first real time genocide in human history

what’s happening in gaza is the first real-time, live, in full-view-of-the-world genocide in human history. if u are praying for israel, the settler colony perpetrating this genocide, and harping on hamas attacks, then u are not human (as one of my palestinian friends wrote). it’s physically painful for us (the non-white/non-western people of the world) to see your callous posts and inane bothsidism. u don’t know that much about palestine? that’s not an excuse. if u are an adult, educate yourself. i see social media as a place to create community, not to butt heads with people. the real world is ugly enough. i will say goodbye to any form of colonialism or racism i encounter.

As the bombs rain on Gaza

As the bombs and white phosphorus (illegal near civilians) rain down on Gaza, I am reminded of the bombs that lit up the night sky over Baghdad. How land and resources are stolen.

First batch of US military aid making its way to Israel

Two million people are imprisoned in Gaza, half of them children. They cannot leave, run or hide.

Israel Announces ‘Complete Siege’ of Gaza: No Electricity, Food, Water. Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced on Monday that he has ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza strip, according to the Times of Israel.

“There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” he was reported as telling commanders at the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command.

“We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly,” he added, per the paper’s translation of his remarks.

The fact that Israel can do this to another people says it all. Their absolute control over a concentration camp, their complete dehumanization of indigenous Palestinians. This is what Hamas is trying to fight with limited resources and opportunities. There is no Palestinian air force or army. They don’t have the luxury to drop bombs on their colonizers.

And then the constant censoring of language, the non-stop need to reassure colonizers and not trigger pre-existing trauma. The deeply condescending advice from American liberals (whose democratically elected government actively funds Palestinian oppression) on how Palestinians living under siege should defy death and everyday colonial dispossession.

Israelis expressing their bloodlust openly on social media without much thought for those who have been abducted:

Nagasaki 2 and Hiroshima 2 in Gaza right now.

The war is not against Hamas, but against the people of Gaza. They came in and abducted children. We must eliminate all Gaza residents, and especially the mothers who raised them that way, otherwise they will slaughter us all.

Rather than pray for peace (a peaceful return to Palestinian subjugation), there is a way to move forward and put an end to the violence. Settler colonialism and apartheid must end. Injustice and barbarity towards indigenous Palestinians must stop. Ethnic cleansing, murder, and blockades must cease.

The Algerian War of Independence went on for 8 years, killing 1.5 million Algerians and tens of thousands of French people. But it was successful ultimately. It’s not about who has the biggest army, the most toxic weapons, or the best produced propaganda. It’s about what is just and how balance will be restored in the end.

decolonize now

decolonization is not just a theory or an academic conceit. it’s real, flesh and blood, human. it’s resistance to colonialism, oppression, and apartheid with whatever methods and resources one can access and procure. it’s an attempt to remove the boot on one’s neck, break out of one’s prison, and be able to breathe (as frantz fanon said). complete solidarity with the palestinian struggle for freedom. free free palestine!

artwork by @shirien.creates

hasan minhaj & the meaning of comedy

quick take on what’s going on with hasan minhaj. he’s a comedian people. and what’s comedy? what’s funny, when u get down to it and deconstruct humor? breaching rules and taboos, defying norms, jumbling together incompatible concepts, reaching unexpected conclusions, and plain old hyperbole. who fact-checks comedy?

i know that every time my husband tells a story, he takes some liberties with the truth – he intensifies, trims, re-contextualizes. that’s how comedy works, even when it incorporates social commentary.

also, just because his stories are constructed around ‘a seed of truth’ and can’t totally pass a polygraph, doesn’t mean that racism and islamophobia don’t exist. u should see some of the comments by white people on social media: “u are the reason we have a racial divide in this country” – i’m sorry, wha?

at a time when AI is fragmenting, distorting and challenging reality, it’s a bit cringy to focus on a brown man’s comedy and turn it into some kind of litmus test for the truth.

writing obits is easy

my feed, on all platforms, is still enriched by sinéad, the beautiful shuhada’ sadaqat. people are reminiscing and sharing personal stories, others are writing about her courageous, unflinching activism, her incomparable, transcendent voice and music, her deliberate decision not to embrace commercial success and its oppressive demands, her painful childhood and mental health struggles, but also her unique, unforgettable, otherworldly presence, her incredible generosity… i cannot help but think how this kind of validation/admiration would have meant so much to her when she was alive. a warm blanket made of countless memories, words and emotions that could have held her. perhaps it’s easier to write obits and tributes than to be there for people. it shouldn’t be that way.

photo: getty images/ringer illustration

concert in brooklyn

spent the day in brooklyn yesterday hanging out with my cousin and close friend aliya apa. dinner at one more charm thai (where the massaman curry and eggplant with basil were yummy but the cheesecake right out of the freezer) and then off to prospect park to catch a ‘BRIC celebrate brooklyn’ concert featuring pakistani music star ali sethi. the park was full of people and alive with singing and dancing. sethi’s song ‘pasoori’ was a huge hit. stayed till the end then got some cranberry juice at barbes where there was more live music. this morning, i was super excited to learn that pakistan’s hamza khan has won the world junior squash championship in melbourne, becoming the first pakistani player to win the event since jansher khan 37 years ago. amazing!!!

my review: barbie movie

saw the barbie movie by greta gerwig today. full house with joyous applause at the end. here are some thoughts. the movie is trippy but doesn’t go all the way. it’s not ‘everything everywhere all at once’ by any means. there is some pseudo feminist talk, but the film’s not committed to it. it’s hard not to see the entire enterprise as a huge marketing ploy with staggering merch opportunities. i mean barbie is still being sold, so it’s not some kind of nostalgic look at or PC reframing of the past. the film is hilarious in parts (thank u ryan gosling and kate mckinnon) but also awkwardly ennuyeux and disconnected. for example, we could have done without the mattel storyline entirely (what a waste of will ferell’s talents). enjoyed america ferrera and hope to see her more, in leading roles.

my review: cold war

cold war is based on pawel pawlikowski’s own parents and their stormy relationship. in fact, the main characters have the same names as his mother and father.

the narrative of the film is polished, airtight, condensed — scenes are whittled down to their essence. for example, much of what happens to zula and wiktor when they’re apart remains off camera and is cut out of the film.

it is a fleeting, repeatedly interrupted romance that collides against broader political agitation. the lovers have to constantly move across borders, across the iron curtain itself, to be with each other. everything feels delicate and risky, close to imploding.
although the political conflicts that push the two lovers together and then apart, are squeezed out of the frame, their presence is felt strongly. there is constant dialogue between the story and the geopolitical changes that surround it.

music too enfolds them, brings them together, separates them, and evolves over time with them.

the film’s cinematography is stunning – a shimmering black and white, the contrast so rich that the black in the footage feels like velvet. the characters seem to push against this purity.

the boxy, 4:3 aspect ratio, might be a tribute to older films and a bygone historical era, but it also produces a sense of enclosure.

the love story at the center of the film is shaped by passion, insecurity and disappointment. when both characters meet in paris, one would have thought that all their problems would be solved. but i liked how we see a different side of immigration — the difficulty of leaving home and losing a part of oneself.

we witness a more nuanced difference between communism and individualism. in paris, wiktor has to master the art of commerce, selling and branding, whereas in communist poland, it’s more about ingratiating and appeasing people in power.
in spite of the film’s tight narrative control, it is open to interpretation. although it’s rooted in ideas about art, truth, love and politics, these themes are mostly suggested. they are not clarified or resolved. it’s almost like the film is some kind of gorgeously tragic metaphor.

my review: un coeur en hiver

how to describe ‘un coeur en hiver’? it’s an elegant film about a love triangle and although it is filled with wonderful music (ravel and debussy) it is not a spectacle of swelling passions. rather it takes its cue from western classical music, unfolding within a balanced composition, with organization and sangfroid. perhaps it emulates stephane, the enigmatic character at the heart of the film, played beautifully by daniel auteuil. an instrument maker who excels at delicate, complex work, he is reticent and ambivalent. perhaps this is what attracts camille, a gifted violinist who is dating stephane’s business partner maxime. not only do they both seem to express their emotions through their work, but she also desires his professional approval.

when camille gathers the courage to articulate her feelings, stephane rejects her. he tells her about his manipulative seduction which was meant to get back at maxime. stephane’s description of his relationship with maxime is surprising. it seems to be a substanceless, symbiotic partnership that he refuses to call friendship.

stephane’s words are hard to believe. perhaps he is also lying to himself. when he visits the apartment maxime and camille plan to share together, he is visibly shaken. therefore, a cold premeditated ploy seems unlikely.

there are many ways to understand stephane’s rebuff. did camille disturb the perfect synchronization between him and maxime? was stephane wary of disturbing the equilibrium in his own life, arranged meticulously like the furniture and tools in his workshop? or does he find it impossible to make a decision? his willpower at the end of the film, when he performs a difficult but compassionate act, seems to belie such passivity or indecision.

in some interviews, the director, claude sautet, has compared stephane to iago (the famous antagonist in shakespeare’s othello). but that comparison does not ring true. stephane is hardly a psychopath. just un coeur en hiver.

all human lives are not equal

fortress europe’s racism and contempt for human life shouldn’t shock us anymore. but it does. more than 700 people – including children – might have drowned in the mediterranean sea. many pakistanis were forced below deck. cannot imagine the horror and grief of their families. all this criminal neglect and inhumanity while rescuers ‘race against time’ and ‘massive search and rescue’ missions are underway to find 5 hyper rich people checking out the titanic’s wreckage. the contrast is obscene.

my review: taste of cherry

rewatched abbas kiarostami’s ‘taste of cherry’ after many years and enjoyed it much more this time. the premise of the film is a bit absurd and persnickety, but it should be understood as a folktale rather than a precise representation of reality. i was mesmerized by the conversations between mr badii (the main character) and the passengers in his car, who all react differently to mr badii’s appeal. each character is played to perfection: the nervous young soldier, the seminarist who relies on religious texts for steadiness, and finally the older taxidermist (the film’s most richly sketched character) who radiates compassion and uses his own life along with poetry, song and humor to change mr badii’s mind. he’s the only one who accepts mr badii’s unusual (ungodly?) request.

kiarostami chooses to focus on the periphery rather than on what is at the center. the soldier is a kurd and mr badii reminds him of kurdish strength and resilience in the face of persecution. the seminarist is an afghan refugee who talks about war and dislocation. finally, the taxidermist is an azarbaijani turk. all minorities. all on the margins, not at the center of society. a subtle way to provide political context and address issues that would otherwise be censored.

the film is shot in the outskirts of tehran where there is new construction. we are constantly immersed (buried?) in the dust and noise produced by bulldozers and dump trucks. we are on the outside (where everything shifts and is unsettled), not in the innermost sanctum of the city.

kiarostami’s enthusiasm for cars is on display, much like in ‘ten,’ ‘certified copy’ and the ‘kokar trilogy.’ there is something intimate about placing the camera inside a car.

the end of the film is genius. it reminded me of cezanne — his use of thick brushstrokes and flat shapes, his reinvention of perspective, the unpainted corners and pencil outlines in his work, all make the tools of his trade visible. similarly, kiarostami reveals himself, his film crew, and the cameras, shotgun mics, boom poles, and megaphones which make filmmaking possible. it allows us to take a step back and hope for a more cheerful ending to ‘taste of cherry.’

springboard, a collage

today on world collage day, i’d like to share a collage i created for my son’s upcoming birthday. it’s a nostalgic visual memory of my son jumping into canandaigua lake many summers ago when we had a gorgeous lake house there. to me it epitomizes family fun and a time of togetherness which hopefully launched our kids in life the right way. spent all of yesterday working on it, but 8 hours of bending over it and cutting my finger while framing it, were worth it. esp since my son has always valued my artwork and used it extensively to decorate his apartment. to my beautiful son and to more active, outdoors, meaningful family time <3

mara ahmed. springboard, may 2023, print and paper collage on cardboard, 14”x10”

working with interns

i’m so excited that two stony brook students will be doing an internship with me this summer. they will help curate an art exhibition at huntington’s history & decorative arts museum which will be shown in concert with the short film ‘return to sender: women of color in colonial postcards & the politics of representation.’

the students will collaborate with me in telling the story of the exhibition and create a digital catalog. my vision is to provide more context for the film thru this exhibition but also to create and display beautiful art.

thank u to the @huntingtonhistoricalsociety and stephanie gotard in particular for being my community partner. thank u stony brook faculty for setting the internships up. and thank u huntington arts council for facilitating every facet of getting a nysca grant for this project.

Return our stuff

“I want Africanist anthropologists to write about the coronation in England in the same ethnographic language they use to write about African cultural practices.

You watch this spectacle in England celebrating one of the most vicious and genocidal empires and you wonder if there will ever be justice in this world.”
—JP@grosmorne29 on Twitter

BTW the pendant in the necklace worn by all British queens at their coronation since Victoria, was stolen from Lahore (my city of birth) along with everything else in the Lahore treasury. It’s called the Lahore diamond. An apt symbol of how most European wealth (remember the Golden Age or la Belle Epoque?) comes from looting, whether it be piracy, slavery or colonialism.