Eden Restored: The Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq by Esme Allen, winner of the Forestry Commission Exhibition Award
A review by Sammy Simpson.
In this exhibition the main theme is people's relationship with nature and how the environment moulds people's lives. This exhibition displays the close bonds between people and the environment that they live in and utilise, showing the close bond the people of the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq have with their surroundings and the way they work with the marsh to make a living and to create a life from the marsh and its resources. The marsh is divided into three main areas, the Central marsh, Hammar marsh and Al-Hawizeh marsh. The main source of income for the people of the marsh is from reeds, theses are harvested and taken to be processes elsewhere in Iraq and neighbouring countries.
The delicate relationship the Iraqi people have with the marsh is being stressed everyday especially by the fact that in the past the marsh was drained and turned into a dry arid wasteland. This came about most recently under Saddam Hussein's rule over Iraq, he evicted the Shia Muslims from the marsh and drained the marsh to 10% of its original size. This put extreme strain on the people of the marsh and the marsh itself. In 2003 Hussein was ousted from governing role in Iraq by US forces this allowed the native people of the marsh to return to the marsh to live their lives, they took down most of the walls that diverted the flow of the water from the marsh and attempted to return it to its former glory. This turned out to be more complex than just taking down dams and dykes, there just isn't enough water. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers supply the marsh with water but these rivers are under tremendous strain and water is being taken almost all the way along their corse. Therefore making it hard to return the marsh to its former glory.
The exhibition is displayed in pictures depicting the day to day lives of the people that live in and around the marsh. These pictures display the emotion and livelihood of the people who live in the marshes. The pictures convey the message of environmental uncertainty and pollution, the marsh is under strain and if it where to be restored to its past status there would be huge potential for wildlife conservation and further human settlement.
I think the exhibition is well structured and the fact that it's outside and open plan is very appealing. The pictures are stunning and convey the message well. There are many powerful images displayed and they are impactful. Overall the exhibition is very insightful and can be used to understand better the situation in Iraq's Mesopotamian marshes.
Eden Restored: The Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq is on show alongside the Atkins CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year Exhibition at Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre until 7th September 2015.