The lost habitats of northern Pakistan
By: Sonia Malik
LAHORE: Yesterdays, an exhibition which opened at the Nairang Art Gallery on January 5 documents the last 25 years of Pakistan’s north. It features 35 black and white photographs taken across northern Pakistan. These are a “reminder of the past” and “document changing times,” said veteran photographer and documentary maker Shahid Zaidi.
“Many trees and lakes have been lost to human intervention,” said Zaidi, who still uses a film camera instead of a digital camera. There are villages that have been washed away by floods in 2010 in Swat and forests which disappeared as a result of the growing strength of the timber mafia, he said.
He said there are pictures on display from the villages of Camgarhi and Bijli Ghar in Swat – both were wiped out by the 2010 floods. “The picture of Saiful Malook I took in late 1990s, also on display, shows a place much bluer and different to the one I saw upon visiting the lake a few years ago,” he said.
“These pictures link the past to the future,” said Zaidi. “Similarly many forests documented from the Ushu Valley in Swat have been lost to deforestation.”
In a picture taken in Hunza, one can see rustic wooden gate to protect livestock. The picture titled Garden Gate shows the Hunza of the early 2000s. Now an iron gate has been put in its place and concrete walls built all around, said Zaidi. Zaidi said he was compelled to showcase the pictures taken over the last 25 years for multiple reasons.
“It is rare in Pakistan to see an artist use a film camera to take pictures. Everyone has shifted to a digital camera. These pictures have been taken with old film cameras. I still prefer those. Besides these pictures go on to show the natural treasures [we] had and did not care to conserve. Instead we chose to destroy them.”
Zaidi had travelled to Skardu, Gilgit, Chitral, Kaghan, Naran, Swat and rocky regions of Balochistan to take the pictures. The exhibit will end on January 9. The pictures are priced between Rs35,000 and Rs50,000.