Mudge Fellow Sobia Ahmad: The Personal and the Political


Courtesy of Sobia Ahmad.

At a quick glance, Sobia Ahmad’s Small Identities installation is a wall of regularly arranged ceramic tiles; however, upon closer inspection, a multitude of faces appear on those tiles. Following President Trump’s Executive Order prohibiting travel from numerous predominately-Muslim regions in 2017, Ahmad began transferring the ID photos of Muslim immigrants in the U.S. onto Islamic-shaped ‘Arabesque’ tiles. Diving into the intense fear and othering of the U.S. Muslim community, Ahmad’s Small Identities installation embodies the essence of her artistic work: exploring the intersections of “the personal and the political.”

In their search for the newest Mudge Fellow, Ms. Ho and Mrs. De Jesus-Akuete, directors of the Christopher Brodigan Gallery, have been especially committed to creating a platform for underrepresented voices in a Eurocentric fine arts field. Having previously worked with Dr. Ibrahim, Religious Studies faculty member, Sobia Ahmad applied to the Mudge Fellowship to share her art and message with the Groton community. “We are excited to introduce a Pakistani-Muslim artist who addresses sociopolitical issues, whom we feel is important to give voice to given our country’s current state,” said Mrs. De Jesus-Akuete.

         Born and raised in Pakistan, Sobia Ahmad moved to the United States as a teenager. She graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelor’s in Studio Art, going on to exhibit her art in regions such as Los Angeles, Ithaca, London, and Washington DC.

         Sobia Ahmad intertwines the personal narratives of her community with both modern and historical socio-political contexts in performative, audience-focused pieces. “She brings a level of inquiry beyond her personal work to encourage others to explore her narrative through an immigrational lens,” explained Ms. Ho. Forcing the viewer to consider how political powers influence the behaviors of themselves as individuals and as a society, Ahmad asks the viewer of their specific role in the concepts explored in her art.

 “As the daughter of immigrant parents, I was especially moved by her pieces focusing on the immigrant story and the concept of displacement,” said Mrs. De Jesus-Akuete. “I feel that her confrontation of matters involving immigration, religion, identity, and political policies would resonate with many of our students and faculty – especially those directly affected by these issues.”

         Groton’s Covid-19 safety protocols have significantly altered the standard Mudge Fellowship procedure. Although the pandemic has put a hold on displaying Ahmad’s work in the Christopher Brodigan Gallery, visual art students have the opportunity to work with her virtually. Mudge Fellows typically work with all visual art students, providing workshops across forms; due to the tentative nature of hybrid learning and visual art electives, Sobia presented her workshop, Marking Here(s), to only the Advanced Studio Art class. Linked to her final exhibition work, the workshop will explore the concept of home and “here” for each student, be it physical or abstract. Unable to work and instruct students on-campus, her exhibition, along with student artwork, will be exhibited virtually.

         In the midst of a socially and politically polarized nation, Sobia Ahmad’s work will compel Groton viewers to connect their deep, intimate struggles of belonging to broader discussions about “national identity, notions of home, cultural memory, and gender.”


Sobia Ahmad’s artist talk for the Groton community will take place virtually on February 11th, 7:00pm EST.