Samuel Coleridge’s famous line ‘water, water everywhere/ nor any drop to drink’ brims with meaning.
Apart from the context in which it was written, it can have multiple connotations in the contemporary world. But most of all, water is, and has always been, a potent symbol of life. Who better than us, Pakistanis, would know the importance of water considering its scarcity in the country?
A photographic exhibition titled Pani Hai Zindagi that opened at the Art Chowk Gallery on Saturday is indicative of that aspect of water availability or lack of it, and the masses’ response to the situation.
Even if the photographer had not used the word ‘dried’ in the title, his purpose would have still been served
Mind you, the show does not only have a social angle. There’s enough aesthetic value involved in it to suggest the dozen or so participating artists’ tremendous eye for capturing a meaningful moment. This is abundantly evident from the 30-odd works on display.
Dileep Parmar makes the initial impression with his image that he calls ‘Deep dried out well in Tharparkar’. It’s a remarkable picture that makes the viewer get an idea about the object in focus as well as the area that surrounds it. Even if the photographer had not used the word ‘dried’ in the title, his purpose would have still been served.
That being said, one of the most striking pictures on view is by Emmanuel Guddu Mansingh. It is also from Tharparkar and its caption reads ‘Two boys in search of water’. Two boys are seen riding a donkey with the one at the back holding a blue water can.
The smile on the face of one of the kids may suggest that they are striking a pose for the camera. They are not. For them, it’s the journey to fetch water that’s more enjoyable than its acquisition — enjoyable, because they are too young to fathom the pain and misery linked with the shortage of the commodity.
The exhibition concludes on Jan 7.
Originally published in Dawn, December 30th, 2018