“THE PROGRESS OF ISLAM DOES NOT DEPEND ON THE USE OF THE SWORD, BUT ON THE SUPREME SACRIFICE OF HUSSAIN. I LEARNT FROM HUSSAIN HOW TO ACHIEVE VICTORY WHILST BEING OPPRESSED.” - MAHATMA GANDHI
In 680 A.D. Damascus, Yazid Bin Muawiya usurps the Khilafa (Leadership of the Muslim world) beginning a tyrannical rule, which will change Muslim history forever, corrupting its teachings and setting a precedent of dictatorship and oppression by rule of the sword. One man, Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, refuses to submit to the tyranny of Yazid.
72 ordinary men with their wives and children follow Imam Hussain to Karbala, Iraq to confront Yazid's full army of professional soldiers. It is a journey to certain death.
The massacre of Karbala has become a symbol of the weak standing up for justice and against oppression. A symbol that every generation has absorbed into their reality and collective memory bringing their own versions of “the tyrant” to the story. For the last generation of Iraqis Saddam represented the tyrant Yazid. For today's generation ISIS and their self-declared Khalifa embodies the unjust Khalifa Yazid and his brutal army.
Every year millions gather in Karbala at the scene of the battle to re-enact the events in a pageant play and to take part in the story played out over the 10 days of the battle. In Iraq it is not only Muslims but also the Christians and the Jews who commemorate this event and march to Karbala together and in the footsteps of Al-Hussain.
For 10 nights the story is recited by master storytellers. I call them the “Tear Makers”. Trained in the fine art of reducing audiences to tears. Each member of the audience brings whatever suffering or loss that they have experienced that year to this safe place of collective mourning. Here they are transported to the 7th century battlefield and relive the pain.
The project follows a group of Iraqi migrants in London. Guided by a tear maker they commemorate these secret ceremonies behind closed doors, with uncontrollable wailing, chest beating and self-flagellation culminating on the 10th day with some of the mourners cutting their foreheads with swords. The project visually explores the power of storytelling and how a tale can resonate through the ages to dramatically affect the lives of ordinary people.
“NO BATTLE IN THE MODERN AND PAST HISTORY OF MANKIND HAS EARNED MORE SYMPATHY AND ADMIRATION AS WELL AS PROVIDED MORE LESSONS THAN THE MARTYRDOM OF HUSAYN IN THE BATTLE OF KARBALA.” - ANTOINE BARA (LEBANESE WRITER OF HUSAYN IN CHRISTIAN IDEOLOGY)
Following the success of his previous book BEYOND MOMENTS: MOROCCO and award-winning film AL-BAGHDADI, Maythem Ridha is currently in production on his next book, an exhibition and a film entitled TEAR MAKER.
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