EXCERPT FROM SPEAK THE WIND (2022)
Two-channel digital video, colour, sound, 18 minutes.
In the islands of the Strait of Hormuz off the southern coast of Iran a distinctive local culture has emerged as the result of many centuries of cultural and economic exchange, the traces of which are seen not only in the material culture of these islands but also in the customs and beliefs of their inhabitants. Central to these is a belief in the existence of winds—generally thought of as harmful—that may possess a person, causing her to experience illness or disease, and a corresponding ritual practice involving incense, music and movement in which an hereditary cult leader speaks with the wind through the afflicted patient in one of many local or foreign tongues in order to negotiate its exit.
Wider beliefs about these winds permeate the culture but are seldom openly discussed—whether because of suspicion or because of belief in the power of language to manifest the invisible. While their exact origins are unclear, the existence of similar beliefs and practices in many African countries suggests that the cult may have been brought to the south of Iran from southeast Africa through the Arab slave trade—an account that agrees with that of many locals who hold that the winds themselves travel from Ethiopia. For locals and visitors too these beliefs resonate with the surreal landscape of the islands—a landscape of strange valleys and statue-like mountains that have been slowly carved by the wind over many millennia.
This project documents the history of these winds and the visible traces they have left on these islands and their inhabitants—a visible record of the invisible seen through the eye of the imagination.
Director and Cinematographer: Hoda Afshar
Editor: James Wright and Hoda Afshar
Colourist: Peter Hatzipavlis
Sound Mix: Byron Dean