DER Documentary

Qudad, Re-inventing a Tradition

by Caterina Borelli
color, 58 min, 2004
Arabic with English subtitles

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
See pricing information and conditions

Qudad is an ancient lime waterproofing plaster that has been used for several millennia in the Arabian Peninsula. In Yemen, where it most likely originated, it is found on religious and secular buildings and archaeological sites. Because of its elaborate and labor-intensive application (it takes a full year to set properly), this strong, resistant material has barely been in use for the past 30 years. As a consequence, very few masons know how to make and apply it. In 1983, the Yemeni Government and the Dutch Government collaborated to preserve one of the most important and unique monuments in Yemen, a 16th Century mosque in the town of Rada' called the “'Amiriya Madrasa.” The conservation team chose to revive the practice of mixing and applying qudad since it covers most of the surface of the building. In doing so, they not only used the same techniques as originally used in the construction, but also trained a new generation of masons. Now this tradition will not be lost, and it is hoped that the knowledge can be imparted to other countries whose monuments require qudad restoration, countries where the knowledge of the craft of qudad has died.

The film portrays the qudad work at the 'Amiriya as narrated by the workers, who are all Rada' locals. Because of this project, they are all now part of a government restoration team which will take care of decaying architecture throughout Yemen. In this film, it is clear that their meticulous care and craftsmanship are devoted to restoring the 'Amiriya not only for its significance as a unique architectural structure, but as part of their city's own history and culture.

For a history of the building and its preservation, see The 'Amiriya in Rada' by Selma al-Radi, Oxford University Press, 1997.

Click here to read a review by Dr. Enrico Fodde.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Society for Visual Anthropology/American Anthropological Association Conference, Chicago, 2004
Middle East Studies Association, Annual Meeting, Arizona, 2004
Third International Conference on Archaeology and Conservation, Jordan, 2004
Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, 2005
Northeastern Anthropological Association Ethnographic Film & Video Festival, Lake Placid, NY, 2005
Material Culture & Archaeology Award of Commendation, 10th RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film, London, 2005
16th International Festival of Films on Archaeology, Italy, 2005
WorldFilm 2006, Tartu Festival of Visual Culture, Estonian National Museum, Tartu, 2006
AGON, 6th International Meeting of Archaeological Film of the Mediterranean Area, Greece, 2006
Rassegna International del Cinema Archeologico, Italy, 2006

View more photos on

Related Films
The Architecture of Mud
Down To Earth - Adobe In New Mexico

Catalog of New Films DER new films catalog cover
Join Our Mailing List
Suport DER
Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts