Territories of life on the edge


Title: Mirages – Year: 2019 – Place: Fuente Segura (Spain) – Author & Copyright: Pau SANOSA

Position of the different pastoral systems presented in this exhibition (inset courtesy of Google Earth Engine).

People in modern times have started questioning their own ways of life, trying to return to and inhabit a lost world which once pulsed in harmony with Nature. But is that possible now, on this rapidly changing planet, so consumed by its own global dynamics, which most of us can barely grasp or have any control over?

Progress and transformation cannot be conceived as a linear process, but rather as one moving in multidimensional spirals, eternally looping forward and backward, in continuous search for a sustainable livelihood. Some of these livelihoods are still around us, in our backyards, without us even realizing it. And these traditions hold examples that shouldn’t be overlooked or forgotten.

Small transhumant (mobile) pastoral populations who communally govern and conserve their own environments, are an enchanting example of this. These communities and their livestock provide some of the finest products and foods in the world, often unknown to other societies. And despite the many threats they face, through their finely evolved systems of pastoral governance, they remain guarantors and protectors of some of the most precious biodiversities and landscapes, that are still alive and well  in the mountains of the Mediterranean.

Title: Diversity is life
Author & Copyright: Left to right, top to bottom:
Wake Up Films, Sinjajevina (Montenegro), 2020
Nikola LUČIĆ, Sinjajevina (Montenegro), 2019
Association des amis du Zat, Yagur (Morocco), 2014
İnanç TEKGÜÇ, High Atlas (Morocco), 2019
Nada PEROVIĆ, Sinjajevina (Montenegro), 2020
Wake Up Films, Sinjajevina (Montenegro), 2019
Gül Ertunan KARAASLAN, Toros Mountains (Turkey), 2016
Francisco GODOY, Castril (Spain), 2018

These communities retain strong inter-generational bonds with their territories. They permanently negotiate and take collective decisions on the use of their natural resources to assure their sustained use and relatively equal access for all their members, while expressing their gratitude to the land through constant rituals and festivities that renew their pastoral identity and sense of existence. Their ways of living entail innumerable benefits, both socio-culturally and environmentally. So much so that community conserved territories have been recognized by institutions such as the United Nations, the Convention for Biological Diversity and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Therefore, it is particularly ironic that these communities most often continue to be alienated, displaced or dispossessed from the very land and ecosystems they contribute so fundamentally to co-create and that would not exist without their presence.  

This exhibition is the outcome of long-term and ongoing work conducted by over 20 scientists, photographers, film makers, local community members and activists passionate about mountain lifestyles, landscapes and pastoral commons in four different Mediterranean countries, Morocco, Spain, Montenegro and Turkey, where different cultures flourish and, even if very different between them, still all conserve very similarly their territories of life. Cradled in beautifully diverse ecosystems, they all share the power to live a life in a certain equilibrium ~ in connection with nature and with oneself. They offer us the opportunity to reflect, to introspect and to transform human aspirations and the global trajectories that we have lost in today. 

The aim of this exhibition is not to offer a description of these pastoral systems as a whole, but to evoke the unique values and virtues that they embody. To many urban or rurban peoples, these systems are dated, irrelevant, retrograde, and destructive towards the environment. This exhibition seeks to shift this stigmatized gaze and draw attention to the many sustainable riches that are embedded in the lives of these Mediterranean mobile pastoralists. So while recognizing the many imperfections that also persist within these systems, such as numerous gender and intergenerational inequalities, certain imbalances in power dynamics within the different communities of livestock breeders, etc., the exhibition seeks to highlight how resilient these systems have been for centuries and even millennia, and how these ways of life have developed some of the most outstanding landscapes, cosmogonies and knowledge systems.  In fact, the creation of this exhibition was triggered by the constatation that these people, their livelihoods and ecologies are truly unique and nevertheless have become extremely fragile as they become engulfed by globalized forces and State control. Factors that endanger their existence are growing stronger every year, and there are many! For example, the lack of governmental and social incentives, ageing populations, climate change, mass tourism, intensive agriculture, predatory multinationals promoting land grabbing, and aggressive political choices as particularly featured in the Montenegrin case here, but also in others. It is therefore urgently needed that all these interconnected factors are addressed bravely and courageously, in order to save and protect these irreplaceable places, people, products, natures, cultures and ways of life, as much for the benefit of the communities themselves as for humanity and the world ecosystem in its entirety.

Title: Introduction to mediterranean mountain pastoral commons.
Year: 2020
Place: Toulouse (France)
Author & Copyright: Pablo DOMINGUEZ


I would like to thank all the local communities featured in this exhibition that wished to tell their story, along with all co-authors, as well as photographers and filmmakers and reviewers, particularly Margherita FERRARIO and Sushma IYENGAR for their sharp insights, as well as Didier ZEVACO for his patient editing of this virtual exhibition, who all together made this exhibition possible, as did the numerous organizations and funders that have supported this work in one way or another and whose logos appear here below.

Text and composition by Pablo DOMINGUEZ (exhibition curator).