Mountain people of the Hindu Kush
548 pages, hardcover, large format, 400 colourplates 30 drawings and maps.
English edition. Price: € 70/ $ 100/ £ 60
As the last Kafirs of the Hindu Kush, the Kalasha still worship their polytheistic religion. In honour of their gods Kalasha celebrate feasts with the sacrifice of goats, milk, bread, cheese and juniper.
They inhabit three narrow valleys of the mountainous area in the northwest of Pakistan, close to the frontier with Afghanistan. The houses are perfectly adapted to the local conditions, clinging to the hillsides to avoid occupying the fertile soil of the valleys.
A defining aspect of Kalasha culture is a gender-based dichotomy, which pervades everyday life and is inextricably linked to the people’s concept of their universe and religion. While irrigation agriculture is managed by the women, who also grind wheat and maize in numerous watermills scattered all over the valleys, the men attend to the transhumance goat husbandry in the high pastures.
In a society without a written language the Kazi or ”Guardian of Tradition” is in charge of important aspects such as rituals and local laws. The Kazi is also the legend teller embracing the Kalasha history. Being a minority under the Islamic Republic of Pakistan the Kalasha, however, have to continue defending their language, unique culture, and traditional religion.
The Kalasha have long attracted international scholars and this lavishly illustrated book continues a widely acclaimed tradition of Danish research into Central Asia.
Mytte Fentz, who holds an M.A. in Medieval Archaeology and Ethnography from Aarhus University, Moesgaard,Denmark has worked and published in both fields. As a Research Associate with the Institute of Ethnography and Social Anthropology at Moesgaard she has over several years lived for long periods with the Kalasha, sharing their daily life with its joys and hardships.Based on a large amount of collected field data, her dual academic disciplines provide a new approach to the description of this remarkable mountain people.
The British architect John Harrison, B. Arch. M.C.D., who has a long experience of working with indigenous building traditions in the Himalayas, has since 1990 collaborated with the author in the field. Harrison’s measured surveys, diagrams and drawings of Kalasha dwellings, watermills and fortifications have substantially enhanced the value of this book about the Mountain People of the Hindu Kush.
In Denmark’s leading newspaper ”Politiken” the globetrotter Hjalte Tin
reviewed the book on March 12. 2011:
”With this book Mytte Fentz has created a beautiful monument to a small population close to the border of Afghanistan.... It is a book to explore. Enjoy it. Find a good chair and walk into the photographs. Feel the cold, the smoke, the dark, the dust and the scents in the houses. See the invisible world with the terrifying tabus and auspicious locations. Hear the songs and the laughter and the happiness at the big festivals. It’s all there”
In an on-line review by Hindu Kush Conservation Association the book is praised by
Peter and Azra Meadows with the following:
”Mytte Fentz’s book is almost 550 pages long, and has a coffee-table format and weight - but it is much more than that. There are superb colour photographs with accounts of all aspects of the Kalasha, including their history, villages, social structure and environment. Mytte Fentz lived in the valleys for a number of years during the 1990’s, and has the academic credentials to lift her account to a level that will ensure her book’s long-term importance. As Mytte writes in her introduction;
“The present book may be regarded as a continuation of an internationally recognised tradition of Danish research into Central Asia that began as early as the final decade of the 19th century with Lieutenant Ole Olufsen, who in 189697 and 1898-99 led the first and second Danish Pamir Expedition. It is my hope that this contribution can add to existing international research about the Kalasha
in the Hindu Kush mountains.”
Her hopes have been amply fulfilled....” ”..... The book is divided into three major sections: ‘Introduction’, ‘The Valley’ and ‘The High Pasture’. There are also seven appendices, followed by a glossary,bibliography, a list of photographers, and an index, all of which are first rate.”