(Clockwise from top) Aisha Tahir, director of Water Scars, talks about her documentary, an artist’s impression of the devastating floods and photographs from the affected areas on display at the exhibition on Monday. — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad
(Clockwise from top) Aisha Tahir, director of Water Scars, talks about her documentary, an artist’s impression of the devastating floods and photographs from the affected areas on display at the exhibition on Monday. — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: Lok Sujag and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) hosted an art exhibition titled The Forgotten Floods on Monday.

The exhibition showcased the plight of the communities affected in the aftermath of the 2022 floods, and was followed by a screening of the documentary, Water Scars.

Senior Programme Officer, USIP, Saadia Sabir said: “Our theory is that greater social cohesion, inclusion and participation of diverse communities and a more responsive state leads to a peaceful society. In order to achieve this we work with the youth, women and other marginalised groups. Our programme is iterative and it responds to emerging social needs. Since the floods of last year we are focusing on climate change.”

Lok Sujag Project Manager Hania Khan explained that in mainstream media more than 80pc of the stories come from metropolitan areas while Lok Sujag covers stories from 70 districts.

The immersive art exhibition, curated by Shakila Haider and Zakia Abbas, aimed to strengthen inclusive and democratic processes by bridging the gap in local political demand formulation. The event gave voices to marginalised communities, who are often excluded from mainstream political discourse and go unheard.

Filmed in the severely affected areas of Badin and Mirpurkhas in Sindh, Water Scars shed light on the consequences and unprecedented destruction that thoughtless construction and development can cause, through the vantage point of 2022 floods.

Aisha Tahir, investigative reporter at Lok Sujag and director of Water Scars, said: “For the past eight months I have covered the aftermath of the August 2022 floods looking at how climate change is affecting rural Pakistan. The experience of making the documentary has been overwhelming and humbling in seeing what local communities are doing every day to resist. Whether we document it or not, they are fighting for their homes.”

The documentary highlighted how disastrous planning lay at the root of the devastation caused by the floods as the World Bank-funded Left Bank Outfall Drain blocked the natural waterways decades ago.

Shakila Haider, one of the curators of the show and artist, said: “This exhibition’s journey has been a remarkable experience filled with profound insights.”

“Personally, being from Balochistan, I feel a deep resonance with the pain of flood victims, which amplifies the significance of this exhibition for me. The exhibition’s ability to foster dialogue and ignite change has been evident throughout,” she said.

Shakila employs her art practice to address issues of cultural injustice and she and Zakia Abbas set out to make the exhibition an immersive experience with photographs of the floods layered with paint, interspersed with quotations from flood affected people and QR codes to Lok Sujag video coverage, and installations reminiscent of rural homes washed away by the deluge.

Zakia Abbas said: “As curator, the journey of bringing Resilience Ripples: Echoes of Forgotten Floods to Hyderabad and Islamabad has been truly fulfilling.”

She said each location posed unique challenges and opportunities, adding a dynamic layer to the exhibition’s narrative.

“I am eagerly looking forward to the upcoming display in Lahore, where the exhibition’s impact will undoubtedly continue to resonate,” she added.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2023

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