Just today we read about an Egyptian artist who has spread her creative wings since Mubarak’s fall only to have them clipped again by increasing powerful Islamist groups. Despite such obstacles, or perhaps because of them, there are untold numbers of talented people pushing past the ruins of war and oppression in Egypt, Gaza, Iran, and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa in order to expose important environmental concerns. We have put together a list of six groundbreaking projects with an eco-concience that are slowly changing how people in our region relate to the natural world.
This beautiful film clip packs incredible power into just over one minute. Filmed by the Canadian-based Iranian filmmaker Raha Shirazi, it depicts a young woman who walks through the snow with a jug slung over her shoulder. She is looking for water, but she is heading for the same spot that always meets her water needs. It’s a poignant look at the relationship between women and water, and points to the reality that some water gatherers have already found their springs dried up.
While Raha Shirazi works mostly out of Canada, a group of intrepid artists in Tehran launched the Tehran Monoxide Project to protest against the extraordinary pollution that is literally choking the Iran’s residents. Posters put up in visible areas depict children playing outside in parks with giant plumes of dirty pollution hovering above their heads, raising a genuine concern among parents about the health affects associated with one of the world’s most polluted cities. The picture above was taken from another project that draws attention to deforestation.
Mohamed Abusal dreamed about converting the ubiquitous tunnels of Gaza, which are used to smuggle goods in from Egypt, into Metro stops! So, he took a Metro sign and photographed it in front of key spots throughout Gaza and displayed the entire collection at the French Cultural Center. Although it doesn’t seem to have an overtly “green” slant, public transportation saves energy and increases the mobility of poor citizens without creating undue environmental hazards.
Coptic Christians in Egypt have been dealing with Cairo’s trash for decades, recycling up to 80% of it. And anyone who has been to Garbage City know what a daunting task they have. Everywhere trash spills out of dumpsters and fills gutters since the municipality has long neglected to establish a more efficient waste treatment system. But the “garbage people” are terribly marginalized. This fantastic film directed by Justin Kramer depicts the quality of their day-to-day life.
Titled ‘Intimacy Under the Wires’, Israeli photographer Sivan Askayo says that of her hanging laundry photography that it began “in the vibrant alleyways of Tel Aviv’s Jaffa neighborhood” and has since taken her to Madrid, Barcelona, London, Florence, Venice and Buenos Aires in order to capture images of anonymously displayed drying clothing, which she hopes will encourage more people to eschew energy-hungry dryers in favor of this far more environmentally-friendly practice.
This last project was not conceived in the Middle East but definitely has potential to draw increased awareness to the plight of our water ways. Jason deCaires Taylor creates underwater sculpture parks that double as artificial coral reefs. These eerie spaces are designed to revitalize bleached and otherwise fragile coral reefs around the world. In our region, coral reefs in the Gulf and the Red Sea are particularly vulnerable.