Last summer i had a really good conversation with Frederik van Oudenhoven about his book With Our Own Hands, documenting culture and agriculture in the Pamir mountains of Central Asia. Frederik and his co-author Jamila Haider promised that they would return copies to the people whose information they had collected; I’ve only just learned that they kept their promise late last year.
Five tonnes of book travelled overland from the Netherlands to Tajikistan, where it met with a great reception.
Everyone who has seen the book, whether in the police, the bus stop or bazaar, has immediately asked how to get one. The Mountains Societies Development Support Programme will help distribute them to every community, to ensure that at least one copy is accessible in a public space.
The book should live, it is not a monument set in stone. Already we have received critiques: mistakes in spelling, which differs from valley to valley based on pronunciation; differences in recipes from grandmother to grandmother, village to village and certainly valley to valley; and discontent about showing some of the less appealing sides of the Pamirs (like the opium addiction especially on the Afghan side). We would love to find a way to create a live forum for discussion, to capture these differences and nuances – to open up a space for imaginings.
How hard can that be, in this hyperconnected world?