Today I’d like to share an important addition to the Warp & Weft – a poignant story by Marzia Rezaee. In “Leaving Kabul,” Marzia describes what it’s like to be wrenched away from home and family, to be transported to other worlds, and have no control over such critical, life-changing decisions. I am grateful to Marzia for sharing such a personal story and working closely with me to finalize it when there is so much going on in her life. I am also thankful to Noelle E. C. Evans for introducing us. Pls listen to/read Marzia’s story in Dari and English and leave a comment if you like.
Friends, as you know, The Warp & Weft archive of multilingual audio stories from across the world is an ongoing project. Today I am honored to share a new story by London-based artist Afsoon, whose work I have seen and enjoyed in NYC. She writes about seclusion, art, dreams within dreams, and the tenuous line between reality and fantasy. It’s a beautifully layered, carefully measured story and includes poetry by Forugh Farrokhzad. Listen to Afsoon talking about the shifts our minds go through in isolation.
hey friends, i’m excited to be a guest on graphic ear radio tomorrow at 5:30pm! it’s going to be something new as we’ll be talking about my work but also (mostly) listening to a playlist i put together. there will be songs in punjabi, french, english, arabic, spanish and possibly portuguese. pls tune in and listen to some great music.
Dasht-e-Tanhai (The Desert of my Solitude) is one of my favorite poems. It was written by the great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I translated the poem in English more than a decade ago, in 2009. This year I took a recording of that translation and the original Urdu poem to Darien Lamen, a genius at sound design (and much else), and together we created the soundscape for Dasht-e-Tanhai. I wrote about the poem, my translation, and our collab in this piece. The audio and text were published today in The Markaz Review. This is the kind of work I love. Pls read the piece but most of all, listen to Dasht-e-Tanhai here.
“To me it’s a love poem brimming with scents, sounds, landscapes, and textures. It speaks to movement and physical phenomena, to disconnection and union. Perhaps to the cyclical nature of life itself. Faiz wrote the poem while in prison, from a place of sensory deprivation and seclusion, and therefore all the physical world’s vividness and intensity are contained in his words. The poem demands more coloring in, more relief than words on a page.
[…] For me personally, as someone who is permanently déracinée, who lives in between homes and languages, and feels a particular ache for Pakistan, Faiz’s words of love and wistfulness set off untold emotions. I tried to read Dasht-e-Tanhai in Urdu at the Spirit Room, in Rochester, New York, in 2018. I could see my parents and husband in the audience. The import of releasing Urdu poetry into a wintry space, a world away from the fragrant jasmine Faiz describes, overwhelmed me. This recording is a way to be able to say all the words, finally.”
at the opening of ‘uncommon threads’ at huntington arts council today with my mom and dad. so lovely to connect with the art community on long island, where i’ve felt very welcome so far. and what a treat that my dad got to see this tribute to his mom as part of an exhibition in huntington, ny (my mixed media piece is at the center) <3
i recently posted an interview i did with Theodore Forsyth back in 2015 in which we talked about colonial borders and partitions. in that interview i talked about the continent of africa and how some of the same ‘divide and rule’ mechanisms were used there, including random borders justified by colonial extraction and control and the creation of ethno-religious silos.
in this excellent interview, congolese artist sammy baloji brings up many of the same points and much more. a must read.
COLONIAL EXTRACTIVISM AND EPISTEMIC GEOLOGIES IN THE CONGO:
Those categorical studies can be geological or geographical, they can focus on minerals or establish typologies of ethnies… For instance, these studies are at the source of why we talk about 400 ethnic groups in the Congo today. This is not necessarily true because the way pre-colonial societies defined themselves and the way in which they negotiated their territories do not correspond to the way in which so-called “objective” statistical data are established. Earlier, I spoke about Katanga’s secession. This secession created a sort of Katangese identity, for example. Yet, this identity that still exists today only emerged in the 1960s and with interests that are external to itself somehow.
Similarly, part of my work has been on urban planning, for instance, and as I was mentioned earlier, on these Native quarters. The streets where they were located used to take the names of ethnies or ethnical groups that were supposed to live in these extra-customary centers. But this was only a nomenclature; in the end it did not necessarily mean that it was these people who lived there. What it does however is to produce an awareness of ethnies as an identification element. This allows the establishment of rules and ability to divide and conquer. It then becomes in the interest of each worker to be affiliated to his community to exist in this stratified space. It is a space of confrontation and still today, we can see it in the electoral sphere. Elections operate based on ethnic identities, but those are colonial inventions! What I’m interested in doing in my work is to underline these elements and this framework that belong to a context of occupation, from which we don’t seem to be able to exit. This is why I say that I’m not interested in the colonial apparatus as something of the past. We still operate in the same system.
…we can talk about borders. If you look at the Congo for instance, we share nine borders [with the Republic of Congo, Central Arican Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola], but many communities are split by those borders established during the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference. And so you find Lunda people in Angola who were colonized by the Portuguese, others in the Congo who were colonized by the Belgians, and others in Zambia who were colonized by the British. But originally, they’re all the same people who speak the same language, share the same culture and embrace their common genealogy. I don’t know how we can now deal with these separations that colonialism produced.
Still thinking about this wonderful evening and Uzma‘s book. Read ‘The miraculous true history of Nomi Ali’ and learn about “interventions of knowing” that subvert the colonial script. Learn about exile, imprisonment and resistance. From the book: “She tries to remember colours, sunlight, the breezes that tease the crops of open fields. She tries to catch new rain on her tongue. She tries to remember the song of the koel. She tries to forget what she has left. This effort to remember and to forget comes like the waves she cannot hear but can feel, they are there, under her chains. If she could look outside, just once.”
last night after the event @mcnallyjackson seaport in which we discussed ‘the miraculous true history of nomi ali’ by the incredible Uzma Aslam Khan. thank u to all the lovely friends who joined us and to my daughter who made it as well. a beautiful celebration of a unique and powerful book.
dear friends in and around nyc, this is happening tomorrow evening at 7pm @mcnallyjackson seaport in ny. i cannot wait to discuss ‘the miraculous true history of nomi ali’ with uzma aslam khan. it’s an extraordinary book that restores to life forgotten histories. pls join us and be a part of the discussion. link to tickets here. hope to see u then!
a short version of my very interesting interview with rochester indymedia’s Theodore Forsyth back in 2015. the topic was my film ‘a thin wall’ so we ended up discussing colonialism, partitions, nation states, nationalism, capitalism, and the process of decolonization (beyond borders/silos/labels). u can now listen to an edited portion of the audio.
thank u ted for all ur work on this and for the excellent excellent questions <3
u can watch ‘a thin wall’ on amazon (usa, uk, canada) or on vimeo on demand (the rest of the world).
Beautifully written and part of the important process of decolonizing history and literature, Uzma’s book brings to life revolutions that have been erased and forgotten, and exposes (oh so eloquently) the mechanics of colonial oppression. It’s a stunning book that demands a rich convo.
Pls join us for a discussion, reading and book signing in NYC. Tickets are available here. Pls invite others and share widely!
my artwork ‘embroidered dreams,’ which is inspired by my grandmother niaz fatima, has been selected for a juried exhibition organized by the huntington arts council! the show is entitled ‘uncommon threads.’ it focuses on fiber arts in all their unconventional forms. my collage is an homage to my grandmother’s embroidery and is partly constructed with pakistani fabric. yes, long island!
Article in Newsday about our exhibition at Westbury Arts: “Honoring the Past and Creating the Future”
WHEN | WHERE Through May 27, 2-6 p.m. Friday and 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Westbury Arts, 255 Schenck Ave.
Six Long Island women artists whose cultural heritages stretch across the globe share works that reference identity, immigration, history and fantasy. In her “This Heirloom” series, Brookhaven artist and filmmaker Mara Ahmed creates layered images full of texture, color and memories – some remembered, some imagined. “Art,” she stated, “allows us to imagine alternative futures”
This is the last week to experience The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] and On The Shoulders Of Giants at RoCo! Both exhibitions are concluding on May 7th.
In RoCo’s main gallery read and listen to The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] curated/ created by Mara Ahmed.
In RoCo’s Lab Space, view Ya’qub Shabazz new series of portraits of historical figures in On The Shoulders Of Giants. **Join us Friday at 6:30pm for a conversation between Joy Gallery and Sheppard Studio and Ya’qub Shabazz