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Frederik van Oudenhoven presents the documentary film Wisdom of the Mountains

  • Frederik van Oudenhoven
Tuesday 11 April 2017
Followed by drinks! All welcome!
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Wisdom of the Mountains

The Pamir people in Tajikistan and Afghanistan are among the most isolated communities in the world. They live according to century old traditions. Yet slowly but surely the Western world enters this remote mountain area.
In the documentary film Wisdom of the Mountains the crew travels through the Pamir Mountains together with Frederik van Oudenhoven. He is the author of ‘With our own hands’, a book about traditional dishes and the food and farming culture of the Pamiri people. He brings his book back to its source. Frederik speaks with farmers about the changes they are facing: Are they staying true to their old traditions or will they – slowly but surely – adopt the Western influences.

Trailer Wisdom of the Mountains

With Our Own Hands. A Celebration of Food and Life in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan

About the book

In the autumn of 2009, a grandmother in the village of Mun, in the Ghund valley of the Tajik Pamir Mountains, approached two young researchers and asked them to write down her old recipes. “I want to share them with my children and grandchildren while I still remember what I know,” she said.

Surrounded by her family and neighbours, the conversations about the recipes became a passage into the timeworn traditions of the Pamir Mountains and the rapid changes they now face. Over the following years, her voice was joined by those of many other grandmothers and grandfathers, children, teachers and farmers. Together they are this book: a unique and intimate portrait of the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

This...may be one of the most beautiful books I have ever read..!" Frénk van der Linden. Listen to the interview with Frederik van Oudenhoven (in Dutch) on Radio 1 from 19 August 2015.

About the authors

Frederik and Jamila first met over a bowl of apricot soup in the village of Darmorakht in the Tajik Pamirs. Frederik was introduced to the Pamirs through his research on agricultural biodiversity conservation at Bioversity International in Rome. Jamila was working with the Aga Khan Foundation’s rural development programme.

Frederik is an ethnobiologist who works with smallholder farmers and indigenous communities around the defence of traditional food and agricultural practices. Jamila studies the relationship between poverty and agricultural biodiversity as a PhD candidate at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The photographs in this book were taken by three award-winning photographers: Judith Quax, Theodore Kaye and Matthieu Paley. René Put was the graphic designer.

One book, three languages

Besides English, the languages in this book are Dari and Tajik. They are the forms of Persian spoken in Afghanistan and Tajikistan respectively. The languages are not as different as their distinctive scripts suggest: Dari and Tajik speakers can understand each other well, yet their different histories have meant that the former is written in the Arabic script, while the latter is in a slightly modified version of Cyrillic.

Most people in the Pamirs speak Dari or Tajik only as their second (or third) language, their mother tongue being one of a number of unwritten Pamiri languages, unrelated to Persian. Partly as a result of these influences, Dari and Tajik are spoken very differently in the countryside of the Pamirs from how they are spoken in the capitals of the two countries, Kabul and Dushanbe. In the translations, we have sought to find a balance between these different ways of speaking the languages which, while comprehensible to all, does not oversimplify the language or take away from its beauty.

The choice to make a book in which the three languages are combined was inspired by the authors' wish to return a copy to each community, school and library in the Pamirs. It is also intended to give expression to the close historical ties between the people on either side of the Afghan–Tajik border, and between them and the people from around the world who will read this book in English.

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