opening of the warp & weft [face to face] at roco

the opening of the warp & weft [ face to face ] at @roco137 was all about community. and the rochester community did not disappoint. so many people i love gathered in one space to listen to and connect with an archive of stories in all its splendid human diversity. thank u rochester <3 more pictures on instagram @mara__ahmed

#warpweft #warpweftf2f #thewarpweft #archiveofstories #audioarchive #storytelling #oralstorytelling #multilingualarchive #community #artandcommunity #rochestercontemporaryartcenter #rochesterny #artandactivism #wearethearchive

The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] opening on April 1st, 2022

Erica Bryant: Deep in the pandemic, Rajesh and I got an email from the great artist Mara Ahmed asking us each to write a story about what we were experiencing and to send her a recording of it. She wanted to capture the year in an oral storytelling project, an alternative communal tapestry, woven with words in diverse languages, from diverse people across the globe.

That was September 2020. In 2021, Mara published The Warp and Weft stories in an online archive that could be accessed while we were all separated because of the virus. Today, thank God, we can gather again. And The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] will open in person at Rochester Contemporary Art Center tonight, April 1, from 6-9 p.m. Mara will speak about her work at 6:30.

The pandemic stories that Mara collected from people from Pakistan to Belgium to Brighton, NY, will be heard in the gallery, set against a beautiful projection of the speakers’ portraits, like those you see below, that was made by Rajesh.

My story is about George Floyd and my great grandfather.

Rajesh’s is about isolation, introspection and extrospection.

You can hear our stories and the others at ROCO, 137 East Ave. Or online.
The exhibition at RoCo will be open through May 7.

Languages other than English

Languages other than English are rich and beautiful! Expand your mind and world.

Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:

When you visit The Warp & Weft [ Face to Face ] you will see and hear stories in Arabic, Bosnian, French, Hindi, Kashmiri, Spanish and Urdu. The Warp & Weft archive preferences each storyteller’s native language. While English translations will be available online and at arm’s length at the gallery, we’re excited to offer visitors an experience with languages they may not understand but whose sounds and script might invite them to learn more.

Excerpt from story by Surbhi Dewan featured in The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] opening April 1. #SoundOn

Artist Talk on April 1 at 630pm

I will be speaking at the opening on April 1st at 630pm! Exhibition opens at 6pm at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, 137 East Ave, Rochester.
Repost from @roco137:

Meet @mara__ahmed, the curator of The Warp & Weft archive!

Mara is an interdisciplinary artist, activist filmmaker, and founder of production company #NeelumFilms. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan and educated in Belgium, Pakistan, and the United States. Her work has been exhibited at galleries in New York and California, and her documentaries have been broadcast on @pbs and screened at international film festivals.

Mara is interested in dialogue across both physical and psychological boundaries. In 2017, she gave a Gara talk about the meaning of borders and nationalism entitled “The edges that blur.” Her first film, The Muslims I Know, premiered at the @eastmanmuseum, in 2008 and started a dialogue between American Muslims and people of other faiths. After this, Mara released her second film, Pakistan One on One (2011), and a third, A Thin Wall (2015), which premiered at the @bradfordlitfest, won a Special Jury Prize atthe Amsterdam Film Festival, and was acquired by @mubiindia.

Mara is currently working on The Injured Body, a film about racism in America, focusing exclusively on the voices of women of color.

The Warp & Weft [ Face to Face ], the physical rendition of Mara’s online audio archive, opens at RoCo on First Friday April 1 and continues through May 7. Read more on our website.

#TheWarpAndWeft #TheWarpAndWeftFaceToFace

Meet the storytellers behind The Warp & Weft

On April 21st at 6pm EST, join Rochester Contemporary Art Center for a virtual conversation with The Warp & Weft writers, artists and activists. They will share their reflections about 2020 and the inspiration/process behind their stories. Together they will help highlight the importance of archiving diverse voices and the crucial role storytelling can play in times of uncertainty and upheaval.

Our speakers will connect with us from Gaza (Palestine), the Gambia, Ireland, Oakland (California), Rochester (New York) and Long Island. Registration is necessary. Pls register at the RoCo website.

Speakers (in alphabetical order):

Ashwaq Abualoof
Darien Lamen
Deema K. Shehabi
Erica Bryant
Ian Layton
Kaddijatou Fatty
Karen Faris
Quajay Donnell
Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp
Selena Fleming
Zoë Lawlor

The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] at RoCo

In 2020 and later in early 2021, I was honored to work with an international group of truth-tellers, writers, poets, artists and activists who shared their personal stories and reflections. We built a multilingual archive together called the Warp & Weft, because it wove the threads of our thoughts and emotions together. Now a year later, the Warp & Weft [Face to Face] is coming to Rochester Contemporary Art Center as a multimedia exhibition. It opens on April 1st with an artist’s talk at 6:30pm. You will be able to meet some of the brilliant storytellers at a Zoom event on April 21st starting at 6pm. And you will have a chance to see the exhibition at RoCo until May 7th. This is beyond exciting – I hope that you can join us!

‘Visit The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] at RoCo and immerse yourself in a colorful tapestry of stories. You can social distance, yet walk through the material expression of the archive and experience the beauty of human ideas and kinship.’

Thank you Bleu Cease, Rajesh Barnabas, and the RoCo team for all the hard work in bringing this project to life.

#thewarpandweft #thewarpweft #thewarpweftfacetoface #thewwf2f #multilingualarchive #archive #storytelling #oralhistories #yearofthepandemic #roco137 #multimedia #multimediaexhibition #maraahmedstudio #maraahmed

From Lost or Found

‘I have been lucky so far. I have not lost anyone in my immediate family, although I have lost most of my aunts and uncles – my parents’ siblings. Living in the U.S., away from extended family, it is difficult to mourn loved ones back in Pakistan and make such losses real. It’s like being in a state of suspension – unmoored and unsubstantial. Like you, I have lost cities, continents, friends, homes, communities, and languages. Always there is this ache in one’s heart. A sorrowful mourning.
Recently, I lost Rochester, New York, a city I knew and loved for 18 years. A city where my kids grew up and where I became an activist filmmaker.’

From Lost or Found, my collab with art historian Claudia Pretelin, published in Mason Street Literary Magazine.

#masonstreet #literarymagazine #lostorfound #conversation #exchange #art #memory #places #languages #becoming #home #migration #mexico #pakistan #belgium #unitedstates #photographs #photography #images #collage #literature #culture #instrumentsofmemory #claudiapretelin #maraahmed

Lost or Found

So proud of this beautiful conversation and exchange of memories, places, languages and photographs between myself and my dearest friend Claudia Pretelin (an accomplished art historian). Thank you to Kathleen Kern for her editing support and to Celeste Schantz for publishing this gorgeous issue. Always an honor to work with brilliant women <3

From Lost or Found, in Mason Street Literary Magazine:

‘The following is a portion of the correspondence between Mara Ahmed and Claudia Pretelin. Ahmed is an interdisciplinary artist and activist filmmaker based on Long Island, New York. Claudia is an art historian, independent researcher, and arts administrator based in Los Angeles, California. The two women collaborated on several projects, starting with Current Seen, Rochester’s biennial for contemporary art. In 2020, Claudia interviewed Ahmed for Instruments of Memory, a site she curates and which documents conversations with women in the arts. As a response, Ahmed decided to interview Pretelin about her work, but in the form of a dialogue about art, memory, language, and becoming. They hope to continue this conversation over the years and capture the continuing shifts in their lives and work. Their correspondence is a collage of text, images, and references both literary and cultural. It is intimate and global, straddling distances between Mexico, Pakistan, Belgium and the US.‘

War Hurts Everyone Rally

Michael Boucher:

Grateful for all of the organizers and speakers who helped to put together the “War Hurts Everyone” rally tonight in front of the Federal Building. So many powerful stories of the intersections of the situation in Ukraine with so many other situations of injustice, displacement, occupation, oppression, human rights violations and war – all sharing threads of the abuse of power, racial capitalism and forms of imperialism.

Places like Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Palestine, Somalia, the strees of the United States (and so many other places) all require our activism and outcry. In so many places, it is our government, our multinationals, our weapons manufacturers, our fossil fuel industry and our military suppliers who have vested interests in these conflicts and displacements.

I know that Mara and Pamela were named organizers of today (thank you!) and I know that many, many others helped to put it together and took risks in speaking their truths so that we might witness the intersections and rise up collectively. War hurts everyone, yes, but it does not hurt everyone in the same way or to the same extent.

War Hurts Everyone

This is happening today with a list of brilliant speakers headed by Olena Prokopovych. At 5:00 PM, Federal Building in Rochester. Pls join us!

From our Press Release:

This rally will bring together frontline organizers, activists, and community members to highlight Rochester’s solidarity with Ukraine. Horrified by the atrocities perpetuated against the people of Ukraine and the discrimination and violence inflicted on African, Asian, and Caribbean students and citizens attempting to flee the war, activists will recognize that the struggle against war, militarism, and racism, transcends national boundaries be it in Ukraine, the United States, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, or Palestine.

Their inspiration will be drawn from movements advocating for a more just and equitable world, including the thousands of anti-war activists in Russia and Ukraine calling for an end to state-sponsored violence, the movements advocating for Black Liberation here in the US and around the world, and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine.

As the voices of those who have been directly affected by war, militarism, and racism must continue to be centered, a diverse group of speakers will share their experiences about how both war and resistance to invasion and occupation are presented through a racist lens. Western media and politicians have described Ukrainian refugees as intelligent, car-owning Europeans, distinguishing them from “migrants” from the Global South who are seen as a threat to European safety. This contrast in terminology plays out in real life when people of color are allowed to drown rather than reach fortress Europe.

Activists will locate the war on Ukraine within the broader context of imperial interventions, military adventurism, and the lucrative business of war. They will seek to draw attention to the defense industry raking in obscene profits by manufacturing weapons. In short, this rally aims to deepen the scope of discussions about what’s happening in Ukraine. Rather than a disconnected narrative that fails to make connections between global power structures and their violence on some of the most vulnerable people in the world, this rally will endeavor to model a cohesive and inclusive position that’s both explicitly anti-war and anti-racism.

For questions, pls contact Pamela Kim, Elora Kang, or myself.

a juror for the south asian film festival of montreal

this fall, i was honored to be one of the jurors for the south asian film festival of montreal, and i got to see some powerful documentaries. one of them is called ‘the ice cream sellers’ by bangladeshi filmmaker sohel rahman. it follows two children in a rohingya refugee camp in bangladesh, and tells the stories of many of its uprooted residents. the opening shots create this sharp contrast between the stunning beauty of the fields and hills in bangladesh and the destitution of people who have witnessed hideous violence. the film’s cinematography is beautiful. its quiet, long shots allow us to take in the immensity of the situation. it’s not manipulative, with no music or fancy editing. rather it’s a sobering ethnographic portrait of royingya refugees. the film is raw, truthful, moving.

the little boy, ayas, at the center of the film (the ice cream seller), seems much older than his years. there is a sadness and anger in him. he and asia, his sister, are deeply traumatized by what they have experienced and by the absence of their father. genocide does not just affect those who are exterminated, it produces ongoing generational trauma.

the festival ends on november 28th so there are still a few days left to watch a large number of new films, many of them for free. google south asian film festival of montreal.

You can watch my films online

Friends, I am delighted to share that in addition to ‘The Muslims I Know’ and ‘Pakistan One on One,’ you can also watch my third film online.

‘A Thin Wall’ (2015) is shot on both sides of the border, in India and Pakistan. Produced by myself and my friend, filmmaker Surbhi Dewan, it tells personal stories of the 1947 Partition. Surbhi and I interviewed our families and friends in order to capture their stories of loss and rupture, and their longing for home in what became another country.

Writer Namrata Joshi says about A Thin Wall: ‘Without intending to do so, the film makes one go beyond ruminating on the “us” and “them” narrative of 1947, when one country was torn apart to create two independent nations, forcing us to look at the fissures that continue to form and deepen more than 70 years later. The talk of “organised violence” and “systematic ethnic cleansing” back then reverberates in the present. It makes you wonder about the ghosts of the past mutating into newer entities of hatred, still using people as pawns. The film may not be about it, yet it makes the viewer confront this pervasive reality indirectly.’

The film is a collage of poetry, prose and images about the Partition by artists and writers such as John Siddique, Uzma Aslam Khan, Ajay Bhardwaj, and Asim Rafiqui.

With gorgeous animation by Gayane Bagdasarian and music by acclaimed singer songwriters Zeshan Bagewadi, Hassan Zaman and Nivedhan Singh.

Pls watch and support activist filmmaking! If you live in the US, Canada or UK, watch A Thin Wall on Amazon. Everywhere else, watch on Vimeo.

navigating the pandemic

so my story about moving from rochester to long island during the pandemic was published in a book! u can read it if u scroll down – link in comments. it’s called: musings on moving (in corona times)

book #navigatingthepandemic #collectionofstories #movingduringthepandemic #rochester #longisland #coronatimes #covid19 #pandemic #mystory #published #maraahmed

Trailer for The Injured Body

Dear friends and fam, it is with immense pleasure and hope that I would like to share the official trailer for The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America. I have been working on this documentary (inspired by Claudia Rankine’s poetry) for three years now. I have interviewed remarkable women and collaborated with incredible dancers. My closest partners in this project have been Rajesh Barnabas (cinematography, sound, post production), Mariko Yamada (dance choreography, costume design, translation between dance and film), Erica Jae (photography) and Tom Davis (music) – the most talented and kindest people on the planet. It has been an extraordinary, eye-opening, emotional experience. I hope that some of the beauty and brilliance we experienced while filming will come through in this short preview. I’ll finish editing by the end of this year and will be working with Don Casper on post-production early next year. Pls ‘like’ and comment on YouTube if you can. And pls share widely.

Coming in 2022, this…… is…… The Injured Body.

More info at