n the islands of the Strait of Hormuz, near the southern coast of Iran, there is a belief that the winds — generally believed to be harmful — can possess a person, causing them to experience illness or disease. As part of a ritual placating the winds’ harmful effects, the islands’ inhabitants practice a ceremony involving incense, music and movement, in which a hereditary cult leader speaks with the wind through the afflicted patient in order to negotiate its exit.
When artist Hoda Afshar first visited the islands in 2015, she found herself drawn not only to these distinctive customs practiced by its inhabitants but also to its otherworldly landscapes — the strange valleys and statue-like mountains, themselves sculpted by the wind over many millennia. While the exact origins remain unclear, the existence of similar beliefs 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. This seldom spoken history became a starting point into an intriguing project for Afshar, who sought to document the story of these winds and the traces they have left on these islands and inhabitants. Through a nuanced approach in which traditional modes of documentary photography are challenged, Speak the Wind is an attempt to picture the unseeable; a visible record of the invisible, seen through the eye of the imagination.
Now available at Mack.
All images (c) Hoda Afshar, from Speak The Wind (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the artist and MACK.
See more at hodaafshar.com
Hoda Afshar (b. 1983, Tehran) explores the nature and possibilities of documentary image-making. Working across photography and moving-image, the artist considers the representation of gender, marginality and displacement. In her artworks, Afshar employs processes that disrupt traditional image-making practices, play with the presentation of imagery, or merge aspects of conceptual, staged and documentary photography. Hoda’s work has been widely exhibited both locally and internationally and published online and in print. Her work is also part of numerous private and public collections including the National Gallery of Victoria, UQ Art Museum, MUMA Collection, Murdoch University Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia and Monash Gallery of Art. In 2015, she received the National Photographic Portrait Prize, National Portrait Gallery and in 2018 won Bowness Photography Prize, Monash Gallery of Art, Australia. Hoda is represented by Milani Gallery in Australia.