Sarker Protick

Of River and Lost Lands

Sarker Protick, from the series: Of River and Lost Lands, 2011-2018
In Bangladesh, which is situated in the world’s largest river delta, erosion processes on a massive scale are part of life. Every year, the water engulfs villages and farmland, compromising the population’s already precarious food security and forcing them to migrate. One effect of climate warming has been to accelerate the pace of river erosion through ever more frequent and extreme rainfall and flooding as well as the increasing melting of the Himalayan glaciers from which the delta rivers spring. Sarker Protick’s audiovisual installation Of River and Lost Lands (2011–2020) documents life and the changing landscape along the Padma River. These quiet and tranquil photographs, like the video work Monsoon, for which the artist also composed a soundtrack, are imbued with a melancholy mood. In their ethereal aesthetics, these images of destruction are also full of a quiet beauty, a duality that shapes the lives of the inhabitants along the river that gives them so much and, occasionally, also takes it all away. Indeed, most of the places featured in the photographs no longer exist. But they do live on in Protick’s haunting photographs, as visual testimonies to vanished landscapes.

Sarker Protick, born 1986, lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

River Erosion and Flooding in Bangladesh

Bangladesh and Nepal are located on the slopes of the Himalayas and are permeated by the mighty and widely ramified river system comprised of the Brahmaputra, Ganges and Meghna, which is itself fed by water from the mountains. Bangladesh is densely populated country with some 165 million inhabitants. Most of the country’s land mass is only just above sea level, making Bangladesh particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. The risk of climatic extremes such as torrential rainfall, particularly during the monsoon season, and of flooding due to the glacier melt in the Himalayas has increased significantly since the 1970s. Spring floods threaten the densely populated regions along the coastline and at low elevations. Seawater flowing upstream into the river systems leads to soil salination, which in turn destroys agricultural farmland. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is a risk that a one-metre rise in sea levels would flood 18 per cent of Bangladesh’s total land area, making some 38 million people homeless. What’s more, social tensions are compounded by the scarcity of resources and the threat to livelihoods. 

  • Tanvir H. Dewan, Societal impacts and vulnerability to floods in Bangladesh and Nepal, in: Weather and Climate Extremes 7, (März 2015), S. 36–42.
  • Klimaänderung 2014: Synthesebericht. Beitrag der Arbeitsgruppen I, II und III zum Fünften Sachstandsbericht des Zwischenstaatlichen Ausschusses für Klimaänderungen (IPCC). IPCC, Genf, Schweiz, 2014.

Artist Statement

"I don't think art can save climate or anything for that matter. But it can do question the things and address the things that needs to be changed."
Sarker Protick, artist

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