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 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.

Foraging clay

Clay can be responsibly foraged in various places on the island of Tiohtiá:ke : along the floodplains of bodies of water on the outskirts of the island, on construction sites in the center of the city, in your garden, or wherever you happen to stumble upon it. 

Processing clay is a work of patience and love, I find. Thankfully my house and garden provide me with ample space to work through the arduous process of sieving and refining the clay before using it. 

In this project, I make the choice of using locally foraged clay that I don't fire. As such, the clay 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