In May of 2008, I visited the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, an art school and institution committed to community regeneration in Kabul founded at the request of HRH Prince Charles of Wales and HE Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. There I documented the Artisans' insights on place and creativity, while they were rebuilding Murad Khane, Kabul's historic old city.
Synopsis: Ustad Bismillah, a master mason spends meticulous hours rebuilding Murad Khane, Kabul's historic Old City. “This mud is initially dead,” he says of the material he uses for the reconstruction, “but in our designs it comes alive.” This opening observation in Slowly Slowly Mud and Lotus expresses the Afghan artisans’ inherent belief in the capacity of imagination to transform existence. Speaking in Dari, a language developed in a walking culture of poetry and music that allowed for multiple perspectives, artisans reveal insights into the materials they use, the designs they create, their role in the process, as well as questioning the role of the divine. In their denial or acceptance of the lotus and its meaning, they unmask the deep spiritual history of their place. While avowedly Afghan, the artisans’ reflections connect with universal debates between imagination and reason, inspiration and divine order.
Premiered at San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival in 2009
Review from Godfrey Reggio:
"With more to say than can be spoken, SLOWLY SLOWLY MUD AND LOTUS, offers a joyful insight into the intelligence, tradition and profound conviviality of artisans in Afghanistan. Shireen Pasha's film is a face-to-face encounter, with the beauty and truth of a people that, despite the violence of superpowers over the centuries, have maintained a dignity and vitality of life that is sadly missing in the progress and development of affluent nations. In a short film, she reveals a large impression: culture is something created, not something purchased."
Review from BBC Pashto: bbc.co.uk/pashto/news/story/2010/01/100118_hh-baba-returs-from-kabul.shtml
Review from Dr. Rafique Keshavjee, Aga Khan University:
"This is a beautiful film that shows with humble clarity how Afghan craftspeople and musicians see their work and their world. There are wonderful scenes of woodcarvers and plaster-workers talking about their art, and how art negotiates with the material, and how this affects their conceptions of creativity and humility before the divine. This documentary is set in an extraordinary project to restore an entire neighborhood from ruin to chambers and surfaces of beauty that can only come from loving detail. This film will transform how you see the Afghans, how you see their culture, and give you hope that despite their suffering, they have much that will see them through these dark times."