How Much Water is Enough Water
Curated by Tsering Motup Siddho
Not long ago, streams here were full as summer approached converting the valley into lush green fields of barley and wheat. I grew up with familiar sights and sounds of flowing streams and springs, and around them were green pastures, mooing of cattle, children playing and the music of birds. It took just another generation to wipe them out from the face of our valley. Change was coming as we thought about it and it came. The streams and springs ran dry, and at the same time hotels and guest houses mushroomed, each with numerous bore wells incessantly extracting ground water. A dry parched earth is what we now see before us.
Scarcity of water, some say is a myth! Water now seems scarce due to its overuse and misuse. Over the years, the demand for water has risen due to increasing pressure on the town with people migrating from villages to Leh, tourism and growing commercialization.
Since we cannot keep longing for the past, we will have to consciously invest ourselves to learn modern techniques with the help of conventional methods, which seem to show promising results, in saving water. As many traditional / conventional practices are abandoned in Leh and switching over to western methods seems to create havoc in the town, inculcating a hybrid practice to meet with order and without affecting the eco-systems or to keep a balance of the water cycle seems important and urgent.
This exhibition is a collection of such documented recordings in the form of Archival and New Photographs, Short Films, Videos and Sound Bites, providing information in a format such as abstract, metaphor or just a visual reference, creating a diverse range of discourses.
The exhibition opens with an image of three portraits showing different people carrying plastic cans to fetch water from the community sources around Old Town Leh. It reflects on how fetching water cuts across generations and materials used. This is followed by Faisal Abdu’s photograph of a dog stuck in muddy water and struggling to get out reminds us of the mismanagement of water outlets that have created disturbances to the animals in the town.
The Ice Farming photographs and videos, document a group of contemporary artists collecting ice bricks from the river and transporting them to Gangles, a village xx kilometres above Leh. They both symbolize and critique the process of abandoning cultural practices and adopting modernization and western methods mindlessly.
Other images in the exhibition reminiscence about past events or moments of exploration around water. For instance, Rigzin Chosdon uses archival images and sound bites to map the stream channels in Leh town within the fragmented memories of the people resident here. Similarly, ‘What’s in a Glass of Water?’, is a public art project that looks at the quality of water from different sources around Leh town and the replacement of traditional vessels with new ones. It is juxtaposed in the room with a display that pays homage to the ubiquitous Ladakhi cup and its multiple uses. This work stems from a paper written by Stanzin Ladol on ‘Donskyok’ (The Traditional Cup), and invites people to draw their favorite Cups while reflecting on its cultural context.
Dazes Angmo’s poem reflects on her childhood, when she and her friends would make paper boats and set them to sail in the stream. Lekzes Angmo’s digital drawings and poem talks about her memories from Ladakh with her grandmother collecting spring water.
Norboo Tundup’s photographs are part of a documentation done during the research project to look at the layout of water pipelines in lower Leh town. His images focus on and reminds us of the unorganized pipelines running through Leh town and also how it is managed during the winters.
The films by Tashi Morup show the journey of men who transport water from source to hotels, guest houses and restaurants in the colder months, and the struggles they face. Another of his film’s talk about the geological sites which have been affected due to the melting of glaciers. Tomoyo Ihaya’s videos show her art practice, drawing on the medium of stop motion video she looks at the usage of water in Ladakh and its cultural practices.
The exhibition is an outcome of a project LAMO has been working on, with support from BORDA (Bremen Overseas Research Development Association), to study the impact of water in Leh and Kargil towns. While conducting the research, LAMO also collected visual materials and a collection of sound recordings. Through the exhibition we have brought all this material together to momentarily talk about water in our lives in Ladakh. This also allows us to retrospect on our actions during the course of time, and to become aware of the consequences and to ask ourselves frequently as to ‘How much water is enough water?’