Mara Ahmed

Le Mot Juste [Part One]


The idea of the rhizome echoes numerous strands of thinking in my work as an interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker and writer. The act and process of wading in multiple disciplines and creating art that blends together diverse concepts, tools, and philosophies, is a form of resistance to borders and silos, limits and labels, hierarchies and dominant forms of knowledge. Most of my artwork and community engagement tend to explore collage techniques that mix or juxtapose difference in order to create new ideas and energy, and inhabit the liminal.

At present, I am working on a documentary about racism in America, called The Injured Body, which collates fragments of conversations with 17 women of color with dance performances by artists of color. Franz Fanon’s thesis, that violence can be used to control the breathable atmosphere of the colonized body, became a powerful framework for underlining stories of racist microaggressions through dance.

In September last year, I started building a multilingual archive of stories that seeks to capture the 2020 zeitgeist. The Warp & Weft relies on oral storytelling drawn from diverse voices, languages and geographies. It goes beyond politics and explores the human family’s preoccupations and imaginaries. The archive is multilingual because it hopes to disrupt the linguistic imperialism of the English language. It upholds Édouard Glissant’s Right to Opacity by denying immediate legibility to English speakers. I chose not to include contributor bios in the project, as people’s education and professional titles are ways of hierarchizing based on power and privilege. 


Le Mot Juste [Part One] is a fusion of personal narrative, film, dance and music. It attempts to chart my own diasporic journey through three continents by homing in on language. Part One proceeds from Lahore to Brussels, from Urdu to French. Part Two will continue to map my life’s travels, from Pakistan to the United States, from Urdish, Arabic and Farsi, to a monochromatic American English.


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. The three languages I live in, Urdu, French and English, exemplify the open-ended connections this exhibition aims to spotlight. 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. Édouard Glissant’s Tout-Monde, with its rhizomatic creolization and global imperative to accelerate cultural contact and transformation, is never too far from my mind or heart.

Le Mot Juste [Part One] by Mara Ahmed

Cinematography by Rajesh Barnabas
Dance by Mariko Yamada and Cloria Sutton

The Goldberg Variations and Notebook for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

by Johann Sebastian Bach [Source:]


Mara Ahmed is an interdisciplinary artist and activist filmmaker based in Long Island. She was born in Lahore and educated in Belgium, Pakistan, and the United States. She has master’s degrees in Business Administration and Economics. Her documentaries have been broadcast on PBS and screened at international film festivals, and her artwork has been exhibited at galleries in New York and California.

Mara is interested in dialogue across both physical and psychological borders. In 2017, she gave a Tedx talk about the meaning of borders and nationalism entitled “The edges that blur.” She is now working on her fourth film, The Injured Body, a film about racism in America that focuses exclusively on the voices of women of color. Her production company is Neelum Films. 

Mara is honored to be one of the featured changemakers in Rochester Museum & Science Center's exhibit, The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World​.



Diasporic Rhizome is supported in part by CIBC Bank.


Diasporic Rhizome is produced and presented by South Asia Institute.