Return to Sender: Art Exhibition at Huntington Historical Society

Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation is a short, experimental film directed and produced by Mara Ahmed. It pushes the documentary medium in unexpected ways by opening with three contemporary South Asian American women who recreate British colonial postcards from the early 20th century. Dressed in lavish traditional attire and jewelry and shot exquisitely in a darkened studio, the women emulate the awkward poses of the postcard women, only to subvert the colonial male gaze and acquire autonomy by choosing an action of their own. This symbolic ‘returning’ of the Orientalist gaze is layered with discussions about Eurocentric beauty standards, representations of South Asian women in media and culture, stereotypes, othering, identity and belonging. The film hopes to create community by facilitating conversations about erasure and the politics of representation. It will premiere at Cinema Arts Centre on Sunday October 1st, 2023 at 2pm. Tickets are $10 ($5 for seniors and students with ID) and are available for purchase.

Return to Sender: An Art Exhibition that Subverts Orientalist Postcards

Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation is an art exhibition that includes photographic stills which recreate representations of women from the colonies in Orientalist postcards dating back to the early 1900s. In an effort to broaden the cultural context of these staged images, the exhibition also includes fabric-based digital collages by artist Mara Ahmed that celebrate South Asian cities, architecture, textiles, and peoples.

The exhibition and its catalog provide information about the history of colonial postcards, the role of photography, Western imperialism and the construction of the East, the colonial male gaze, women of color as figures of a phantasm, and ways to resist such objectification and framing.

Opening Reception + Artist Talk on Sunday October 1st, 12:00 – 1:00 pm

Exhibit will be on display from September 17th to October 15th

Venue: Huntington’s History & Decorative Arts Museum at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Building, 228 Main Street, Huntington 11743

Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays (12:00 – 4:00 pm)

Pls call 631-427-7045 to see the exhibit outside regular visiting hours

Artist Talks

Best known for her non-linear interdisciplinary work, filmmaker Mara Ahmed produces documentaries, soundscapes, and artwork that trespass political borders and challenge colonial logics. Mara was born in Lahore and educated in Belgium, Pakistan, and the US. Her art practice reflects these displacements and multiplicities. Her documentaries have been broadcast on PBS and screened at international film festivals. She is currently working on The Injured Body, a documentary about racism in America that focuses on the voices of women of color.

Mara will make a multimedia presentation about this NYSCA-funded project at Matteo’s of Huntington. She will provide some historical context including the decision to focus on colonial postcards, the construction of women of color as a phantasm, the male gaze and the objectification of women, as well as decolonial ways to challenge stereotypes. The presentation will include videos, images, and literary excerpts. It will be designed to encourage a vibrant discussion. Mara will also give a brief artist talk at the opening of her art exhibition on Oct 1st.

These events are presented by the Huntington Historical Society as part of their collaboration with Mara Ahmed’s film and art exhibit, Return to Sender. They are open to the public. Please contact the Huntington Historical Society for more info.

-Lunch & Learn at Matteo’s of Huntington, 300 West Jericho Turnpike, Huntington Station
September 7, 12:00-2:00pm

-Artist Talk at Huntington’s History & Decorative Arts Museum at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Building, Huntington
October 1, 12:00pm


This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

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