Digital Wondering 15

Digital Wonderings are a series of online speculations around the curatorial theme of TRUST. They can take any form, from a conversation, a short statement, a film or a photographic series. Invited contributors come from a wide range of disciplines and can respond and react to the theme and the format as they wish.

Artist Portrait: Hoda Afshar (IR/AUS)

This is the first showing of Hoda Afshars new work ‘Speak the Wind’ (2021). A book of this work has recently been published by MACK: ‘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 windsharmful effects, the islandsinhabitants 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.’


When she makes work with and about other people, collaboration and mutual trust are crucial to her: ‘I believe it’s only in that space where an open dialogue forms between the creator, the camera, and the subject matter. It’s the intimacy of the body and place, traveling through the mechanical camera and the sentiments of the image-taker, and its final appearance on the physical surface of a photograph. The truth or falsity of that reflected intimacy is not measurable, of course, but its human aspect is undoubtedly palpable.’


‘Speak the Wind’ is created on the same belief and value system, trust that took over five years to build with the land, its people and other inhabitants: ‘It’s partly autobiographical and partly staged-documentary; a record of what I have seen, heard, remembered, and imagined throughout the travels I made in and out of the islands of the Strait of Hormuz.’


It’s a non-linear form of visual storytelling, Afshar explains, that encourages the audience to journey through one strange scene after the other and negotiate meaning with them across time and space: ‘The project is made on the basis of incomplete knowledge, focusing on what’s unphotographable and unimaginable; entities such as wind, magic, spirit possession, and history. Speak the Wind sits somewhere between fantasy and reality – like magic realism.’



Hoda Afshar was born in Tehran, Iran, lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. Afshar 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. Recent exhibitions include; WE CHANGE THE WORLD, National Gallery of Victoria (2021), Between the Sun and the Moon: Lahore Biennale (2020), Remain, UQ Museum of Art in Brisbane (2019), Beyond Place Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego CA, USA (2019), Primavera 2018, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and Waqt al tagheer: Time of Change, ACE Open, Adelaide (2018). 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.