Decolonizing Art for Art’s Sake – The Markaz Review

My piece about decolonizing art for art’s sake in The Markaz Review today! It looks at Rameau’s opéra-ballet, ‘Les Indes Gallantes,’ and compares a stunning production choreographed by Bintou Dembélé (she uses street dance to subvert the colonialist ideology of the opéra) with two underwhelming mainstream white performances that somehow made it to prestigious stages. It’s a look at racism in the arts and how it leads to the recycling of sub-par work. To more art and narratives by people of color. Read here.

dance and collab/community

on friday i taught a combined ‘dance performance and collaboration’ & ‘dance and community’ class at nazareth college where my dear friend Mariko Yamada invited me to share work on my new film The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America.

most of the students were dance students so at the end of my presentation, i shared the video portion of a multimedia piece mariko and i presented at the fringe festival in 2017. it’s a fusion of text, sound effects, film clips, music and dance that convey the oppressive impact of racism on the human body. i asked the students to reflect on the piece and come up with a movement phrase inspired by what they experienced.

as always, they blew me away. one student talked about the entwining of blackness and queerness, and created a powerful dance accompanied by words recorded in 20 min. amazing. students talked about the abruptness of the fringe piece in which breathing accelerates and climaxes as loud sounds are mixed with hectic footage. they compared it to a panic attack.

they described micro aggressions as a ‘cycle’ one is stuck in against one’s will and a ‘pill’ one is forced to swallow every day. students talked about BIPOCs being watched relentlessly and the self-consciousness and stress that comes from that policing. they incorporated the ‘hands up’ movement in their dance, to mirror gestures used by protestors.

one student talked about the effects of holding in too much, not being able to breathe freely, and how that can lead to mental health issues and medical problems. we talked about the heaviness of racist micro aggressions and how a just vision for the future can give us hope.

and so do bright young people <3

editing a film trailer

editing a feature length documentary again, after 6 years! finished working on ‘a thin wall’ in 2015. getting the hang of premiere pro (still learning) thx to Rajesh Barnabas and creating a beautiful, exceptionally long trailer (can’t fit all this richness in 2 min). so grateful for this work and the people it highlights, in this case more than 20 women of color, thru interviews and dance. it’s always hard to get started (transcription, getting all the materials aligned, technical obstacles, the sheer magnitude of the task) but once i do, i can’t stop. art-making elevates everything. it gives one hope <3

[Ayni Ali photographed for ‘the injured body’ by Arleen Thaler]

Borders Can Be Borderlands

My piece in Mason Street’s Winter Issue 2021 published today.

‘It used to be that borders were formed naturally, by oceans and mountains, carved out by the physical contours of the earth’s surface. There was something poetic about these landforms, extending from foothills and valleys, to plains and plateaus, all the way to seafloors. They were shaped by wind and water erosion, pushed up by the collision of tectonic plates, forged by volcanic eruptions, sandblasted and weathered over millions of years. They were substantive, grounded in history.

The borders that came out of the crumbling of empires, in the 20th century, were different. Cartographic inventions meant to divvy up world resources and power, divorced from indigenous logic or priorities. A few sheets of stolen paper.’

More here.

To be published in a literary magazine!

Last year in Sept, in the midst of working on my film and several other projects, I wrote a longer piece and submitted it to Mason Street for their Winter 2021 Issue “Frontiers and Borderlands.” My piece is a collage of personal and collective history, poetry, and art. It combines many voices and points of view, but it starts with my mother’s story and how she experienced the violence of the 1947 partition. I got an email from the editors today. They have accepted the piece!!! It should be published online in Feb. I am incredibly thrilled! Writing is something I’ve loved since I was a child. Although I continue to write for films, articles and presentations, it was important to try and write for a literary publication. I was nervous. It’s an art form I have not invested in for too long. This validation means the world to me.

seeing ‘the changemakers’ at RMSC

at the rochester museum & science center today where we saw ‘the changemakers’ exhibit which is stunning. recognized so many beautiful women friends who are part of the exhibition. two pieces from my art series ‘this heirloom’ are on display there. one is a graphic collage with my mom and her sister, when they were little girls. the other is called ‘embroidered dreams’ and it’s a tribute to my paternal grandmother, niaz fatima. my grandmother became a widow when she was quite young and struggled to raise and educate her children, in a highly patriarchal family system. i was wondering how she would feel about her picture hanging in a museum in rochester, new york, a tribute by a granddaughter she didn’t see grow up. it felt empowering.
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rmsc #thechangemakers #beachangemaker #womensupportingwomen #womenempowerment #pakistan #rochesteny

in karachi

i’ve been working 24/7 on a new community-oriented art project and the gorgeous website that will house it (thank u Isabelle for ur brilliant work on the website) and so i’m looking through old external hard drives to find and organize artwork and photography i have produced over the years. came across this picture from karachi where i was working at the time – my first serious job as a management trainee at ICI. wonderful times when everything was exciting and possible, even though i was stuck in a corporate world that never really jibed with me. still i will always be grateful for jobs that made me financially independent and able to live on my own in a diverse and insane metropolis, almost double the population of nyc. photograph by Umar:)

The Unvarnished Truth about Obama, Harris and Diversity without Accountability

Jordan Elgrably asked me to flesh out my post about Obama for The Markaz Review. I was trying to keep the post private, lol, but here it is with more thoughts about representation without accountability. Pls recommend/comment on the Markaz website if you like this column:) More here.

lecture at UR on multiple feminisms

earlier this week i taught a UR class on gender, sexuality and women’s studies about islam and feminism. thank u tanya for inviting me. these are the three women whose work i used to make a case for multiple feminisms.

i talked about saba mahmood’s ‘politics of piety’ and the need to self-parochialize by acknowledging the specificities and limits of one’s own position in the world. she reminds us that western knowledge is not self-sufficient or neutral, that it is divisive, exclusionary and complicit in harm.

i relied on francoise verges for an understanding of decolonial feminism and the problematic relationship between bourgeois women in the global north and women in the global south as well as WOC in the global north – the ones who take care of their children, clean their homes, and do their nails. she questions the meaning of ‘autonomy’ under oppressive systems of militarization, surveillance, obscene inequalities, precariousness and disposability. to her, decolonial feminism is about constant questioning and curiosity, and about decolonizing oneself (examining one’s own prejudices).

finally, houria boutelja confronts savior feminism and the privilege of solidarity. she refuses to answer the question: ‘is islam compatible with feminism?’ and tells us that the submissive muslim woman is a myth – she’s never met one. i cannot thank these women scholars and activists enough for their sharp analysis and powerful work. so many of us stand on their shoulders.