On 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.
168 pages, 20 x 26.5cm, softcover, MACK (London).