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Kashfi Halford is a film maker, camerawoman, photographer and Drone/UAV pilot. Clients include the BBC, Al Jazeera, The Guardian and the Times.

Blogtastic

A film maker and photographers adventures around the globe...

In a whirl - at the Rumi festival in Konya for the Guardian

Kashfi Halford

Since the death of Jalaluddin Rumi in 1273, the Mevlevi order has commemorated his life. Kashfi Halford captures the celebrations and performances all over the Turkish city during the 10-day festival.

See the full Guardian story here

The 13th-century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi (Mevlâna) is all but considered a saint. One of the world’s great mystic philosophers, his poetry and religious writings are among the most beloved and respected in Islam and well beyond.

In a time of increasing tension in the region the festival is a beacon of hope for culture and freedom. Rumi was a scholar, who taught peace, love and tolerance, and eventually gained a large following.

"Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair."  My favourite Rumi quote

Only a few hundred miles from the borders of war-torn Syria, the festival in the Anatolian city of Konya brings together over a million people from all over the world to celebrate Rumi’s work, his life and ultimately his death – also known as his union with god. The day of his death is referred to as his wedding night.

The Sema

Sema is the inspiration of Rumi as well as a part of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture. The Sema ceremony represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to perfection.

The whirling dervishes prepare for the Sema ceremony. The headdress represents the ego's tombstone, the white skirt the ego's shroud.

 "I am a third-generation whirling dervish. I have been whirling since I was 14 years old. Mevlâna is a great poet and scholar who brought light to humanity. The Mathnawi books are not just for Muslims, they are for everyone and they take you on a voyage into your heart."   Mithat Ozcakil

"I am a third-generation whirling dervish. I have been whirling since I was 14 years old. Mevlâna is a great poet and scholar who brought light to humanity. The Mathnawi books are not just for Muslims, they are for everyone and they take you on a voyage into your heart."   Mithat Ozcakil

 Fahri Ozcakil, the Dede – or head – of the whirling Dervishes and father of Mithat, gently turning in the centre of the other whirling dervishes

Fahri Ozcakil, the Dede – or head – of the whirling Dervishes and father of Mithat, gently turning in the centre of the other whirling dervishes

The dervish is spiritually born to the truth: by removing the black cloak, he advances to spiritual maturity through the stages of the Sema.

 A man glass-blowing whirling dervishes at the Sema ceremony

A man glass-blowing whirling dervishes at the Sema ceremony

Mevlana's mausoleum

The decree of 6 April 1926 confirmed that the mausoleum and the dervish lodge (Dergah) were to be turned into a museum. The museum opened on 2 March 1927. In 1954 it was renamed Mevlâna Museum.

The sarcophagus of Mevlâna is located under the green dome, or Kibab'ulaktab. It is covered with brocade, embroidered in gold with verses from the Koran. This, and all other covers, was a gift from Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1894.

The actual burial chamber is located below the dome. Next to Mevlâna's sarcophagus are several others, including the sarcophagi of his father Bahaeddin Veled and his son Sultan Veled.

 The tomb of Shams-i-Tabrizi, Mevlâna's most important teacher, which is visited almost as much as Mevlâna's tomb.

The tomb of Shams-i-Tabrizi, Mevlâna's most important teacher, which is visited almost as much as Mevlâna's tomb.

Gathering for music

After the Sema people come together at one of the many Dargahs in Konya to do Zikrs and sing, people from many different countries gather here.

 "I am a descendent of Rumi from my mother's side. I have studied all different religions and they all have the same meditation."       Prof. Dr. Waliyuddin Fakir-e Bidar Balhi-Rumi

"I am a descendent of Rumi from my mother's side. I have studied all different religions and they all have the same meditation."       Prof. Dr. Waliyuddin Fakir-e Bidar Balhi-Rumi

The desert festival in Jaisalmer

Kashfi Halford

The desert festival is held annually in the beautiful golden city of Jaisalmer on the edge of the great Thar desert in the state of Rajasthan, India. It is a 3 day cultural festival extravaganza, exhibiting the best of this remote desert city.

The festival commences with a huge ceremonial street parade through the city, known locally as Shobha Yatra, women in beautiful colourful clothes, Rajputs and other clans atop fancy decorated camels, dress in traditional attire, dancing women, with whirling dresses, men on stilts, it's a spectacle to behold.

Men carrying swords atop camels from different clans arrive at the Shahid Poonam Singh stadium, which is one of the main venues of the festival.

At the stadium several contests get under way, one of them for 'Mr Desert' where men are judged on their traditional attire, their turbans and most importantly their mustache!

A desert festival wouldn't be complete without a game of camel polo... apparently the Jaisalmer breed of camel is known for it's speed and agility. The polo club and the border security force compete in a tough match. Many of the camels look exhausted after the game, with some literally collapsing to the floor and refusing to get up.

The annual camel race is a big event...

The sun goes down on the final day, and the local music begins, with musicians singing of romance and tragedy of years gone by.

The festival comes to an end on the third day when it coincides with the full moon, known as Poornima in Sanskrit. Families relax in the dunes, enjoying camel rides and chatter.




Journey to the Jungle - A refugees life

Kashfi Halford

"We will be rich together or we will all drown together" An African author Fatou Diome criticises Europe's hypocrisy on refugees. Thousands of refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterranean sea, to escape wars and persecution in their homelands. About 1,800 refugees have died in trying to cross in this year alone.

Many think Europe have adopted a "let them drown" policy as a deterrent. For those refugees that make it, many end up in the notorious "Jungle" a make shift refugee camp in Calais, where refugees wait desperately to try and make the dangerous crossing on lorries bound for Dover.

I first visited "the Jungle" in February 2015. I had met a lady (Maya) that worked for http://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/ at a fundraising night in London. We immediately started talking about the situation in Calais, and I wanted to see for myself what it was really like in the "Jungle". A friend and I decided to drive a car load of food and clothes over for the refugees and make a film about our journey.

 

We borrowed my friends parents car and set about collecting clothes from friends. It was pretty cold in February and Maya had told us to bring lots of jackets and warm clothes particularly for men. In the winter time very few women and children risk the journey in the cold conditions. Many of the refugees that end up in Calais are fleeing civil war or certain death in their home countries. I met a lot of people from Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 Maya hands out the clothes we brought

Maya hands out the clothes we brought

The camp doesn't officially exist in the eyes of the French government or the UK government for that matter. There are no washing facilities, no sanitation or running water. No where to sleep. So the people here build their make shift homes out of tarpaulin or tents and do the best they can. These people are amazingly resourceful, they have built a mosque and a church and a couple of huts that act as shops, there are two restaurants that cater for those that have a few spare euros or something to trade. There were many people sleeping in a corrugated iron warehouse which was an abandoned sports hall. All of the refugees we met were incredibly hospitable, cooking for us with the little they had, and sharing their food and stories from their homelands. Life is tough in the camp but with out all the material crap you have to rely on the human spirit. Kindness and generosity go along way in this world.

A few weeks after we left there was a forced evacuation and the whole jungle (over 1,500 people) had to pack up and leave with very little notice. The chaos of the evacuation left the Jungle looking like an apocalypse had happened.

The sports hall where over a hundred people sheltered through the winter was eerily empty. The evacuation was arranged by the French government, people fled in a hurry and left many possessions behind as if there were fleeing for their lives...

The second time I went back was just days after the jungle had been evacuated by the French police and the refugees were moved further out of Calais to a place near a food center called the Jules Ferry center. Again, no shelter or sanitation but there was a center where you could get one hot meal a day.

That day a lot of the Afghan refugees were having a kite flying day, the sun was out and spirits were high, some of the younger refugees played keep ups with a football and others flew kites.

An Afghan man flies a kite in the new "jungle" in Calais

The old jungle was left in a mess, many refugees fled and didn't think about what they left behind. Is it any wonder when the places they are staying are not fit for human habitation.

Jamal 16 and Rasheed 17 come back to the sports hall to look for lost items

A refugee carries the last of his belongings out of the old jungle

We must treat these people as survivors not refugees. They are human beings with skills and talents and a lot to share. They have fled their homelands in fear of death looking for a better life. We owe it to them to treat them as fellow human beings. If you'd like to help, please visit Maya's organisations website: http://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/

The poverty cycle continues in Mexico but there is hope...

Kashfi Halford

On valentines day I visited the poverty stricken suburb of Tepehua, considered to be one of the poorest barrios (neighbourhoods) in the sate of Jalisco, Mexico. I met a woman who runs a local community centre there called Tepehua Centro Comunitario AC, where people from this neighbourhood can come to get clean, see a doctor and get fed once a week for free.

Drug use and alcohol abuse are rife in the community, and many children are not registered for school as they do not have proper documentation (birth certificates, inoculations etc). The people that come to the community centre are mainly women and children, the men preferring to stay on the streets, as most see it as un-masculine to need help.

Local ex pats and local Mexicans work together to help out in the kitchens, serve food and clean up, it's a nice vibe with everyone helping out and getting stuck in. On Friday mornings every week women and children come to get a good free nutritious meal. There is also a free clinic for health care, a dentist's office and a play area that kids can use safely. They have a small clothes shop where donated clothes are sold for 1 or 2 pesos. They also have a sewing machine room that the women can use to make things to sell on the street to make a little money for themselves. Their next project is to open a trade school for adults, who would pay a small contribution to learn a trade skill which may help them to get better jobs. The community centre is very much about helping people to help themselves.

 The free Friday meal

The free Friday meal

One of the families that comes here is Jenny (below) a drug user who is 25yrs old and has 4 children under 8yrs old. I went to visit their 'home' on the outside of a slum 20 minutes from the community centre. It was a small hovel of one room covered by a tarp with one bed for 5 to sleep in. They share the space with a dog and 8 puppies, there is no running water and the fire they use to warm themselves inside the room is giving the children lung infections, it was a sorry state to live in, and all I could think was what happens when it rains... luckily this area is said to have the second best climate in the world, so on that front they might be lucky.

The Tepehua community organisation raised $2000 to build Jenny and her husband a breeze block room but unfortunately they put the deed in the husbands name and once it was finished he kicked out Jenny and their children and brought another woman to live with him. Apparently this is not un-common, with most homes or land in mens names, the women and children are the ones who suffer. The organisation are once again applying for funding to raise the $2000 to build a room which will now be in Jenny's name, where her and her children will have a clean safe home.

The Tepehua centre provides free healthcare, food, training and hope to many families, particularly women and children. They are fighting against an age old system of poverty, plus another age old problem of humanity - drugs. The local area has a meth factory and many of the adults and teenagers succumb to the meth to escape their impoverished lives. I was going to go to the Meth factory and try and get photographs inconspicuously but then I remembered Breaking Bad and the thought of getting killed by some crazy drug making psychopath in a Meth factory in Mexico put me off, especially as just 4 hours from here in the state of Michoacan the Knights templar drug cartel is in an open street war with the police.

This little community centre has it's own war in this destitute neighbourhood but they are slowly winning in my opinion, especially with the children. If these kids continue to come to the community centre throughout their childhood, they just might be able to crawl out of the poverty they were born into. It won't be easy but those who are in real need will always find their way. 

                               For more information please visit: www.tepehua.org

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Jumping with the Turkana tribe whilst filming for Oxfam

Kashfi Halford

Diary excerpts from an Oxfam filming trip to the Turkana district in Kenya

2nd October 2013

Up in North West Kenya in the Turkana district, it's a bit like African cowboy country, hot, dusty and apparently lots of cattle rustling between the tribes. The 'Shepherds' all carry guns!
The women here wear beautiful beads in stacks up to their chin, with beautiful wraps of almost tartan description, the men wear funny little beanie type hats with feathers and also a colorful wrap and carry a long stick and a round wooden knife tool. I assume different patterns/colours are for different tribes.
We head North today to see some projects that Oxfam are supporting

4th October 2013

They told us that when we went to the remote parts of Turkana, the women may sing to us to show that they are happy to see us. Today they sang and danced towards us, as you can see in the video, they came closer and closer and then I switched off the camera to be with them. Then they started jumping at all different times and our fixer Joseph said if you want to jump you should jump with them, it was slightly intimidating at first, but after getting over my initial English stiffness, I started jumping too and they went wild with laughter and jumping, and then the men gathered round laughing, it was such a wonderful experience, an overpowering feeling. I guess that's what they call jumping for joy :)

6th October 2013

Went to the elephant orphanage today in Nairobi, a lot were orphaned quite young (most under 6 months) from their mothers being poached for their ivory  Elephants never forget they are one of the most intelligent animals so you can imagine the trauma these little guys have suffered. Almost cried when the 3 little ones came out (in the first photo) as they are only 5 weeks old and looked a bit traumatised and frightened, they kept so close to their keepers, who I guess are like their surrogate mothers. The keepers have to sleep in their stable with them and feed them every 3 hours. The other bigger ones are about a year and a half but they still need mothers milk until they are 2 years old. Dame Daphne Sheldrick came up with a formulae to feed baby elephants, because obviously you can't milk a wild elephant to give to orphan baby elephants! The older ones were more playful and seemed quite happy eating and playing in the mud together.
I adopted a baby elephant today as a birthday present for my 9yr old niece it's only $50 a year and it helps keep the orphanage running, it costs $900 per month for each baby elephant! If you are interested in adopting go to: 
                                                             www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org 
and adopt one of these beautiful intelligent babies, they live until they are 70yrs old!