REINVENTING A TRADITION
in Arabic with English subtitles
producer, director, camera and editing
by Caterina Borelli ©2003
“…This film (shot in Yemen)…records the reinvention of qudad but also documents the sheer delight and satisfaction of the master craftsmen and tradesmen who proudly describe each significant aspect of the individual contribution to this building restoration process… ” Kevin M. Paulus, MESA Bulletin 38/2, 2004
“Qudad – reinventing a tradition” takes place in the town of Rada, in Yemen’s central highlands, during the conservation work at the ‘Amiryia, a XVI century mosque and madrasa. This unique project has provided work for most of the local male population and on its site the men have been trained with new techniques that will help them find work in the future.
The film portrays the qudad work at the ‘Amiriya as narrated by the masons themselves. While documenting the making and the application of this material, the film describes the impact that the preservation carried at the ‘Amiriya, has had on the workers involved. In their narrations, we sense how the many years of work helped to change the way the masons “understand” the building, while also introducing the notion of “historical monument”.
In 2005, after 18 years, the restoration of the ‘Amiriya was completed. Because of the strategies chosen– first among them, relying on traditional techniques – the ‘Amiriya restoration project sets a brilliant example on how to approach heritage conservation in a sustainable way. In 2007 Dr. Al Radi – the co-director of the project – and her team were awarded the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture, in recognition of the approach and solutions chosen in the preservation of the building.
“Qudad – reinventing a tradition” is the second film I have made in Yemen, after “The Architecture of Mud”. Both projects look at architecture and tradition. They visually describe very specific processes (building with mud in “The Architecture of Mud”, lime waterproofing in “Qudad”) as expedients to show the society these traditions belong to. In the case of “Qudad – reinventing a tradition” what interested me was how the conservation work changed the attitude of the workers toward the monument. So I decided to use the excuse of documenting step by step a recovered building technique, to portray the workers, the real protagonists of the preservation work and of my film.