Mara Ahmed

Close-up of woman with tan skin and shoulder length brown hair, wearing a black shirt and dangle earrings, looking at the camera
Close-up of woman with tan skin and shoulder length brown hair, wearing a black shirt and dangle earrings, looking at the camera

Mara Ahmed is an interdisciplinary artist and activist filmmaker based on Long Island, New York. She was born in Lahore and educated in Belgium, Pakistan, and the US. Mara’s work aims to trespass political, linguistic, and geographic borders and challenges colonial binaries. She has directed and produced three films, including The Muslims I Know (2008), Pakistan One on One (2011), and A Thin Wall (2015). Her films have been broadcast on PBS, screened at international film festivals, and are available to watch on Vimeo on Demand. She is currently working on The Injured Body, a film about racism in America that focuses on the voices of women of color. Mara gave a Tedx talk about borders and nationalism in 2017. Her artwork has been exhibited at galleries in New York and California. Her multimedia installation The Warp & Weft [Face to Face], based on an archive of stories she curated in 2020, was exhibited at Rochester Contemporary Art Center in April 2022 and her experimental short film Le Mot Juste [Part One] was selected for a juried exhibition organized by Chicago’s South Asia Institute in 2021. Instagram handle: @mara__ahmed, websites: and

How to care for the injured body,
the kind of body that can’t hold
the content it is living?
And where is the safest place when that place
must be someplace other than in the body?

–Claudia Rankine in Citizen: An American Lyric

The Injured Body is a feature-length documentary that unpacks racism through honest conversations about racial microaggressions with a diverse group of women of color. Although subtle and seemingly unobtrusive, microaggressions are slights and offenses that accumulate over a lifetime and impede a person’s ability to function and thrive in the world. Since women live at the intersection of multiple systems of oppression, they can articulate some of those complex dynamics. The film weaves together an alternative narrative strand told through dance and movement. Racism is embodied. Hence dance becomes a powerful way to express the muscular contraction of the colonized body and its need for breath and release. The film is slated to be released in 2023. More here.

Le Mot Juste [Part One] is a fusion of personal narrative, film, dance, and music. It attempts to chart my diasporic journey through three continents by focusing on language. Part One proceeds from Lahore to Brussels, from Urdu to French. There is something constant and primordial about language. Its woven grid holds us together: the concreteness of its syntax, the braiding of its ancestral yarn, but also the interstices that allow for breath and expansion. Perhaps I am drawn to multilingual, cross-disciplinary, activist work because it offers examples of borderless political space, where we can come into contact with the other and become radically altered by that encounter. More here.

Dasht-e-Tanhai (The Desert of Loneliness), a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (one of the greatest Urdu poets of the last century), has always moved me – its words and metaphors like pearls strung together with ease. It embodies Faiz’s style of writing: filled with glorious ideas of beauty and social justice but always fluid, unencumbered, songful. With luminous spaces in between. Never pedantic or opaque. Dasht-e-Tanhai is a poem about separation and longing, about sensory memory and its permanent aching imprint on the heart. It’s a love poem brimming with scents, sounds, landscapes, and textures. It demands more coloring in, more relief than words on a page. Although most of my work involves visual art and film, I have become fascinated by sound over the last few years. I work closely with my friend and collaborator Darien Lamen, a musician, ethnomusicologist, and filmmaker. More here.

4 thoughts on “Mara Ahmed”

  1. Thank you for sharing your art on such important topics. I look forward to watching your films and TEDTalk!

  2. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this art with us! I loved how much care you put into the audio and visual elements of your work! The piano, the waves crashing on the beach, the birds chirping in the background, it’s all very beautiful! I could feel the love you have for sound through each piece! It’s amazing!

  3. hi martino, thank u so much for ur wonderful response to the work. yes, being a visual artist for so long and thinking mostly in terms of images, i have come to appreciate sound over the last few years and fallen in love. i hope to create many more soundscapes, sound poems and stories.

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