Dust, 2009 (excerpt)
Running time: 4:50 minutes / HD / colour
Dust, light, and a wall are the elements in this video. The location is an abandoned synagogue in Amzrou, a kasbah in southern Morocco.
Camera: Sylvia Safdie
Editing: Patrick Andrew Boivin, Sylvia Safdie
Amzrou, is a Kasbah in the Draa valley, at the tip of the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco. For over 2,500 years it was the home of a large Jewish community that lived for centuries in harmony with the local Berber tribes. Today, members of the Draouis tribe are the sole occupants of the Kasbah and occupy the homes in the mellah (Jewish quarter), where Jews used to live. The Jews were involved in crafts (jewelry, metalwork, woodwork, leather, etc.) as well as in trade. In 1958, the 18 families living in the mellah left for Israel. Today the Draouis continue the tradition of the artisans and they attribute their knowledge to the Jews who taught them their trade and left them their tools and casts.
The synagogue is located at 8 Mellah, in the heart of the old Jewish quarter. It was constructed approximately 800 years ago. It was abandoned when the Jews left. Local Draoui[s] families used it as an oven for cooking and baking, hence the ash black color stained on the walls and ground. Today, a guardian, Mbark, will open the door for visitors for a sum of money.
Pise, the traditional material used in the buildings of the area is as free [available?/plentiful?] as the earth. It is the ground one walks on. The earth is shovelled up and cast through a strainer and then mixed with straw and water. It is known as “the material blessed by God.” In a synagogue, small windows, and the quiet and soft intimacy of the sound inside a pise structure, brings a spiritual element. At the same time pise is in a continual state of erosion, shedding fine dust. Today, after years of abandonment, the synagogue is filled with layers of dust accumulated over generations.
This video was shown at the exhibition Amzrou/Morocco at Galerie J. Yahouda, Montréal in 2013.