A collaborative work

We sit in circle, a piece of clay in hand. One by one, we hold it to mould it and warm it with our hands. We share stories with one another as we pass the piece of clay from hand to hand to hand —a continued embrace. 

We keep going.

Handcarved goat made of air-dry clay, with pear-wood legs and a broken horn.

Praying on Clay

In Shia Islam, we pray on a turba (تربة, from soil or clay) in interior spaces; a small piece of 'earth' that we bring inside with us. In sujud, we draw our foreheads close to the ground and rest it on the تربة while reciting a prayer. Once the Salat is over, we kiss the تربة. 

Throughout this ritual, we acknowledge the centrality —the importance— of soil, to which we keep going back to, prostrating on; bringing close to our foreheads, lips, and forehead again.

In previous years, I foraged clay along the floodplains of various streams in Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointes-aux-Tremble. Back then, my house and garden provided ample space to work through the arduous process of sieving and refining the clay before using it. 

Though ideally I would continue foraging clay —as I am critical of and concerned by the environmental impacts of the clay manufacturing industry's large-scale mining and extraction—,  my present situation doesn't allow for it. For the time being, I use air-dry clay in this project, that can be moulded by hand, dried, then rehydrated once again, kneaded and shaped again into something else —in an unending cycle of making/unmaking. 

There is pleasure and comfort in playing with clay. Its tactility and multiple sensorial qualities are entrancing: the smell(s), sound(s) and texture(s) of it, in its soft as well as in its hardened forms. In my childhood, I particularly enjoyed its smell and taste. I loved to hold my mother's turba in my hands and scratch one of its cracked corners to release its earthy smell under my nail, then I would lick my nail. Today, I still have this urge, when I smell a turba or any fresh clay, to have a lick or a taste of it.

Below are some photos taken in 2019 from a stroll with a friend along a stream. With our small shovel in hand and a plastic bag tied to my backpack, we were on our way to harvest clay.

Using Format