visited linda moroney’s #documentary & #nonfiction #film #class at #SJFCthis evening and talked about the #partition of #india (her students had just seen #AThinWall) but also about borders in general and what #nativeamericans think about ‘#illegal #immigration’
with the beautiful Kristin Hocker this morning talking about identity in action and so much more.
today in my class ‘thru another lens’ we read about the deliberate construction of national identities and about how ‘the appropriation of the construct of the nation-state (used to regulate european models of society) proved problematic when implemented in african and asian realities of multi ethnic, racial, religious and linguistic societies.’ so true for south asia. we read samir amin on the inextricable ties between capitalism and colonialism and the false symmetry enforced by free trade, and finally Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz on indigenous socialism vs colonial capitalism in the context of the settler colonial state. these were big ideas about big systems embedded in complex histories but most of my students kept up with it. they connected our readings back to the colonial legacy in rwanda. they confessed how they associated socialism with marx and were surprised by its prevalence in native american societies. one of my students understood colonialism as this violent system of disruptions, erasure, exploitation and imbalances, which when removed leaves behind fragmented identities and conflicts (perhaps that’s the whole point he said); another pointed out how colonial institutions and borders continue to fester long after the colonizers are gone. while sharing their thoughts, many said, ‘before this class i would have thought… but…’ – that’s all i need to hear.
Johannes Bockwoldt and i are interviewing ken loach tomorrow morning on skype. johannes will talk to him about his film work and i will focus on his political activism. 50 years of stunningly moving, principled, artistic work. an amazing human. still can’t believe our luck. you can watch the interview at Let’s Talk about Class on oct 30th.
today we had a #debate in #class. the motion was: ‘no #walls or #borders: we should get rid of #nation-states.’ one team spoke in favor of the resolution and another team opposed it. the students made excellent points and delivered their 5-minute speeches with aplomb. our judge was louise spinelli, someone who works in the #legal profession but is also an #activistinvested in issues of #diversity and #immigration. the topic was supposed to be ‘neutral.’ the team supporting the motion won. here i am with louise.
i want to reiterate how much i appreciate having Amanda Chestnut curate my #art exhibit #ThisHeirloom for #CurrentSeen
not only does she bring obvious #brilliance and a #pragmatic, can-do sensibility to the project, she is also incredibly kind – and that is a rare combination of #talents
thx again amanda for a splendid opening
with some of the lovely #people who made today’s opening of #CurrentSeen and #ThisHeirloom such a joy – a special thx to my co-curator amanda chestnut.
recently, i made my students watch michael winterbottom’s ‘in this world’ a hands-on, many times unscripted, documentary-style film that follows the arduous (and ultimately tragic) journey of two young men (jamal is only 15) who risk everything and travel from a refugee camp in pakistan to iran, to turkey, to trieste in italy to london. some parts of their journey are more harrowing than others, but one that’s particularly unforgettable is the long voyage on board a ship (from turkey to italy) during which they are locked along with others in a dark, suffocating, metallic container. most don’t make it out alive.
we discussed the film in class and some of my students made such brilliant comments i have to share.
they were surprised by the corruption of the bureaucracy (officials had to be bribed at every checkpoint), the cultural and linguistic mosaic they didn’t expect (sometimes w/i the same country), and the rationing of food in refugee camps (they said they felt nauseated by comparing it to how much food is wasted here in the US). they couldn’t believe that jamal had such a good head on his shoulders at such a young age, yet they laughed at his jokes and his desire for the largest scoop of ice-cream – reminders that he was just a child after all. they talked about how billions are spent on war against some of the most vulnerable people and they also connected the fate of the two boys they got to know in the film to 9/11 and america’s response to it.
they made some out-of-the box connections, e.g. to the underground railroad – how people have always taken risks, journeyed, and secretly crossed borders to escape oppression and make better, safer lives for themselves and their families. they noticed how jamal and enayat were welcomed by kurdish villagers who helped them get to turkey, and thought about the generosity of a people who don’t have sovereignty themselves, but will do everything they can to get someone else ‘home.’
finally, they shared how refugees and immigrants (‘migrants’) are mostly invisibilized and how seeing them up close thru the film moved them in unexpected ways. we also read warsan shire’s poem ‘home’ and fady joudah’s ‘mimesis.’ rather than ask them to write an analytical essay on the film, which is what we usually do, i asked them to write about one leg of jamal’s journey in the first person, to tell me his thoughts and feelings but also details related to the situation he is caught in. i just read some of their responses and i’m blown away. i feel like we’ve hooked into something here. something profound.
today in my #class ‘through another lens’ we read from the catalog for ‘clear-hold-build’ a powerful #art #exhibit i saw at Twelve Gates Arts#gallery in #philly a couple of weeks ago.
we focused on #iraqi #artist dena al-adeeb’s work, particularly ‘have your mother make you kibbeh’ which re-enacts dena’s ongoing participatory #performance ‘the #taste of #displacement.’
i made kibbeh for my students and we enjoyed eating them with hummus, chips and lemonade as we watched a clip from the video installation.
am so behind on my blog updates. will get right to it. soon. in the meantime, ‘current seen’ is coming up and my work is part of this imp rochester biennial. here’s a spot we did for nbc. my voice was stuck in my throat but hey, anything to promote current seen 🙂
excellent discussion about racism, islamophobia and anti-semitism with iraqi students who are here as part of the iraqi young leaders exchange program. such a bright and engaging group of young people from all over iraq. thank u to the brilliant Halima Aweis and Nate Baldo for continuing this important conversation that started at the islamic center of rochester, and thank u Rochester Global Connections for facilitating this meeting.
fantastic shoot yesterday, filmed by the brilliant dylan toombs, of a group #discussion between Fatimah Arshad, Sumayia Islam and Urvashi Bhattacharya for a film about the colonial depiction of women from south asia – can’t wait to see the footage.