon Plukami par Paul Couturiau

i’d like to share a new story from the warp & weft today – a story that means a lot to me personally.

on feb 1st this year, my favorite teacher left this world unexpectedly. i was heartbroken. the force of my reaction surprised me. there is so much more to us than meets the eye, even our own internal eye.

there are 30 trillion cells in the human body. there are multiplicities, temporalities, and mysteries buried inside of us. there is memory in each cell. we might not remember what someone means to us, until the body reminds us, by reviving thoughts and emotions – the messy, gelatinous stuff we’re made of.

here is a beautiful tribute to our monsieur maurer written by his best friend of 65 years, the wonderful belgian writer Paul Couturiau. pls listen to/read this story of deep friendship.

We Do Language

I presented a paper called ‘We Do Language’ today, words from Toni Morrison’s Nobel lecture. So happy I was able to include the following voices, beauty, wisdom and poetry. I’ve gotta admit, I’m loving Zoom:)

Works Cited:

-Anam Cara by John O’Donohue
-Demain dès l’aube by Victor Hugo
-Le dormeur du val by Arthur Rimbaud
-Dasht e Tanhai (In the desert of my solitude) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
-Light at the Edge of the World by Wade Davis
-Linguistic Imperialism: Colonial Violence through Language by Ananya Ravishankar
-Dreaming in Gujarati by Shailja Patel
-A discourse on colonialism by Aime Cesaire
-Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe
-Memory for Forgetfulness by Mahmoud Darwish
-Toni Morrison’s Nobel lecture

Videos:

-Le Mot Juste by Mara Ahmed
-Dasht e Tanhai as sung by Iqbal Bano
-Ngugi wa Thiong’o Interview: Memories of Who We Are

Images:

-A language family tree in pictures, The Guardian
-The emperor Akbar receiving Sultan Adam Gakkar, part of the Akbar-nama, illustrated late in Emperor Akbar’s reign
-Photograph from Mara’s family archive, Brussels
-Women in a Garden on a Moonlit Night, 1744 India, artist unknown, ink and watercolor on paper
-Still from Peau d’âne, a French musical film directed by Jacques Demy, with Catherine Deneuve and Jean Marais
-Abdur Rahman Chughtai (Pakistan, 1897-1975) Spinning Wheel, Etching on paper
-Abdur Rahman Chughtai (Pakistan, 1897-1975) Maiden contemplating moths at a flame, Watercolor on card
-Amrita Sher-Gil (Hungary/India, 1913-1941) Bride’s Toilet, 1937
-Jamdani sari, 20th century, the only surviving variety of muslin that uses coarser threads with traditional motifs, as woven by master-weaver Haji Kafiluddin of Rupganj, Dhaka, photo: Shahidul Alam, Drik Photographs
-Watercolor with two women from Thar (Sindh, Pakistan) by Ali Abbas
-A scene from “SpiNN,’’ Shahzia Sikander’s 2003 digital animation
-Bachi Devi (India, contemporary artist) Peacock on tree, Folk art from the Indian village of Madhubani
-Toni Morrison. Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Bettman/Corbis.

ARTs + Change Conference

I was planning to put a trailer together for my new film ‘The Injured Body,’ but at close to 7 min, it’s more like a preview. This is the first time that people will get a glimpse of all the interviews we did (w 17 remarkable women) and the gorgeous dance performances we shot. I will be showing this never-before-seen, brand new material at a free online conference day after tomorrow, June 3, at 8pm.

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, Inc., Create A Space Now, and Rochester Fringe Festival.

I will be talking about The Injured Body and so much more. It will be multimedia, as usual, with clips from the documentary and the premiere of a film preview.

Will present on opening night, June 3rd, at 8pm. The conference runs June 3-6 and is completely free. Pls register.

The Tower – Interview with Filmmaker

Friends, I am pleased to return to the Witness Palestine Film Festival, on Sunday June 13 at 3pm, to interview filmmaker Mats Grorud and the Chair of the Centre for Palestine Studies at SOAS, Dr. Dina Matar. We will be talking about ‘The Tower.’

This is an important time to learn about Palestine and become a part of the global solidarity movement. You can watch the film on Amazon.

I was one of the activists who helped create the WPFF in 2011. Was on the organizing team for 7 years, so it’s an honor to be back. Hope to see you then!

THE TOWER: This beautifully animated film tells the story of Wardi, a young Palestinian girl who lives with her family in the Lebanese refugee camp where she was born. Her beloved great-grandfather, “Sidi,” was one of the first people to settle in the camp after being exiled from his home and homeland, Palestine, in 1948. When Sidi gives Wardi the key to his old house back in the Galilee, she fears he may have lost hope of someday returning home. As she searches for Sidi’s lost hope around the camp, she collects her family’s testimonies, from one generation to the next. An uplifting film that captures the story of Palestine through four generations.

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.