Film Synopsis

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.


Film Trailer



Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation premiered at Cinema Arts Centre on Sunday October 1st, 2:00 – 4:00 pm. The screening was followed by a panel discussion with Nia Adams, Madeline del Toro Cherney, and Farhana Islam.



-Madeline del Toro Cherney is a lecturer in the anthropology department at Stony Brook University. Her research centers on Native and contemporary Latin American culture and its effect on gender identification.

-Nia Adams is a community organizer in the Long Island/metro-NY area. As a self-identified liberationist & pan-Africanist, her work is rooted in a multidisciplinary and intergenerational approach to end the carceral system. She is co-director of training at the Advocacy Institute and a Chapter Leader with the Working Families Party, Nassau County Chapter.

-Farhana Huda Islam is a pharmacist, the Digital Strategist and Creative Director of Muslims for Progress, the chair of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, and the creator of a cooking series called Binyskitchen.


Accompanying Art Exhibition

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 from 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 took place on Sunday October 1st, 12:00 – 1:00 pm

Exhibit was 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)
To see the exhibit outside regular visiting hours: 631-427-7045


More information

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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.