Wolf and Sheep, 2016

Shahrbanoo Sadat

Film screening

Wednesday 27 July at 7pm

Presented as part of Void’s Public Programme for current exhibition Above Us the Milky Way (25.06-27.08.22) featuring the work by artists Orna Kazimi, Kubra Khademi, Mario García Torres and Erkan Özgen.

The films have been co-curated by AVAH collective and filmmaker Parwana Haydar. The films chosen represent three different entry points into Afghan Visual Culture that affect our conversation on collective memory and consciousness as art workers that have biographical ties with Afghanistan.

This movie is by one of the most successful young female Afghan filmmakers working today. She created a new visual language and also established an important representation for Hazaras.

This event is free but booking is essential.


In rural Afghanistan, people are storytellers who make up and tell each other tales of mystery and imagination to explain the world in which they live. The shepherd children own the mountains and, although no adults are around, they know the rules; they know that boys and girls are not allowed to be together. The boys practice with their slings to fight wolves. The girls smoke secretly and play at getting married, dreaming of finding a husband soon. They gossip about Sediqa; she’s eleven years old and an outsider. The girls think she is cursed.

Qodrat, also eleven years old, becomes the subject of gossip when his mother remarries an old man with two wives. Qodrat roams alone in the most isolated parts of the mountains, where he meets Sediqa and they become friends.

In rural Afghanistan, people believe in the stories they invent to tell each other, explaining the mysteries of the world, they don’t understand. Shepherd children own the mountains. Even though there are no grown ups around, they know their rules very well; the main one is that boys and girls are not allowed to be together, they have to be separated. The boys practice with their slings to fight the wolves should they attack the flock. The girls smoke dried branches of wheat secretly and play wedding, dreaming of getting a husband soon. They gossip about every one and everything, but mostly about Sediqa, 11, an outsider among the shepherd children. They think she is cursed, as an evil ghost disguised as a snake bewitched her grandmother.

Sediqa picks up her sheep and goats every morning and drops them in the owner’s house every evening. She dreams of having a sling and learn to swing it like the boys and hit a wolf. Qodrat, 11, becomes the gossip topic of everyone after his mother remarries with an old man with two wives. He prefers to be alone in the most isolated parts of the mountains. This is where he meets Sediqa and they become friends until Qodrat’s mother has to send him away.

Artist’s Biography

Sadat grew up in Tehran and a remote community in central Afghanistan. She studied documentary filmmaking at the Kabul workshop of Ateliers Varan and began her career working in cinema vérité. Her first feature film, Wolf and Sheep, tells the story of a village much like the one where she grew up. It won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight in 2016.

Director’s Statement

I lived in a small and isolated village in rural central Afghanistan for seven years, which became a very observational period for me, as a child. My severe short-sightedness, my weird accent and my dead grandfather who was able to see spirits, became the reasons for people making me an outsider. I was completely disconnected to the world and had no chance to leave the village.

High mountains surrounded it with only 10 other houses.

The people had no knowledge about the world beyond the mountains; instead they lived based on their own invented rules. And there were many. Lines, one could cross, were all around and almost everywhere, the lines looked invisible to me, but everyone else could see them.

The one, who tried to pass the lines, would be mentally punished by gossip and stories of the community.

A man with three wives, a widow, a girl who had a flirt with a boy, a dead baby found in the river as a result of a pregnant girl before marriage, family history, the way they talked, they way they looked, would create a nickname to them. A nickname could be used as humiliation or just to describe a person. It was those nicknames that made people recognise each other in a community where a lot of people have the same name and no family name.

It was a very hard time for me living there, but now, looking back, I’m proud that I had lived there. Those years gave me a very good recognition of Afghan society.

When I was 18, I moved to the city, Kabul. I studied cinema and I started to make films. My interest in a deeper picture of Afghanistan through routine life and every day life made me an outsider between the filmmakers. Being that doesn’t bother me anymore. I want to get rid of all the clichés about this country of rich culture and discover a new image.

Above Us the Milky Way – further information

The title of the exhibition is taken from a novel by Fowzin Karimi that explores the complexities and the impact of war through memories, loss and notions of home.

Many who are forced into exile face forced migration, and the burden of carrying the past into the present and future. The legacy of war, the repression of minorities and women, and the trauma that seeps through the generations forms the focal point of this exhibition.

The effect of war on women is prevalent in parts of the Middle East especially in the past year, most significant is the transformation of Afghan society in terms of girls’ access to education and women losing basic human rights and limits to their freedom. Women and girls suffer disproportionately during and after war, as existing inequalities are magnified and social networks break down, making them more vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation.

Displacement due to war and conflict has significant implications on people’s sense of place and culture. This dislocation is passed through generations. Postwar, returning generations reach a location that only exists in their imaginations and through the stories of their parents or ancestors what remains is often just a memory and a decimated landscape. This question of how do we change this trajectory, imagining a new way forward that attunes to a more equitable way of being and breaking the repetition of the cycle of history is something that we need to address and is as urgent now as it has been throughout the history of war and conflict.

Many who are forced into exile face forced migration, and the burden of carrying the past into the present and future. The legacy of war, the repression of minorities and women, and the trauma that seeps through the generations forms the focal point of this exhibition.

AVAH Collective

AVAH Collective is an independent and global research collective and multimedia platform with contributing artists, art historians, curators, art world professionals, writers, and creatives covering Afghan Visual Culture, inclusive of its diaspora and minorities. AVAH contributors engage critically with Afghanistan-related and Afghan-diasporic themes at the nexus of mainly visual culture and contemporary art. The collective came together upon recognising a lack of obtainable information and long term initiatives concerning the historical and contemporary practices originating in or relating to Afghanistan.

Parwana Haydar

Parwana Haydar is an early career filmmaker who centers memory, family and collectivity in her practice. Her interest in how political organising merges with art started when she organised in Kin Collective – a film collective for racialised creatives. She is now Activities and Events co-president in the Student Union at SOAS and a student in Other Cinema film school.


Image credit:

WOLF AND SHEEP credit Virginie Surdej

Void Gallery is supported by Arts Council Northern Ireland, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Halifax Foundation, The Ragdoll Foundation, The Ireland Funds, Austin and Hope Pilkington Foundation, and Arnold Clarke Foundation.